History seems to be so much more important to Europeans than it is to Americans, especially the history of the two World Wars. Nearly every person I spoke with either lived through bombings or political roundups or had close family that did.
One twentyish Dutch man told us he thought all Americans must be stupid because some twentyish Americans he met thought that World War II took place in the 60's. We tried to explain that with the exception of Pearl Harbor and 911, we never had any bombs dropped on our cities and that makes the experience of war very different for us (although that doesn’t excuse the fact that the Americans he met didn’t know when World War II took place).
Maybe it is because we live in Seattle, but it seems that fashion is a lot more important in daily life in some parts of Europe than here in the Northwest. Even my son who has been living in the Netherlands for only 9 months and has never been fashion conscious, has dramatically changed his hair style, shoes, clothing and his satchel.
Upon reaching London, I noticed that fashion seemed to take a downturn. People on the street and clothing for sale seemed significantly less current and more conservative.
People, even those who don't attend church, have a sanctity about the churches and their historical and cultural relevance. Plus, the churches are very large and old.
Every country has their specialties. They proudly embrace and praise them in a manner and to a degree that I haven't experienced in the states.
People definitely work less than 40 hours a week, and they seem to lead more balanced lives than we Americans do.
Plazas are everywhere, and they have markets two or more times a week plus special events. The plazas are filled with cafes with lots of outdoor seating. On a sunny day, it is wonderful to order a drink and enjoy people watching.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, bikes are everywhere. Far fewer people own cars and those that do seldom use them.
People are outside rain or shine everyday. There is a constant sense of connection and being a part of something larger than just ourselves.
Everywhere I went, it was great connecting with people, learning about their history, and sharing our experiences. There is so much we can learn from each other. And now that I have been to the Delft factory, Icelandic wool weaving shops, chocolate kitchens, Belgian linen shops, and lots more, I can better appreciate all of the amazing items that come into our little Kirkland thrift shop.
I’m glad to be home and back at the ECA thrift shop. If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, come join us. It’s a great way to make a difference.
Susan is a frequent volunteer at Eastside Community Aid Thrift Shop, where she sorts, prices, and stocks merchandise to her heart's content. Before retirement, she owned and operated a consignment shop for women's plus size clothing in Seattle. Through trial and error and talking with customers, she learned a thing or two. An avid "thrift shopper," Susan loves to buy clothing, especially when she gets good quality and value for her money.
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