Wonderful as it is, adjustment to a European pace of living isn't without it's challenges.
Recently Jacob and I realized that in it's current state, our apartment looked a bit like it was being inhabited by squatters (albeit squatters who own a bed and couch). Piles of papers and tools had begun to accumulate on every available surface, and re-appeared on said surfaces no matter how many times I attempted cleaning up. It was time for another Ikea run.
The problem is that without a car (as much as we love car-free living), Ikea is a problem. We can take a train to a bus to a station walking distance of Ikea, but that does not mean we would be successful in carting a carpet, coat rack, and bookshelf back our apartment by the same means. Thankfully, a friend with a car came to the rescue, and we were so excited by the amount of trunk space available that we went positively crazy (by our frugal standards) at Ikea (we came home with four potted plants and a mini Ficus tree on top of everything else).
Sundays require careful planning. Nearly all of the shops are closed, meaning that if you conveniently run out of food, or say, laundry detergent, that mountain of dirty laundry isn't going anywhere until the shops re-open on Monday morning. Welcome to a day of creative dressing and eating. What is there to eat in the house? Not much other than food coloring and mayonnaise.
Our refrigerator (a convenience we were blessed to have accompany the apartment in the first place) is half size, roughly the capacity of a college dorm mini-fridge. It's ok, we justified to ourselves, in Europe it is normal to shop frequently - you buy food in smaller quantities. That may be true, but I still believe the small stature of our refrigerator would appall most food-loving Austrians. The only reason we have survived thus far is that Jacob and I never made a habit of packing our refrigerator full. Whereas many people I know could last a month in a zombie apocalypse, subsisting off the contents of their refrigerator alone, Jacob and I would last less than a week.
Grocery shopping has become a game unlike any of our American shopping excursions. We have always been fairly strategic in our shopping methods, frequenting a couple of stores that we knew offered the best prices for produce, meat, etc. In Europe however, there isn't much that resembles a "one stop shop." Those establishments that do offer this oh-so-American convenience also offer a much higher price tag. In an effort to keep our expenses down, we currently visit over five stores on a regular basis, each for different items. Hofer offers staples and frequent sales. The Turkish Market (a good trek away) has the best produce and possibly the cheapest prices if you do an accurate price comparison between all the stalls. You will only be able to find your toiletries and household items at Bipa, so don't bother looking at a normal grocery store. Anything in the realm of "ethnic food" (ie: Soy sauce, curry paste, salsa, etc.) comes from Billa, whereas last minute purchases are sourced from the Spar Gourmet just on the corner.
We try and be savvy about the prices - where can we logically find this item for the cheapest price without first tag-checking in each store individually? It made sense that potted herbs could come from the Turkish market. We came home with Mint and Parsley happily in hand, only to have the plants die in less than 12 hours (I literally didn't have time to kill it. I am so confused), and find that Spar Gourmet sells potted herbs for less. One day I am sure, we will have the stores so well memorized that we will become price consultants on exactly where to find the cheapest food coloring and mayonnaise.
This past weekend Jacob and I were waiting at the subway platform for our train Just as the train arrived I saw a young man inside hold up his camera, pointed straight at me, and snap a picture.
Hmm. Well, I know how he feels, I take pictures of strangers all the time and hope they don't notice. For some reason however, I was feeling gutsy, and when we boarded the train, I approached the man and asked him in German, "was it a good picture?"
He responded that he didn't speak German, which was good. Neither do I really - not yet at least. He showed me the picture and we got to talking - where he was from (Croatia), and what he was doing in Vienna (on assignment for the Vienna Fashion Shows). Oh really? Yes, he said, "I'm here working for Cosmopolitan Croatia". And he snapped a picture of me. I hope I wasn't making a weird face. He gave me his card and said if I emailed him he would send me the picture. As soon as I have it I promise I will share, no matter how silly the face I am making.