Presence is far more rewarding than productivity. And life in Europe is the perfect example for it. Europe has a lot to offer. Apart from the beautiful scenery, delicious food, affordable travel and amazing architecture, the culture and the people in Europe have taught me that every second is meant to be savored. During my time in Madrid so far, I have come across many attributes in the European way of living that allows them to be more present in the moment.
The most noticeable element of liveliness in every European city is the outdoor seating for cafes and restaurants. Even during winters, it is always common to see people seated outside to eat and it adds so much life to the streets. Weekdays are no different and the streets are usually packed with a cheerful crowd that creates a very jolly atmosphere, void of any urgency. Unlike the west, it is very uncommon to see people working on their laptops in a cafe. Infact, there are very limited cafes in Madrid that allow you to use your laptop, and they only allow during certain times. Cafes here are a space to eat, unwind and recognise human interaction, not to indulge into a productivity trance. This is why I have also never seen a local, order coffee to go, or drink while walking. I have come to realise that hustle culture only syphons the aliveness of life. I find that their lifestyle is not motivated by hustle culture, rather emphasizes that they do have enough minutes in a day to spend a few to sit down while they enjoy a drink.
In terms of school work and education, in my opinion I learn more in the US and I feel more productive. So far, I have only been familiar with western work ethics, where we coast through everyday of our fleeting lives, constantly being present to corporate or societal obligations but absent from ourselves. However now that I am exposed to a new lifestyle, I have been taking advantage of Europe’s relaxed education system to travel more and make the best use of my time here. Every corner of the continent is connected by public transport which makes travelling very convenient and affordable. Personally, I have always felt safe while travelling, be it with friends or solo. Overall, the convenience of traveling is the biggest motivation to go out exploring a new country every weekend and is yet another way Europeans live life to the fullest. Oftentimes, we tend to put aside our travel plans for the future, forgetting the frailty of life. But while studying abroad here in Madrid, when every country is accessible for travel, there is no reason to postpone travel plans. So far, I have travelled to Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and a few more cities in Spain and it was a great experience!
There is no better place to ‘people watch’ than in Europe. People-watching is the best part of travelling and is a great way to learn about the people and their lifestyle of that region. There is less ‘small-talk’ in Europe, however people are generally very kind and hospitable. From my observation, you can tell that the people in Europe celebrate life by their vibrantly elaboarte day to day attire. I love seeing the great sense of fashion and color that is inbuilt in everyone, from young adolescents to 80 year olds. During my trip to Paris, I had sat on a bench by the Eiffel Tower and spent time people-watching. I was not only amused by the people, but it also gave me time to feel lucky and greatful to be in Paris at 20!
Cities in Europe are designed in such a way that streets branch out from a centre square, that was once an old town and has now evolved into big cities. However, every city has retained its old charm and sky scrapers are not very common. This is another thing that I love about European cities. The warmth of old architecure that adds so much character to the city still prevails, and has not been replaced by monotonous, tall, corporate buildings. Cities are designed to promote public transportation and walking. And for this reason, most people do not prefer sub-urban living, instead live close to the centre where everything is accessible by walk. For the past few months in Madrid, walking has been my main way of getting around the city and I now see why Europeans stay healthy and in shape despite rich food habits. Seeing the elederly walking fashionably to cafes everyday, to get their daily croissant makes me admire they’re quality of life even at that age.
As a mechanical engineering major, to be successful in this field, I am aware that I will have to put in a lot of hard work once I’m back in Drexel and I am very passionate in doing so. But from my time here in Spain, I have learnt the importance of elevating my quality of life by striking a balance between both work and life.