I’ve climbed the Eiffel Tower, the Sagrada Familia and the Vatican. I’ve seen the David, the Anne Frank house and the Budapest baths. I’ve perused museums in Vienna, Madrid and Florence. And all of these experiences have been inconceivable, to say the least. Although, I must say, nothing has taught me as much in my study abroad experience as the European nightlife.
What comes to mind when you think of the after-dark scene in Europe? If you picture five-story clubs, crazy pubs and a multitude of young foreigners, then you are, in fact, correct. And yes, these images of European nightlife are what I am referring to.
But it’s not through getting intoxicated and dancing around where I have learned so much about myself – although yes, this has been known to happen on occasion. However, I have found that using nightlife as a gateway to hold conversation with people from all over the world is what I believe to be the best cultural lesson one can receive.
At a party in Copenhagen, I learned how completely different the Danish political system is compared to America’s. A Dane told me how he was so taken aback by the major American cities he had visited because the gap between the rich and the poor appeared to be so extreme. The Scandinavian welfare system taxes the Danish on over half the money they earn, but in return, the Danes receive multiple benefits. For example, free healthcare, free emergency assistance, and my personal favorite – they are actually paid to receive not only high school, but college instruction.
Maybe this is why so many of the Danes I met were so intellectual and cultured? Most seemed to know more about United States politics then the majority of Americans I know. It certainly does make sense to have education so easily accessible.
An Australian I befriended at a club shocked me when he admitted to being racist. I have met many narrow-minded people in my life, but I can honestly say he was the first person who openly stated to me that he had trouble trusting non-Caucasians. As I began to verbally attack him, he made a valid point. Australia is predominately full of Anglo-Saxon Christians. While growing up he had never been surrounded by the multi-racial communities of the United States, or received the liberal California upraising that I had. His arguments helped me to understand how it must be to live in a country where everyone looks just like you, and the ways in which this can greatly affect one’s world view.
A few weeks ago I met a couple of “blokes” from Dublin in a bar. They informed me that I didn’t know as much about my heritage as I would like to have thought. Apparently, the American way of pronouncing my Irish last name, Mahoney, is completely butchered. I found it unfortunate when they laughed in my face as I introduced myself as Megan Mahoney in my “American accent,” and was then told that I was in fact saying something very vulgar that I choose not to repeat in this article. Good to know.
These tales from my abroad nightlife experience are attempting to prove the point that the party-girl image I left behind at Cal Poly is in actuality benefiting me in my travels. Living in the exciting European capital city of Prague has allowed me to gain tremendous cultural knowledge through meeting diverse, interesting and informative strangers at bars, pubs and clubs. And have no fear, because I take full advantage of this educational opportunity nearly seven days a week. To this I have one thing to say: na zdrav¡! Better known as “cheers” in the Czech language.