I've lived in 7 different countries. Here are 11 things that surprised me about living all around the world.

I've lived in 7 different countries. Here are 11 things that surprised me about living all around the world.
  • After living in seven different countries, I've learned a few things that surprised me.

  • Prague was the hardest place to adjust to because of its cold temperatures and language.

  • Texas' Dry Sundays, Europe's showers, and Wales' KFC menu surprised me the most.

Moving abroad can be exhausting, but I've done it multiple times, leaving my native island of St. Lucia for college in the US almost 15 years ago. Since then, I've lived in places like Wales, the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, and Greece.

Traveling was daunting at first, especially coming from a country with a population of less than 200,000. But I loved immersing myself in new cultures, forming close friendships, and discovering new delicacies in every possible city.

I felt knowledgeable about my destinations from my education, books, and television, but you never truly know a country until you've lived like a local.

Here are 11 things that surprised me during my travels.

Living in Spain can require a lot of paperwork

Inside a hall at the University of Barcelona
Inside a hall at the University of Barcelona

Some parts of Spain still embrace the tradition of siesta.LEOCHEN66/Shutterstock

There's always a lot of paperwork involved in traveling, but Spain is a different level of bureaucracy if you plan on living there for more than six months.

First, you must secure the Empadronamiento or "padrón," which is a document necessary to register with the town hall in the region of Spain you live in. This document adds your name and address to your city's census and is also necessary for administrative tasks like applying for a social security number, residency, public healthcare, opening a bank account, and getting married.

The process needs to be repeated if you move to another city and your residency must be canceled before leaving the country. Though the process seems simple, spots are often unavailable so booking an appointment to do so can be very difficult.

The food scene is vast and varied in Prague

As a tourist in the Czech Republic, there are certain meals that you must try: beef steak tartare, Kulajda, Svíčková, and kolache.

Prague's international food scene is impressive, with restaurants representative of multiple cultures and palates. I was even able to find the ingredients to cook a local St. Lucian meal that included chicken backs and ripe plantains.

If you're not sure where to start or want to sample a variety, Manifesto Market features an eclectic mix of cuisines including authentic Hawaiian poké, rump steak tartare with shiitake mushrooms, traditional Mexican tacos, and Mediterranean dishes.

The bars are also stocked with Italian prosecco and a selection of craft beers.

Italian food is actually as good as advertised

The writer holds a cup of gelato
The writer holds a cup of gelato

The gelato in Italy was velvety and delicious.Nasha Smith

I had often been told that you haven't had real pizza or pasta until you go to Italy, and I can confirm that this is true.

The best pizza I had was at a small, family-run joint in Crocetta del Montello, a tiny commune about an hour outside of Venice. It was simple, with some well-seasoned sauce and cheese on a crispy crust, but tasted amazing.

The same can be said for the gelato, which is velvety with intense fruit flavor.

I have also always loved spaghetti Bolognese, but enjoying the savory sauce in its native Bologna was unmatched.

Some states participate in Dry Sundays

The writer drinks a cup of beer
Dry Sundays don't usually exist in states outside Texas, like in New York.Nasha Smith

During the two years that I lived in Texas, I discovered Dry Sundays, during which liquor sales are prohibited on Sundays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

If Christmas or New Year's Day falls on a Sunday, the liquor store is closed the following Monday.

The law itself can be a bit complex, as beer sales on Sundays are permitted from 10 a.m. to midnight and wine sales are regulated within special hours.

There are also different stipulations in place if you're attending a fair, festival, concert, or sporting event.

Other states like Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee participate in some variation of Dry Sunday as well.

Showering can be an extreme sport in some places

Showers in Europe can be small, making it difficult to move around. The half-door, which doesn't extend all the way across the tub, can also result in a very wet and messy floor.

The shower nozzle can be handheld, and once you figure it out, showering will be a breeze. However, washing your hair can be difficult, so be prepared to lay some towels out on the floor.

Greece has a Caribbean vibe

Skafidia Beach in Greece
Skafidia Beach in Greece reminded me of my home in the Caribbean.Nasha Smith

As a native of one of the premier vacation and honeymoon spots in the world, if the water is cold or there are rocks in lieu of sand on the beach, I am not interested.

But as I drove along the coastline to Olympia, the blue sea and sunny sky were reminiscent of St. Lucia. Skafidia Beach made me feel at home and showed me that Greece is a fantastic option if you can't make it to the Caribbean.

Some parts of Spain take siestas very seriously

In Prague, my Valencian roommate retreated to her bedroom every day around two o'clock for siesta, the Spanish tradition of taking a nap shortly after lunch. Our professors at a Barcelona university also scheduled classes during the morning to observe the ritual.

In my L'Hospitalet de Llobregat neighborhood, well outside of Barcelona's city center, the practice was going strong. Stores closed every day from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and I even witnessed a shop owner ask a woman to leave so that he could close at two.

KFC and many other fast-food chains don't have the same menu around the world

KFC fried chicken and french fries
The KFC menu in other countries, like Italy, differ from the selection I was used to.Nasha Smith

Kentucky Fried Chicken struck gold when it opened in the Caribbean Islands, becoming the most popular fast-food restaurant across the region, beloved even by Barbados native Rihanna.

Besides the fried chicken, one of the most popular sides is the golden buttermilk biscuit. Or at least that's what I thought until I wandered into a KFC in Wales only to discover that they didn't have it. After some confusion from workers that I was trying to order a cookie, they offered me rice, which I never knew was an option.

Major food chains like McDonald's, Wendy's, and KFC offer location-specific menus to appeal to target audiences worldwide. This can range from a Samurai Burger in Asia to a Chee-Zee Marmite Stuffed Pizza Crust in New Zealand.

People are friendlier than you might expect across the globe

The writer in front of a cathedral in the Czech Republic
I've found that people are friendly and helpful throughout my travels.Nasha Smith

Friendly faces are always a welcome sight and in Spain, Greece, and Italy, I found the locals to be patient and helpful even if I wasn't fluent in the language.

In the US, I met some of the warmest people when I lived in Detroit, Louisiana, and Texas.

In the UK, I initially thought people were a bit more reserved. However, when I had a problem with my visa, an amazing family in Wales helped me through it.

Though I thought Czechs, had a tough exterior, they also have a wonderful, dry sense of humor.

I learned to travel with an open mind and ignore the stereotypes — otherwise, you might miss out on connecting with some incredible people.

Prague was the most difficult place to adjust to

A frozen lake in Prague
A frozen lake in Prague

Prague was hard for me to adjust to due to the area's icy temperatures.Nasha Smith

With its Romanesque architecture, steep hills, and small rivers, Prague is one of the most gorgeous cities in Central Europe.

However, Prague is also a cold city, so I bundled up in layers — coming from the tropical Caribbean, this was a tough adjustment.

The Czech language was also difficult to learn and unlike in Spain, where English was very prevalent in the city center, Czech was spoken virtually everywhere. Because Czech falls in the West Slavic language group, it didn't have the familiar structures shared by French, Spanish, and Italian, which made it hard for me to retain.

The Czech Republic is very dog-friendly

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Prague's pet owners proudly walking with their dogs and on the trams instead of strays roaming the streets.

The pets were also incredibly obedient and well-behaved at restaurants and on public transportation. This is the antithesis of St. Lucia's cultural norms, in which pets are not typically allowed in restaurants or public buses.

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