It was 2015 when I first arrived in Europe: Barcelona, middle of summer. My days were occupied as a dazed and confused tourist; wandering through the chaotic streets, too overwhelmed by the 35-degree heat to truly soak in my surroundings.

Once the jetlag wore off and I started getting into the swing of things, it was already time to move on to the next destination.

One week here – two weeks there – Lisbon, Berlin, and everything in between, it was clear that I’d become a cliche: One who’s fallen in love with Europe, and who never wants to leave.

Almost eight years have passed, and I’m fortunate to say that I’m still here. Currently living in Croatia, most of my time was spent in the Netherlands, with a couple of short stints in Germany and Scotland.

Although each country is extremely unique to one another, I’ve picked up on a few consistencies throughout the continent which are rare or unseen in New Zealand; qualities which have enchanted (and entertained) me over the years.

One of the first factors which stood out was the general attitude towards alcohol consumption. Here, it seems to be the most normal thing in the world to enjoy beers on a picnic blanket at a public park or beach. On a sunny day in Amsterdam, you’d hardly find a patch of grass at Vondelpark without groups of friends doing exactly this.

Sure, there’s some alcohol bans in place, and causing a nuisance is unacceptable. But as a Kiwi, this freedom of beverage was a totally new concept to me. Drinking in a (non-licensed) public space in NZ is a huge no-no.

When friends from Europe came with me to NZ, I felt a little embarrassed telling them that we’re not allowed to enjoy a cold one near the beach while soaking in the beautiful December afternoon – they were baffled: ‘But why not? We’re grown adults!’. I had no answer for this.

On a similar topic; my most favourite thing to do in any given European city is to relax on a terrace. Whether along the riva, or in a town square, terraces are scattered everywhere and are accessible throughout the seasons; at times, even with cooling or heating devices to assure absolute comfort.

Although this may seem to be an obvious method of leisure, the entire terrace experience was brand new to me, for multiple reasons. Back when I was a waitress in NZ, it was deemed rude if a customer sat themselves at a table without asking first. Here it’s generally acceptable to choose a seat for yourself, then sit and wait for the staff to notice you. It may even be a bit odd to ask permission to do so beforehand, especially when there’s plenty of free tables.

The abundance of pedestrian-only streets and squares also allow this experience to flourish, while in NZ; many bars, cafes and restaurants are located next to busy roads – nobody wants a whiff of car exhaust with their morning coffee.

Another observation, which can be delightfully witnessed from these terraces; is the high tolerance and acceptance of dogs in public venues.

Dogs are frequently spotted (with their humans) in cafes, restaurants, on metros, buses; pretty much anywhere that isn’t a supermarket. Many establishments welcome these furry friends with open arms, and will be glad to accommodate your dog with a water bowl, maybe even treats and lots of cuddles. In it’s own way, seeing dogs in human-oriented environments adds value to everyday life – well, at least it does for me.

I’ve come to see these factors as normalities, and at times take them for granted. It normally isn’t until I'm sharing my experiences with family or friends back home that I realise that it’s the small, overlooked everyday elements that bring me comfort, and reinforce my appreciation for the experience of living in this captivating continent.

But of course, nowhere in the world could replace the nostalgia and unique beauty that New Zealand has to offer: indulging in raw seafood while hearing cicadas singing are simply irreplaceable.