Happy November! Winter has finally arrived in St. Petersburg, which means it’s beginning to feel like the holidays. I’m beginning to think about my return home, and in the process, I’ve started to figure out what kind of habits I want to bring back with me when I do come home. There’s something about living in St. Petersburg/Europe that feels almost classier than living in the States. Now keep in mind that this may be a product of having grown up and studied in the Midwest — I haven’t had many encounters with day to day life on either of the Coasts, so perhaps this doesn’t apply to the States in general. But there are certain aspects of living here that I really appreciate and would like to continue when I come home.
For example, my daily wardrobe back home tended to consist of a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers, and that’s pretty normal for the undergraduate university setting. While there’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, living here in St. Petersburg, I’ve found that just about everyone here dresses well, if not exceptionally fashionably. Women are much more likely to be seen in blouses or sweaters than they are t-shirts or sweatshirts, and while there are plenty of people wearing jeans out and about, they’re more likely to dress them up with a pair of stylish boots and a nice coat. Similarly, it’s much more common for men to wear nice pants and sweaters than it is to wear blue jeans and t-shirts. I’ve had to step up my wardrobe game since arriving abroad, and it’s been fun to dress up a little more for class and for going out to the city. When I get home and have access to all my clothes again, I’m going to reevaluate which items will and will not be staying in my wardrobe.
As part of my Sunday routine, I’ve gotten in the habit of going to mass, treating myself to lunch, enjoying a hot pot of tea, and then either going out for a stroll in the park or to visit a museum. And there are so many people, especially families, that I see out and about doing the same exact thing. Perhaps I just don’t frequent parks or museums back home, so I’m just unaware that people and families do go out together on the weekends, but it seems to me that this is more of a European habit. However, it is one I have grown to love and definitely would like to continue into the future.
One thing I cannot stress enough is the enjoyment of having a proper cafe visit. Back home, there are innumerable times when you roll into Starbucks or Scooters or whatever your favorite coffee shop may be, you order your coffee, and then you leave. How often do you sit down and enjoy a slice of cheesecake or pie or maybe even a cupcake? Here, coffee and tea and desserts all go hand in hand, and you can’t get one without the other. It’s gotten to the point that when I make myself a cup of tea in my dorm room, I immediately start craving something sweet to eat with it. Honestly, in this regard, St. Petersburg has more or less ruined me, and I’m definitely going to have to manage how often I go to and how much I spend on visiting coffeeshops.
One of the last things that I really love about being here is how accommodating various locations are in terms of coats and scarves. Yes, it’s not uncommon to see a coatroom in a theatre or museum back home, but here, there are coat racks in restaurants and coffeeshops and academic buildings too. There’s just this prevalence of coatrooms that I don’t think we have back home. When I walk into the building where I have class everyday, everyone stops to drop off their coats in the coat room so they’re not carrying them around everywhere. Perhaps this is more due to the fact that St. Petersburg is so far north and their winter lasts a rather long time, but from what I’ve observed, the winter here has been following a very similar schedule as back home, so the seasons may not play as big a role as one might think.
There are certain aspects of living in Europe that do feel like they encourage a higher standard of living and daily behavior. But no matter how classier and higher end St. Petersburg may seem to be, I haven’t found anywhere in the city that can replicate the warm and relaxed Midwestern atmosphere that I love so much.