When you go to other countries you start to notice very quickly the things that are different from your own (in my case, Australia).
In all the European countries that I've visited, all the windows are pretty much the same. They are tall and narrow and have a white plastic frame and a special (plastic) handle which allows it to be opened horizontally (on a hinge from the bottom) or vertically (on a hinge from the side of the frame) depending on which way you turn it. In Australia the windows are made of aluminium and they are sliding. Of course it varies depending on the age of the house but the newer windows are all like this. In Europe nobody has flyscreens on their windows and in Australia almost everybody does. This annoys me because I hate mosquitoes (their bites specifically) and there is no way to block them out in hot weather in Europe.
I wonder who designed the windows? Why are they made of plastic? And why are they all white?
Also on European windows they always have shutters. They can be hinged and manually opened and closed or the electronic rolling kind or even a combination. When I first realised this it automatically made me think of Lego windows! Shutters are very often green too. When I played with Lego as a child it never occured to me that all the houses are based on real life houses in Europe! :)
Locks and Keys
Almost every door lock/key I have encountered has been different and there is almost always a special or tricky way to turn the key and/or door handle to open or lock the door! There are some tricky keys with small holes 'dug' out of it too which I've never seen in Australia. In Australia, often the door locks when you shut it (or by pushing a button on the handle behind the door and then closing it) but in Europe you can only lock the door with a key, which is better because it means you don't lock yourself out and you don't forget to bring your key with you!
Public toilet door locks
I noticed that in Europe they are almost always twist/turn locks whereas in Australia they are sliding locks.
In most apartments that I've seen in Europe (that have been renovated in the last couple of years) the light switches are these HUGE square things. As well as that, in a lot of places (including my own 'home' in France) some lights have two switches so you can turn them on/off in different parts of the room/house (usually one is by the front door so you can turn it off just as you leave). I've never seen anything like that in Australia and think it's very cool...
Oh I saved the best till last! These rarely exist anywhere and even if they do.... a) noone uses them or b) noone is allowed to use them (except the handicapped). It never ceases to amaze me that Europeans are blind to lifts/elevators. It's as if they just don't see them. They will always opt for the stairs. Even when they are carrying big heavy luggage (like they do at train stations). It's as if they have gotten so used to living without lifts that even where there is one available (and they need one) they don't take it!! Often when there is one available you aren't allowed to use it. But shhhhh I used one in Vatican museum to save my sanity and save myself having to go down fifty billion stairs.
In Australia it's pretty much the opposite. Even when people don't need the lift they'll take it anyway and most would would never choose the stairs over lifts if they were right next to each other.
I do find it annoying when I have luggage there aren't lifts around and I feel really bad for the handicapped people and people with prams.
In many older buildings the lifts also have two doors - a set of inner doors and outer doors and you need to open the outer ones manually. It was such a novelty to me at first but then I just found it annoying!
They don't seem to have an apartment number! Only the building number. In Australia we would write it a 12/25 ....... street/road meaning the building is number 25, and the apartment is 12. In France and most other European countries they don't seem to do that because they rely solely on the NAME of the person on the front door or on the letterbox. That's why the name is so important.
The letterboxes are never accessible to the public. The postman must go inside (obviously he has a key) to deliver them.
Also, at the front door, often there is a pin number type code so anyone can enter if they have this code. I find this really handy as it means you don't need to have so many keys and if you have someone coming you can just give them the code and they can come in, even if you're not at home.