OK. I am fresh off a trip to Europe. Switzerland and France this time. I have been reflecting a lot about what I hear sometimes from friends. It goes something like this…
“Oh! Europe is so enlightened. They have health care and mass transit. They are not so hung up on nudity. There is sooo much more culture. I am healthier when I am there because I walk more.” Blah blah blah…
Of course, this blathering dialogue just makes me want to puke. I have found that people who say this have gone to Europe for vacation… ONE TIME. They have no basis for an opinion on what Europe is (or isn’t) at all. Most often they heard or read something from some idiot who is equally unqualified and repeated it. Some have ‘real’ Europe LIVING experience, like I do, and are certainly entitled to a bad opinion based on that experience. Harsh? I don’t think so. You see, if you think it is so much better elsewhere I suggest you LIVE THERE! Why are you here and raining on my days with this garbage?
So, I am going to offer some bulleted realities here that are based on several months of LIVING in Europe with real people… not just running around like a tourist.
- Europe has more culture. Culture is a word derived from cultivation. Cultivation takes time. The USA is a young country. Older countries will have more culture. But how is culture, defined as “enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training,” really that important? If culture is more developed [there] than evolving [here], don’t you want to be where the action is? Just a thought.
- Health care is less costly [per capita expense] there and more accessible, but certainly not better in quality of care. You get what you pay for. The current debate will determine how we handle our health care dilemma going forward.
- Mass transit is much better there. BUT, that doesn’t mean it is the cheapest and best way to travel. Traveling light and alone, mass systems are the usually the best. Otherwise the automobile still rules. I have done the math, and can show anyone upon request how much cheaper a car is with a party of two or more. And the freedom of motoring is without parallel. Our major cities have great mass transit in the USA. It is our rail lines that need upgrading. And remember, in the USA we have the challenge of covering vast distances [more time and money].
- Nudity? Please! Sure, some Mediterranean beaches allow nudity. It is in some advertisements. But MOST Europeans I have talked to do NOT like this. What good comes from being naked on a beach or in provocative TV ads children can watch?
- Healthier? Yes... but Europeans consistently smoke more and are getting fatter on bad convenience foods just like the USA. They may benefit from more walking. But you can walk here! Don’t be a lazy ass!
That covers the major points people seem to come up with, but here are some of my own likes and dislikes that affect how people live there. Some of these are minor things, and are meant to be shared in a fun way.
· Grocery things…
o Grocery carts have swivels on all four wheels. I find them hard to handle.
o Grocery carts can only be retrieved with a $1 deposit. This makes sense.
o Grocery stores charge for bags now, but that cost has always been built in. Going green is now a money maker. No surprise there!
o Charcuterie [meat and butchering] is MUCH better in Europe, with an amazing selection of cold cuts, terrines and other items.
o Ditto for baked goods.
o Produce is consistently better and MUCH cheaper there. This may be due to lower transit costs/distances. If I were vegan I’d live there, not here.
· Car things…
o Gas is way too expensive. It should cost more in the USA, but not that much!
o There are more car choices there, but the operational costs of a car and maintenance costs are much higher [perhaps due to economies of scale].
o Privately owned interstates have tolls that are too expensive.
o Traffic is terrible. I have been in 50 mile backups. Yes. 50 miles. I have had a 5 hour drive turn into 11 hours. That is virtually impossible in the USA.
o Rest areas are insanity. Crowded. Filthy.
· General things
o Diversity is not greater there… just different. Their muslims are our latinos. Everything else just falls in line [blacks, Asians, eastern Europeans].
o Metric is better. Period. We are idiots here for not adopting it.
o People are generally rude and ignore personal space there. Southerners would have a hard time there… no pleasantries are offered.
o Returning merchandise there is a real hassle, if not impossible. You buy it - you own it. You gotta break it here before that is true!
o More people smoke there. Smokers are everywhere. This is a big deal for me personally, because I just hate the smoke.
o The air is terrible in the cities. Diesels dominate there and the exhaust is pervasive.
o Cell phone service is cheaper.
o Broadband is cheaper.
o There seems to be a lot of people milling about that are not working… you wonder how anything gets done.
o Kids there are just like kids here. Pierced. Tattooed. Weird.
o Perfumes are a big deal. You can encounter some toxic combinations on the Metro, combined with bad hygiene/body odor.
o Convenience is not a big consideration.
I hope some of these things are enlightening. I am not Euro-hater [why would I continue to go if that were true?]. Nor do I think the USA is always the best. Western Europe is not that different from here. In some ways it is better. In some ways it is worse. It is older and has a certain charm. If you live there you would take it for granted… so charm means nothing. I would suggest this… If you want a good comparison take a trip to DC and use only Metro or your feet. Stay for four days. Then go directly to Paris for five days and do the same thing. The sights, sounds, culture, people, are very similar. DC is greener and prettier. Paris is older and more charming in the neighborhoods. But the ‘feel’ is similar.
And to those of you that vacation in Europe but never drive there, never get out of the cities, never go to the grocery store, never talk to [or stay with] locals… mind your opinions and comparisons. You can’t compare what you don’t even know. There is a difference between vacationing in a place and actually living there.
Labels: culture, Europe, travel, vacation