I always tell my clients that they need to keep their minds and hearts open while traveling to Europe because they might just realize that we (Americans) don’t have everything quite figured out yet. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country and am very patriotic, but after you have had the chance to experience other cultures, some things just kind of jump out at you, you know? So I have come up with my the ”Top 5 travel lessons that Americans can learn from Europeans.” Granted, it works both ways, and in a perfect world, we could merge the best of both cultures and live life to the fullest! So here goes:
On a typical European vacation, you can experience airplanes, regional trains, subways & metros, buses, taxis, funiculars, chairlifts, high-speed trains underneath the English Channel, ferry boats, private motor boats, row boats, sightseeing boats, scooters, and, yes, the dreaded manual transmission rental car! Everything runs on time and is clean, affordable, efficient, and reliable. Plus, you walk a lot…I mean A LOT…and survive just fine. As an American who spends way too much time behind the wheel of a car, I would welcome some transportation options and infrastructure with the public’s best interests at heart.
While we have farmers who are being paid NOT to grow crops and the government spends millions (billions?) of dollars on GMO research, the Europeans are in the middle of a “Slow Food” boom…a Farm-to-Table movement. Most Europeans shop locally, seasonally, and often (sometimes daily) from their neighborhood markets for fresh ingredients, and there are strict laws banning certain chemical additives, pesticides, and GMO products. The cuisine is simple but delicious because they start with fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients – most locally grown or artisanally produced. Tomatoes aren’t at their juiciest all year round, folks! Olives are harvested in November….Grapes in September….Asparagus in the spring. If you eat with the seasons, your food will taste better and be better for you, and you might find yourself a little more connected to how Mother Nature intended us to eat!
European families spend a lot of time together. Most adults work reasonable hours, and many school districts release the kids for lunch (to go home-not to the local McDonald’s) for a meal with their family and a post-lunch rest. You will notice the difference in the number of families you see out together; the kids (and adults) are NOT glued to their cell phones 24/7! Sure, Europeans are “connected,” but not nearly as obsessively as we are here in America. I can’t tell you how refreshing it can be to have your cell phone on Airplane Mode for a couple of weeks and for your kids to do the same.
Of course, you can enjoy connecting to the hotel Wi-Fi in the evenings to FaceTime with friends and family back home, but your days are not interrupted with constant cyber-contact. Houses and Apartments are also much smaller in European cities, and children live at home with their parents much longer than here in the US – especially those Italian boys who don’t want to leave their Mamas until they find a wife!
Europeans have a much more relaxed attitude towards alcohol – in fact, wine (and beer to an extent) is a part of most people’s everyday lives. However, it is a very different part of the experience. Having an “aperitif” (like a glass of Prosecco or an Aperol Spritz) before a meal, followed by a glass or two of wine with your meal and a shot of limoncello after (to settle your stomach, of course!) is very common. However, you don’t see nearly as many Europeans drinking alcohol without food, or binge drinking in a bar for the sole purpose of getting drunk, as you sometimes find here in America. European children are brought-up on wine (usually diluted with water) with meals and taught the proper ways to enjoy it in moderation. I’m sure some folks abuse it in Europe, just like some Americans do, but there does seem to be a massive difference in the attitudes.
When you are introduced to a new person here in the US, one of the first questions asked is, “What do you do?” Guess what? Europeans don’t care! They care more about who you are, where you are from, your family, what you stand for, your hobbies, and your history. Of course, your job or career is vital to your daily life, but not the headliner!
“My name is Shannon, and I own a travel agency” or “Nice to meet you! My name is Robert, and I’m an engineer” will bore Europeans to death. Conversely, when you meet a new European friend, the first question out of your mouth shouldn’t be, “So what do YOU do for a living?” I swear to you, they genuinely don’t care! Isn’t that refreshing?
So that is my choice for “5 things Europeans have figured out a little bit better than we do.” I’m sure some of you will agree and some will not, and I would LOVE to see your comments! Can you think of more things to add to the list? Do you disagree with any of these? Let me hear from you!
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