Two days ago, I returned from a five-day trip to Europe during which I visited Amsterdam and Brussels. in the past 20 years I have been to Europe nine times and have been to most of the major cities (Paris, Munich, Prague, Copenhagen, Venice, London...) on every trip, you can't help but notice the differences between European people, ways, norms, and lifestyles and American people, ways, norms and lifestyles. I love America and am proud to be American. But there are some things we could learn from the Europeans—things we could do just a little bit differently and a little bit better that would make things nicer for everyone. Some examples:
-Things are sold without all the packaging. For example, if you walk up to a deli window and order a ham and cheese baguette, the server hands it to you on a napkin. They don't put it in a box or Styrofoam container. They don't give you a plastic fork and spoon that is wrapped in plastic. We 'overpackage' everything here in the U.S., with no thought for the landfills and the shrinking room for garbage.
- When you order a coffee or tea, it always comes with some little tidbit—a small cookie, a piece of chocolate... I love this.
-When you walk into a crowded pub, café or restaurant—it is perfectly acceptable to sit down with other people. Their comfort zone allows this whereas Americans would find it strange to have another couple sit down right next to them to dine.
-They are respectful of one another and of service people. You hear 'please', 'thank you' and 'excuse me' constantly. This is something that has faded in American culture. And you don't hear the F word - swearing is part of our everyday language now, but you rarely hear them swear or use foul language.
-They ride their bikes! They ride bikes to the market, to work, and to meet friends for a beer. The majority of people use public transportation, whereas here in the US—only a minority uses public buses, trams, subways etc. Now granted, their public transportation system is much better than ours, but maybe ours would improve if we embraced it more and used it more. And maybe obesity wouldn't be a major national problem if more of us rode our bikes sometimes.
I'll stop there. Although there are many more things like this. It seems that we have forgotten or lost some of the kinder, more socially conscious ways of being and thinking that still exist there. Of course it is easier for them, because their countries are so much smaller than they are less diverse. I don't want anyone to think I'm bashing America. I'm just pointing out that we are quite set in our ways, and not all of our ways are the best ones. I found it a bit embarrassing to see and hear other Americans demanding and expecting fast service, large beverage cups or larger portions, and other American conveniences. We have come to expect everything to be quick and the Europeans hear this, and they shake their heads, feeling a bit sorry for us that we are always in a rush.
I will now share just a few of the things I find wonderful about Europe. I absolutely love to be there and love the feeling that I get walking around a European city. There is an air of history and sophistication mixed with a zest for life and excitement for food, wine and friends. Groups of six, eight or 10 "mates" will commonly meet after work to take a beer or coffee, laughing and joking before they head home or to run errands that they might have. They aren't on cell phones, they are all engaged in each other.
The streets are narrow and usually cobblestone, and window boxes with bright colored flowers adorn most windows. There is no litter—you just don't see it. People do not throw anything on the ground. Shopkeepers smile and nod as you walk by and the variety of shops and goods is amazing. From a little shop that sells flowers and plants to a shop that sells only lace and porcelain, there is a quaintness to these businesses that I find so charming. If that shopkeeper saw a super Wal-Mart, I do believe they would keel over!
I love the sense of style that nearly everyone has—even if they are just going to market, they throw a scarf about their neck or put on a fedora. The men are less concerned about looking feminine or being labeled as gay. They wear bright colors, scarves, pointy toed or unusual shoes, and carry zippered bags—man purses I guess, but they are masculine looking and don't seem gay at all over there. The men are simply better dressed - you don't see hardly any t-shirts or tank tops, which was refreshing.
I love the soft sound of an accordion or flute carried on the air across the square and then I walk until I find the source, which might be a pub or café—or might be a street musician. I love the differences in the food—the unique way that things are prepared, the sauces and seasonings that I never get to taste here at home. I love the fact that the house wine at restaurants and bars is better or as good as a fine wine here at our restaurants. And that every beer you order comes in a unique glass with the beer logo on the glass (if bars did that here, people would steal the glasses).
I enjoy taking the subway and watching all the working people jump on and off, and it shows on their face that this is a normal part of their day. I love that you can walk down to the train station in the city center and easily get a train to any other major city, with several trains leaving every day. It's great. We took the train from Amsterdam to Brussels and it was beautiful scenery—farms and windmills and green forests—mixed with the occasional rundown buildings and graffiti.
I love that people in the bars—women, men, couples, groups of college boys or grandparents—all talked to us, joked with us, welcomed us into their group. My friend Mary Beth and I commented on how we go out in Boca or Delray Beach all the time and often the entire evening passes without anyone speaking to us or approaching us. It was an interesting difference and it made our visit there much more fun—the interacting with everyone that we came across. They would offer to take a picture of us, they would suggest beers or food to try...
Long blog so I will wrap it up. The bottom line—it doesn't matter which city in Europe you visit, it just matters that you try to visit. Choose wherever you can get the lowest fare to. Stay in a youth hostel, no matter what your age (we did, and loved it!)
A visit to Europe will stimulate you, amuse and entertain you, frustrate you, enlighten you, and humble you. It will be an experience that you never forget. I am happy to advise anyone on travel tips and recommend cities, places to stay, etc. If this blog inspires one person to visit Europe, I will be delighted. Until next time…
With respect to all,
Welcome to Just Ask Priscilla! For tips on marketing, events and more!
Hi! I'm a lover of life, people, and fun! I have a 23-year professional background in Marketing - Communications, as well as substantial event planning experience. I'm out and about several nights a week in S. Florida. I've lots of good information to share! I'm always being asked all sorts of things - so it made perfect sense to start blogging! I seek to help people with the information I provide -- whether it be to help them market their business; hold a fabulous event; choose a restaurant; or have an incredible weekend in my area! Sometimes I just seek to inspire you, or make you think. Thanks for reading and sharing. CHEERS! P-