As Americans, we never want to admit that another part of the world might just do something better than us.
After living abroad for a couple years, I’ve come to the conclusion that Europeans have their heads on straight about quite a few things. We could all use a bit more of ‘European Style’ in the following categories:
1. Vacation Time: Do Europeans get vacation time because they love to travel, or do they love to travel because they have more vacation time? Whichever it is, they explore the world, multiple times per year. Europeans know the pleasure of planning a trip, traveling with family and friends, and the importance of living, not just working. Sure, they have endless choices for culture, cuisine, and history on their doorstep – but we aren’t doing too badly in our diverse USA either.
2. Talking Quietly: Ok, not all Europeans talk quietly (think loud tables of Spanish or Italian families at a crowded restaurant) but they do know when to talk quietly. I couldn’t possibly quantify the number of times I’ve been in a quiet place (think church, important historical monument, museum..) where I heard a loud, American accent from across the room. This habit of ours isn’t earning us the best reputation.
3. Outdoor Space: We Americans do pretty good with parks. Our parks are big, well-maintained, and full of flowers. But we don’t have much planned outdoor living space in our cities. We still think of sidewalk cafes as ‘quaint’ instead of a normal component of city planning. Benches are restricted to parks, and often we pay a premium just to have any access to the great outdoors.
4. Affordable Air Travel: Why haven’t budget airlines caught on in America? Now I’ve had some bad experiences with RyanAir, but I’ve also traveled from Croatia to Ireland for less than 10 euros, so I’m not complaining. Perhaps Americans would travel more if we had more access to affordable airfare.
5. Simply, Relaxing: Europeans know how to relax. They go out for long dinners (no one is rushing them up from the table). They sit down for a coffee and aren’t expected to vacate the moment the last drop is finished. They browse in bookstores, they go for walks after a big meal, they use their cars only when they have to. Sometimes we Americans are so goal and task oriented that we forget about relaxing.
So the next time it’s a beautiful spring morning, instead of picking up your dry cleaning and stopping at the pharmacy – sit down with the newspaper and a cup of coffee and give yourself a couple hours to pretend as if you’re away, perhaps at a European sidewalk cafe, where no one is in a rush to get anywhere.