If Americans are anything, it’s proud. We love stamping our flag on everything possible and declaring ourselves the “greatest country in the world.” But even the U.S. could use some Home Improvement every once in awhile. And taking a look in the mirror can be very rewarding.
I don't claim to be a world traveler, but in the handful of times I've traveled to Europe in the last few years, I've made sure to keep my eyes open and observe how they live over there. To sum up my observations, I’d say Europeans are doing life right.
Therefore, I came up with a list of ten things that make Europeans just generally better at life. Here they are:
1. The Metric System
Walking down the streets of Madrid, I proudly asked a local man for directions to a museum. I used my high school Spanish skills to ask, and he pointed me in the right direction and also told me the museum was just 200 meters up the road. I progressed forward happily and felt like a champ for communicating successfully with this man. A minute or two in, my mojo was taken from me as I realized that I had absolutely no concept of how far 200 meters was. How much further did I have to go? How long of a walk was this going to be? I had no idea.
By not following the metric system, the U.S. is truly disadvantaging themselves for two main reasons. For one, literally every other country (besides Burma and Liberia) follows the metric system. Consistency is convenient, especially if you’re ever looking to travel. Second, we’d be making our own lives a lot simpler. There’s no need to memorize silly conversion factors with the metric system; you just have to add or remove zeros.
2. OLD STUFF
If I could summarize Europe in its entirety in one word, I’d choose the word “history.” Everywhere you turn there’s a church or a castle or a historical piazza. The entire continent is booming with fascinating stories that date back further than US history.
This one speaks for itself. Using a bidet is refreshing as anything and there are actually many benefits of regularly using one. Bidets cut down waste, increase cleanliness and hygiene, and save you from dealing with clogs. When it comes to using the restroom, Europeans have the right idea.
COMMUNICATING IS IMPORTANT, NOT INCONVENIENT. Almost every European I encountered on my vacations spoke a minimum of two languages. Most locals knew English and it made me feel more welcomed. The people there cared enough to learn a language they didn’t necessarily need to learn because Europeans place a greater value on the art of communication.
Sometimes I think about what Europeans would experience if they took a vacation to the US and didn’t speak English, and it sure does look a lot less inviting. For example, the majority of airport signs are written in English, very few locals could help you if you approached them on the street because of the language barrier, and menus don’t have translations. Willingness to learn more languages would do nothing but help us out.
Who says nap time has to end in pre-school? Not Europeans! Imagine getting to clock out of work every day for an hour or two to just to do nothing but rest. Condoned mid-day napping is undoubtedly incredible and the US definitely needs to jump on this bandwagon.
6. Vacation Time
Europeans are granted a total of 20 days of paid time off, while Americans average around 10 days of paid time off. The key difference is, businesses in the US are not required to give their employees any paid time off at all. The 20 days of paid time off that Europeans receive is required by their government, while in the US, the negotiation of paid time off is between employer and employee.
No matter where you are from, I think we can all agree that paid vacation time is wonderful. It encourages you to travel, spend time with family, and take care of your mental health without interfering with your work schedule. We are all people before we are employees.
7. Portion Control
Every American knows that uncomfortable, stuffed feeling that goes hand in hand with finishing an entire meal at practically any US restaurant. American restaurants are feeding us way too much food by setting their portion sizes way higher than is healthy. In Europe, I did not ask a single waiter, “can you wrap this?” at the end of my meals because there truly was nothing left on my plates at the end of my meals. Europeans serve you reasonably sized plates that satisfy your hunger and are comfortable to finish.
Europeans drive around not only in style, but also with efficiency. I spotted many Europeans cruising around in very tiny, compact, fuel-efficient cars. These cars fit perfectly into the narrow streets of European cities and it’s never too hard to find a parking spot. Many others can be seen riding around the streets on a vespa. Vespas are scooters and are very common in Europe. To compare, vespas are essentially quieter, more sleek-looking motorcycles.
9. Restaurant Culture
Waving your waiter or waitress down in the US, seems rude, but in Europe it’s actually completely normal. Waiters and waitresses never come to your table and interrupt you while you’re eating, and it’s actually quite nice. It wasn’t until I went to Europe that I realized how annoying it is to have conversation consistently paused by waiters checking in on you every 10 minutes. American waiters and waitresses are not at all to blame for this, it’s simply the nature of US restaurants.
10. Surrounded by different cultures
A huge part of what makes the continent of Europe so interesting is how close European countries are to one another. With minimal effort and time, Europeans have the luxury of being able to travel to surrounding countries and experience totally different cultures, which has many benefits. Each European country has its own specialty food, music, and traditions, and all surrounding countries have quick access to that.