10 Little Ways the U.S. Differs From Life in Europe
I am English, though I lived in the United States for three years. It gave me the unique perspective of experiencing both European and American culture. In case you were wondering, “Brexit” was just a trading union and Britain is part of Europe whether we like it or not. Life in the two countries is both similar and completely different. People in an online forum reveal ways American life varies from that in Europe, and here are the key takeaways.
“I was with a group of Germans in Germany and jaywalked across a street with no traffic on it,” reveals one American. “People stopped and audibly gasped.” To be fair, Germans may be shocked at many things, and jaywalking is commonplace in the U.K. However, Europe is weirdly submissive for a place where police don’t even carry guns.
2. Sunday Trading
Where I live in Spain, you are out of luck if you need to visit the garden center or lumber yard on a Sunday. Everything except restaurants, bars, and certain grocery stores is closed. Europeans enjoy their rest day — in addition to a dozen yearly public and religious holidays. However, good-old Britain is open for business twenty-four-seven.
3. Severance Pay
“U.S.: You’re fired. Here are two weeks of your salary. Bye,” jokes the next commenter, who isn’t a fan of America’s punishing job market. “Europe: You’re fired. Here are three months of your salary. Bye.”
To be fair, he isn’t wrong, but some think working in Europe isn’t the shining beacon of freedom. On the contrary, exploitation, high taxes, and a poor minimum wage are commonplace in many European countries.
4. Hate Speech Laws
In the U.K., people have been arrested and even jailed for using untoward language or racial slurs. America has the First Amendment, which protects all speech without inciting violence or prejudice toward marginalized groups. One commenter supposes that even if they say the most disgusting things, “I won’t be arrested, unlike much of Europe.”
5. More Time But Less Fun
“It is true in the U.S., you have less holiday, but I feel you enjoy yourself more,” observes a German forum visitor. Europeans may work shorter hours than their cross-Atlantic cousins, but the average American has cooler things to do when free. Can you find motorcycle chariot racing in Albania? No!
6. Car Dependence
American suburbs are vast, with some a 50-mile commute to the nearest city. Although U.S. suburbs are spacious environments with huge homes, one does need a car for convenience.
One European explains how this differs in more densely-packed lands. “You will also generally have things walkable from your house,” says the observer. “In the U.S., you will need to drive to achieve most of your daily tasks.”
Scandinavian countries have a wholesome approach to young families. For example, Sweden offers up to 480 days of paid parental leave for both parents, regardless of gender or biological connection to the child.
Finland and Sweden offer similar perks for new parents, and the results are astonishing. Scandinavian children leave daycare aged six with no ability in reading or writing, yet within years, they reach the upper end of global academic achievement.
Europe has an official population of about 750 million people, more than double that of the United States. However, with a similar landmass, there is no surprise space is at a premium — especially in smaller population centers like the Netherlands and Belgium.
“I’ve lived all around the country and had outdoor space in 80% of those areas,” says a proud American who is in no rush for the European experience. “We have far more personal space and outdoor space than the average European.”
9. Ethnic Homogeneity
“Only real thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of other (European) nations are really homogeneous in culture,” one commenter suggests. “Even if they think they have diversity of culture, it has nothing on the diversity of culture in the U.S.”
Maybe this is the case for some places, but European countries are changing now. Most European cities are already melting pots — this statement may age poorly.
10. Americans Can Live The European Dream Too
Many Europeans have a balanced working life with paid holidays and civic protections, but starting a business is hard. Taxes, documentation, and local red tape will stumble any aspiring entrepreneur.
However, public sector workers have it good. “If you want European-level social welfare, you have to actually work for the government,” says a skeptical American. “If you can land a government job, you’re pretty set for a nice middle-class life and retirement.”
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