culturalrollercoaster

Cross-cultural insights and questions from home and abroad


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Sorry USA, but can I please go back to Europe?

Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I prefer about the United States over other countries… but, living here just isn’t for me. I’ve spent over 4 years abroad and then I decided to come home. I’ve been in the U.S. for 2 months now and I can’t wait to leave again.

My American friends think I’m crazy. They ask me questions like; “Why wouldn’t you want more personal space? What, you don’t like driving?  I should have never left for Europe because it introduced me to a way of living that I feel is more healthy (for me). It’s harder to transition back to the U.S. once you feel you’ve gotten used to European life. In addition to the linguistic diversity and encouragement to learn foreign languages, there are other reasons why I feel better living in a European city.

DRIVING and PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

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I’ve never been big on driving. I realize that many many Europeans do drive on a daily basis, but the cool part is that in decent sized European cities, you do not have to own a car. It is not a necessity, but rather, a luxury. In the US if you didn’t grow up using public transportation, and everyone in your social circle drives, no one can help you figure out public transportation, and in most cases it’s not really safe. In the U.S. it’s convenient to have a car because there is plenty of parking and space on the street. The streets are wide here, and almost never do you see people walking to places to get things done. In Europe, having a car in a lot of cases can be almost a burden. In cities like Paris you have to pay a monthly car rental space, the streets are narrower, and in it can often take longer to get somewhere by can than by metro or train. I’ve never been a good driver, and in the U.S. the streets are full of angry, impatient drivers. In California, like in much of the United States, cities and towns were built for cars, so it is close to impossible to implement a better public transportation system.

LESS PERSONAL SPACE = LESS UNNECESSARY STUFF

And yes, in Europe, homes and apartments are generally smaller. In U.S. we have so much personal space, and I think that this encourages us to consume more. In Europe when shopping, you always ask yourself, do I have enough apace for what I want to buy. Many a times the answer is no, so you stop yourself from purchasing unnecessary goods. As I said there are advantages and disadvantages to both ways of living. I personally, just prefer to live a bit more simply and take public transportation most of the time.

MONEY and DISTANCE

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Another topic that bothers me, is money. Why are Americans so obsessed with talking about money? Everything is centered around money. Every social event involves spending all kinds of money. Every job is about how much you make. But I realize that there is a good reason for this: Living in the U.S. is crazy expensive. Everything has to be about money! It’s not really a free country… you can’t even get to the grocery store for free. The only really free thing you can do is take a walk to the park. If you want to go to the store on foot and you don’t live in a downtown area, GOOD LUCK! It will probably take you over 20 minutes just to get to a convenience store, and don’t buy anything too cold, cause it might be spoiled by the time you get home. In Europe I’d go to the supermarket more than once a week because it was ever so conveniently located, just a 2-5 minute walk from my apartment. And if I forgot something, big deal, I’ll just drop my groceries off at home and go back to the store at no transportation cost.

ADDED STRESS

And gas is not the only thing that Americans have to worry about, maintaining and insuring your vehicle is also not cheap.  I’m not saying we should rule out cars and driving altogether, I’m just saying that wouldn’t it be nice to have a choice – “Today do I want to go to work by car or by public transportation?” Think of it this way, you have less added stress when taking the metro. you are not responsible for anyone’s life. Yeah, maybe you’ll be late for work, but it’s the same story when you hit traffic.

LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY

In Europe you are encouraged to learn and practice foreign languages more than in the U.S. In Europe all the countries are pretty small, so average people are almost force to learn at least one other language. In the U.S. foreign languages are seen as hobbies or a cultural connection. In many countries in Europe, the use foreign languages is often regarded as essential to society’s functioning. Yes, for some it’s a hobby, but for many it’s crucial to know a foreign language. And remember, learning a foreign language can help you be more analytical. You brain thanks you when you succeed in speaking another language. You can see the world from more than one language perspective. This also decreases your chances of getting diseases like Alzheimer’s. In America we are too focused on looking at things from an English language perspective. But there are more ways to see the world. Speaking 2 or multiple languages helps you understand cultural differences and it allows you to be more patient in general.

CONCLUSION

As I mentioned before, these are my personal preferences. I don’t mean to offend anyone who prefers the American lifestyle, it’s just not for me. Nowhere is perfect! You cannot live for free anywhere. If these two different worlds could be fused together, we’d have a pretty awesome society. But for the time being they are separate and unique from each other in many ways.

Europe is cramped and service is slower but it forces you to enjoy the little things in life. America will always be a big part of me, but I want to continue to experience other culture’s realities. America is not the best country in the world. It a great country for many reasons, but it isn’t the only place where you can  live a happy-healthy life.

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