The Four Things I Hate About Europe

By Nomadic Matt | Published November 11th, 2009

in love with parisI love Europe. I really do. So much so that when I stop being Nomadic Matt, I want to move to Paris (Update: I ended up in Stockholm and Amsterdam for a bit). I love the cafe culture, the wine, the free health care, the liberal attitude towards life, how everything so many different cultures are just a short flight away – it’s wonderful. But having visited Europe every summer for the past few years, I’ve found that there are many things about Europe that really get on my nerves. Spending so much time there makes me realize life in America isn’t that bad and in many ways, we have it easy.

To me, Europe would be perfect if it wasn’t for these four (big) things:

Convenience – Living Asia and New York City really spoiled me. In these places, you can get anything or go anywhere 24/7. Nothing is ever really closed. It makes life really easy. Need food at 4 a.m.? No problem. Have to get duct tape at 2 a.m.? Easy! But even when I visit my parents in the suburbs, store hours are much better than in Europe. In Europe, hardly anything is ever open on Sundays and most stores close around 6 or 7 p.m. during the week. If you work until 5pm, how are you supposed to get anything done? I don’t need 24/7 store hours but in too many places in Europe, it seems like everything is always closed. (And I especially hate how most museums are closed on Mondays.)

Service – Whenever my European friends talk about visiting America, they always talk about the service. They can’t believe how friendly the staff can be, how helpful they are, and how they keep asking if everything is OK. Everyone is so helpful, they say. They almost can’t believe it. In Europe, most service employees are rude. They aren’t personable and they could care less if you need another glass of water, the check, or your room sucks. They don’t really go the extra mile. In the US, people work on tips and I think that provides an incentive for people to give better service (though, they should get paid a higher base rate!). In Europe, they don’t have that incentive – they get paid the same amount whether they serve 10 tables or one.

Politeness – That leads me into my next point. People aren’t has happy go lucky in Europe as they are in America. Yes, Europeans are friendly (I’m not here to say the whole continent is filled with rude people) but they certainly aren’t as bubbly. My European friends always wonder why people in America ask “how are you?” because they don’t think people mean it. “Why would you care?”, they ask. I think we do. Sure, “how are you?” is a default greeting but there is some sincerity behind it. Sure, you won’t go into a 15-minute diatribe about your day but that doesn’t mean people don’t really care. Americans are known for their optimism and positive attitude and I always miss that. My English friend Sarah says we Americans are always so damn chipper and optimistic. I think that’s great! It’s a better outlook to have on life.

Comfort Food – Europe has amazing food. There is no doubt about it. I’m not a pastry guy but walking the streets of Paris might finally make me fat. I can’t help but ducking into stores and snacking all day. When I am in Spain, I think I eat like three pigs worth of Iberian ham. About 90% of the food in Europe rocks my world. But, that being said, I’d kill for some good sushi, a BLT, Taco Bell, Vietnamese food, good Mexican, a good steak, some Cheez-Its, peanut butter cups, or a sub (a type of sandwich). America has a much better diversity of food to choose from and way better junk food. I know you don’t travel to eat the same food you eat at home but I find it hard to be in Europe long-term because of the lack of food diversity.

No place is perfect and, no matter what, I love Europe. I keep going back every year for a reason. But when I go there for months on end, I keep missing certain aspects of home. It’s only natural. But they say traveling gives you a new appreciation for home and when I travel to Europe, I appreciate the little things in America that we often take for granted and assume are norms around the world.

comments 91 Comments

Paris would certainly be a great city to live in.

As for the things you hate about Europe, I partly disagree. In Sweden, many shops in Stockholm and Gothenburg are open at least until 8pm on weekdays and some of them stay open on Sundays as well. The same goes for shops in London. Supermarkets often also stay open late.

And from my trips around Europe (mostly Switzerland, France, Austria, and Greece) I can’t remember ONE rude service employee. I’ve mostly been met with friendly faces and helpfulness. I agree that Americans overall are friendlier though. Like you said, the cashier greets you in another way and there are more ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Here in Sweden, some cashiers barely say hello. But it’s not meant to be rude, that’s just how it is.

That’s why I love New York so much. The attitude is in general significantly different.

Des Miller (Scottish not European)

Great blog as usual Matt but why would you want everything the same as the USA ,surely that is the whole point of traveling to different continents/countries..
Personally I despise fast/junk foods,you only have to look at the people around you too see that obesity has quadrupled in the last 10yrs,yeah I know nobody forces them to eat it but lets face it most of them are American origin.
Got agree with you on service though.In America working in a service industry hotels etc they take their job seriously unlike the old world who see it as a stop gap to something “better” & therefore offer a shoddy service at best.
Yeah most Americans I have encountered here & in the US (stayed in Chicago 4yrs) are so vibrant & optimistic & this seems to be looked upon by Europeans as annoying & false when it is actually anything but.Apart from Obama,the guy makes my skin crawl more than Tony (weapons of mass destruction) Blair ever did.
If im paying top dollar to stay in a hotel I expect common courtesy from staff which I never seen to get.

NomadicMatt

I don’t want everything the same! I’m just saying there are some things I miss about being home!

Des Miller (Scottish not European)

Hi Matt.Yeah OK I suppose you are right in that aspect as I miss loads of things when I travel abroad.Going to NY in Jan for 6 months & I cant wait,never been there yet but America has to be my fav destination apart from the island I live on in Scotland.The old adage is “there is nae (no )place like hame (home”

Interesting – I have to agree with you on convenience (try finding something open in Italy between the hours of 2 and 5 in the afternoon!) and as a vegetarian, I often am eating the same thing for multiple meals in Europe. However, I’ve found that the service and politeness are way better in Europe than here. Rather, here I guess I feel servers are only being nice to make a good tip. There I feel they are genuinely being nice. I also like that they don’t run to your table every 5 minutes before you’ve even taken a bite to ask how everything is. As for politeness, I find people much more willing to stop and help you out than in the US. Though perhaps that’s b/c I live in New Jersey :-) One thing I do notice is that almost everywhere else in the world other than the US, people will just push through a line or bump into you without saying excuse me. Asia’s notorious for that, though I have seen it in Europe as well. Good post!

NomadicMatt

I think while some people want a good tip, it’s not always that way. I have had some really great servers who were genuinely interested.

Jan

1)agree
2)agree
3)wtf?
4)agree

All the food you mentioned i could show you in my home town in a 5 minute walk. And i guess in quite a good quality, except for the peanut butter and the cheesits, which i don’t know anything about. Maybe it’s more a question of knowing where to find it, which is difficult when you are just visting a place.
Btw, Germany the THE bacon country :)

NomadicMatt

I didn’t like german bacon!

irene

Ive seen cheezits and peanutbuttercups in the supermarkets in the NL :-)
Amsterdam has got special shops selling foreign stuff, one with american stuff too, so anything you still do miss, im pretty sure you can find it there!
No good sushi?? Like Jan said, i could show you all that food around in NL!
Another good thing is that groceries are cheap in NL!!
After Spain the cheapest in the EU :-)
If you still really doubt AMS/Paris, if youre north american, better to live in Ams;
Almost everyone speaks english, and more willing to help you than the Parisians :-)

Agree! I guess europeans don’t have the fast-food culture that can be found in the other side of the pond, in Europe fast/junk food is very recent (and here in Portugal is even more recent) so we don’t have that kind of desire.

Whenever I’m in Europe I miss how outgoing and friendly Americans are. I remember going to some touristy area of Slovenia and being able to pick out all the Americans because they are the ones who actually smile and make eye contact with you.
When I used to work in England I think that my friendliness and politeness to customers was actually quite off-putting for them. Had to learn to tone it down…

Great post as usual Matt. It’s funny how different experiences can be though… I’ve never been to Asia, so I can’t make a statement of what I thought about that, but the rest.

Convenience: Lots of stores open Sundays but not all, it depends on what you want. That is about to change big though :-)

Service: I can’t agree with you there since I have overall positive experiences in a lot of European countries and cities. Yes, a few times not so great service, but that’s the same everywhere. I didn’t find it any better when I was in the US – overall about the same.

Food: Isn’t that what travel is all about? To explore other cultures and food? So if thinking so, actually there should be fewer choices of food at the destinations, no international food as it is now, just local. That would be the ultimate experience of that place!

… of course that’s not possible, because we humans are like we are: greedy and full of habits and desires… or hungry monsters like me… *giggles*

Politeness: That really differ too. I’ve heard so many rumors about the French being so rude if you not speak French, but I haven’t really experienced that. Either the rumors are exaggerated or it has changed with younger generations.

I guess it’s all about where and when you happen to visit, which persons are there right then and what mood they’re in, in that very moment. Even our own mood matters :-)

Though I must admit that we up here in the north, with a bit more difficult weather (not so much sun) is strongly influenced by that and maybe not so upbeat all the time…. That goes both for the whole Scandinavia and UK.

Or maybe it’s just our inherited Viking blood? *giggles*

NomadicMatt

I agree with the food- I travel to try different things but sometimes, a touch of home is nice! :)

@lalauncensored

Sure, a touch of home is nice but not everything revolves around American food. For instance, I hate American meat…it taste like..nothing?…however in my trip to the US I just forgot about how good (Argentinian) meat is and instead enjoyed Mac ‘n Cheese (my weakness), KFC and sort of junkdelicious thinks USA have (and gained a few pound in return). Of course once here I ate a good “bife de chorizo”…there, everything solved!

Abi

1,2 & 3 – have you been to London?

No 4 – It’s hilarious when American chains force their European counterparts to say “Have a Nice Day” with every transaction – because it just doesn’t sound right if it doesn’t come with an American accent and a perfect white smile. ;)

On a serious note, while the UK is open for business all hours, many parts of France and Spain are not. While this is annoying when you are trying to get something done – it does mean that families and friends can easily spend time together AND hold down a full-time job. Something that the work-all-hours culture of other countries misses, I think.

One person’s convenience is another’s life spent at work, after all.

NomadicMatt

Well, I’m not advocating people work all the time. I think Americans work too much…just maybe a bit more sensibility in the operating hours to better align with everyone else’s work schedule?

I dunno. I love Europe…just thinking outloud here

As always, I appreciate your blunt honesty Matt! Quite disagree with you on the analysis of the politeness/service points though, especially having spent 9 months in the states to see the other side. So here is a European giving you the opposite view ;)
When some random shop clerk in America asks me “How are you” he really doesn’t care. He doesn’t mean it Matt, come on! If I say “actually, I’m feeling homesick and I miss European warmth and a good public transport…” etc. (for example) then I’d get a really weird look. Why would a stranger honestly answer that question? In Asia etc. strangers would be happy to sit down and listen to you, but opening up like that in America between customer and salesman/waiter is not likely to happen.
The answer is ALWAYS “fine” or some ridiculous exaggeration like “great”. I find that these words don’t mean anything to Americans. Why even ask the question if the answer is always the same? Sorry but the status quo is that you are “normal” or “OK” and if you are fine or great “all the time” then what do you say when you are actually feeling great? An optimistic outlook on life is wonderful, but I found Americans to force the feeling too much. Fake smiles got annoying quickly; when we smile in Europe we mean it ;) You’ll see much less smiles because of this, but they are almost always authentic and I didn’t like the bombardment with fake positivity when living in the states. Work can be boring and that includes waiting tables and listening to complaints over the telephone. As a customer I am always more pleased to see people smile at me, but it makes them seem more human when you are aware that they have problems too and everything in the world isn’t always so happy. Because we don’t expect all of this “politeness” by default in Europe, we are just as happy with our own status quo.
In the states there’s this big fear of offending someone by just being straight and frank with strangers. It may be much less of a sunshine and lollipops universe if we are more cynical, but at least it’s honest. :)
“Good morning” etc. is much better – you genuinely wish some of your customers a good morning, but you don’t want to hear their life stories when you have other customers to attend to. I always find the empty “How are you – fine” conversations frustrating. They don’t mean anything if they are just a robotic repetition of words. I suppose you could just as easily say the same thing about “Good morning” or anything else. They are just replacements for “How are you” and as empty in a language as expressions like “well, y’know, like” etc. that don’t mean anything. To me the American “How are you” actually means “Hello, now you say ‘fine’”
The same goes for please and thank you, although we say this in Ireland/UK almost as much as in the states, so this is a linguistic issue. In Spain I remember it being difficult to blankly tell the shop assistant (in Spanish) to “give me the newspaper” and not “Good morning, would you mind passing today’s el país, please?” but it’s how the language works and has nothing to do with actual politeness. Please and thank you are empty words that we throw into English and assign politeness to. We could just as easily randomly say that I should tap my foot or raise my eyebrows to show that I’m thankful.
These cultural difference has caused me lots of problems with Americans and I end up offending them very often just by being honest. This happens much less for me with other Europeans and South Americans. There is no right or wrong here, it’s a cultural issue.
I completely understand how you can feel that it’s lack of politeness, but to some of us Europeans, saying please, thank you, how are you, nice to meet you etc. don’t actually necessarily make you more polite and we use them in different situations (e.g. thank you, when you are genuinely thankful, like getting a present rather than a waiter giving you a coffee, which he does anyway).
On the other hand speaking very loudly (as lots of Americans do, from your videos I doubt you do, but you have to admit that it is at least a partially true stereotype…) is considered very impolite in some places. I could explain why, but at the end of the day it’s just another cultural norm. To Americans this is the normal way to speak in public and cannot possibly be impolite.

On the convenience side, you are totally right that life is more convenient in America. But at what cost? It’s convenient to have stores open 24hours, but pointless (apart from hospitals/pharmacies). Why would I need to buy my pringles at precisely 4am instead of just after work? I think that’s pushing it a wee bit and it seems like a byproduct of the consumerist world.
Hope you see this comment as a friendly counter; I’m not attacking the post, I always find it very interesting to read the other view! I definitely don’t think that you are “wrong” since all of this is subjective, but just wanted to show you the other way of looking at it :) Hope you kind of see where I’m coming from! Great discussion as always Matt!!

Joy

I think you’re completely wrong about American’s asking “how are you?” I almost always ask that to my coworkers in the morning or when I’m starting a conversation. And I don’t always get a “fine” or “great”. There are days when someone says, “eh” or “I’ve been better” and that sparks a little conversation. I’ll never ask “how are you” if I don’t have time for a response. If I know I’m walking by in a hurry I’ll just say “hi!”. Also, I don’t always respond to others with “fine” or “great”. It just depends if I really want to get into details at the moment. If I do… I’ll throw something out there to convey that I’m not doing too great. If I don’t want to share my thoughts I’ll just say “fine”.

And on being loud. Unfortunately, that’s a stereotype for a reason. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a socially acceptable thing in America. I can’t stand when I’m at a restaurant having a nice dinner and someone gets loud at another table. It’s RUDE.

And the next time you’re at home working on something through the night and have a craving or a need for something… I hope you remember that convenience thing :-) I remember on my trip to Europe that I couldn’t believe how early things closed. Especially when craving something after being at a club at night.

Kyli

@Benny the Irish polyglot

I think that the Caribbean nations, Central, and South America are much friendlier than the US and Canada. I also think that the Caribbean and Latin Americans could teach the entire continent of Europe about smiling and friendliness.

You make some good points there but I have to disagree on some. Let me point out that I was born and raised in Europe (lived in a couple of countries and traveled in more) and I now live in the US.

Convenience – I disagree about Asia. Apart from the big cities (Bangkok, HCMC, Hanoi etc) and the touristic places, it’s not easy at all to find anything after a certain time. Even in Thailand, after the town’s night market (if it’s big enough to have one) closes down, there’s nothing to do. The cities in Europe usually stay up late. You can go to a bar at 3 or 4am have some drinks and then go for late night/early morning breakfast, before you go home to bed. I agree about the stores closing down early and some being closed on Sundays but grocery stores and convenient stores are open. Face it, (most) Europeans don’t like to work and also have strong working unions, they will not sacrifice their day off on Sundays or their night out to keep the stores open till 11pm. And that too is the charm of Europe.

Service – I totally agree but as you said, the waiters in the states work for tips, in Europe they don’t. Overall waiters in the States make more money than the ones in Europe but they have to depend on the customers generosity or else they are paid next to nothing.

Food – In US cities you can get a huge variety of ethnic cuisine and so you can in some European (eg London). About the junk food I guess it depends on what you’re used of. You probably won’t find Cheez-It but you can find numerous other local delicacies or junk food treats. The variety of the greek cuisine is one of the things I miss most in the States.

Politeness – Half true. I agree on things like greeting when you enter a store or small talk on the checkout line but in parts of Europe people are as polite and in others way more openhearted. In England for example people are polite but not very approachable or friendly. In southern Europe it’s the opposite. Go to a Greek island or a Spanish city for example: the cashier guy/gal at the grocery store who didn’t spare a look (let alone a hi or a thank you) as you where shopping in the morning, might easily become your new best friend or dancing partner at night. As I said before, nobody likes to work, being extremely polite and friendly to customers is would just be fake.

I don’t have much experience with Europe (a small stint in Madrid), so thank you for being honest and saying the good and the bad!

Wow, I have to say, it’s super ironic that service and politiness are 2 things people miss from the states. When I return to visit from Central America, I’m always amazed how rude people are there, completely unhelpful.

In Central America, they are sweet, polite and soooooooooo helpful. The true humbleness in these people is still here.

However, I do miss the 24/7. everything closes by like 8 pm here, and I’m talking about a supermarket on a weekday:)

You forgot the best part — in America, we have DELIVERY.

Amen to lazy :)

Great post! I wouldn’t have necessarily picked those four, but in some ways, I must agree. ESPECIALLY with #1! We lived in Milano for four years and still had to get used to planning what we wanted to eat on Sunday and Monday by Saturday PM.
As for #2, we actually got used to the service and now I kind of don’t like it when the waiter/waitress comes over during the meal to pour my wine, my water, etc. Put the bottles on the table and let me do the rest! :-)
#3 – what I wouldn’t have done for some good, well-prepared sushi some days. Yes, there was always Nobu, but that wasn’t really what I was looking for.
Thanks again!

Dave

I love the waitress in a greasy diner who calls you Hon’ or Sugar. I love the openness of Americans– Canadians, too. I need a road trip!

I loved this article. It’s so damn true. I mean yea, in the beginning you sounded like a reluctant child who refuses to let go of that old worn teddy bear, but you made a point in the end which was clear as a bell. I too would move to Europe someday. It’s just that with its drawbacks, it still outweights other options :)

NomadicMatt

No place is ever perfect! except, maybe the seychelles lol

I’m another one who thinks 1&3 certainly don’t apply to my part of Europe (London)…and yesx, I’m another european who find the American overpolitiness comes across as false, I hate it whenever I’m the states, I really do! Can’t say I disagree on the average service in most European restaurants though.

David

Wow Matt really surprised to hear these comments from someone as well travelled as you…..

First, the reasons things close earlier in can’t say all of Europe, but certainly France is called “quality of life”. Business owners pay more taxes to stay open later and especially on Sundays which is why you may see only one Rabac open in smaller towns. These taxes(I know a dirty word in the USA) pay for those wonderful things like great universal health care and other social programs( oops “social programs” another dirty word).

Second, the service, slow at times, yes. Maybe not as much attention as you’d like OK. However, in France they aren’t trying to rush you out the door either. The table is yours for as long as you like. Waiters, dependant on tips and owners who want turnover aren’t throwing the check on your table before you ask for it, like” hint, hint get out already you camper!”
Wait staff also get higher regular salaries and things like, pensions and Health Care!

Third, the ” how are you?” “have a nice day”. Come on, most Americans would find it annoying if someone actually told them how they were doing, information overload! So in fact it is insincere. Europeans may be alittle colder, especially the further east you go, but they are much warmer on the inside. The opposite is true with Americans, who seem outwardly very friendly, but in fact grow colder on the inside. Don’t believe me, just try asking even the smallest favour to some of your friendliest aquaintances, they couldn’t even be bothered in the least. The opposite can be said of many Europeans.

By the way, I am American!

NomadicMatt

Well, I clearly say that overall I love Europe. And no one is going to like 100% of all the places we go too!

But, for starters, I actually like the health care and social programs Europeans have and wish we had them in the states.

I’m not sure where you go to eat but I rarely feel pushed out of a restaurant and I’m sorry your friends aren’t as helpful as you would like. But I know I’ve seen plenty of people in America stop and ask if I need something when I am traveling around. I’ve seen people in Boston (a cold place) surround tourists asking if they need something.

It’s definitely all about what cultural norm you’re accustomed to, but I’d have to agree that American friendliness can often come across as being over the top and insincere to non-Americans. Sometimes I just want a basic service and to be left in peace apart from that. The other thing that irritates me about the practice of tipping in America is that the tip is usually 100% expected, regardless of service. What happens when the service is poor? I’ve often seen people leaving a generous tip even when they were completely unhappy with the service because deviating from the expected tip is going to lead to an unpleasant confrontation. I much prefer to see waiting staff paid an adequate wage and to have the option of tipping someone who I feel really deserves an extra bonus. (I also prefer to see all taxes included in the initial price so I don’t have to start calculating figures as I’m ordering, but that’s a whole other rant…)

Hello Matt

Nice post and sure you wrote it to create debate but it’s a bit of a generalisation in places to say the least.

Food – I wouldn’t go to Japan and complain that I can’t buy a Cornish pasty – people have their own customs and tastes. Europe is a pretty big and very culturally diverse place so I don’t think it’s fair to criticise the cuisine which varies widely around the continent.

Service and Politeness – As for my country it’s bad in some places in London maybe but people generally are pretty nice outside the big towns here. Plenty of French people have been rude to me in France but I wouldn’t ever think that French people are generally rude or the service bad on that basis.

Give us a chance man!

NomadicMatt

I don’t think people are rude all over…in fact, I think the french get a bad rap for being rude!!! Anyways, these aren’t really serious criticisms. I have spent the last 3 summers in Europe. I love it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t wish for some of the comforts of home every once in awhile :)

I think the tipping system is awesome and ensures good quality service, and most people (besides a few general a-holes) are willing to give a little extra. I have friends that make close to $200 a night in tips at average bars/restaurants, so how can you not be happy with a system like that?

I have to say that this article surprises me. First off I am British, but was born and raised in Germany.

I’ll start at the start.
1) Convenience. Personally I have found it to be annoying when some of the shops shut early, or don’t open at all on Sundays. But I have seen the other side of it, where the family day was the main benefit of this, we used to go out to a park or something and just be a family. In the UK I feel like the 24/7 shopping culture has destroyed this. Also there is now nothing built in the UK apart from more bloody shopping centres!

2) Service. First off, in France, and especially Paris, they are rude, that is their nature, their culture and to be honest you just gotta get as passionate and argumentative as they are. As a German, used to order, efficiency and no fuss I find myself awkward at doing this, but utterly enjoy it!

Also, I travelled with an American for a while through Europe and he said the same thing as you. I am afraid to say though that this is just a massive culture difference. Americans are used to the loudness and upbeat nature of their own country. When in Slovenia I managed to have a hilarious conversation with a waitress, that my American friend was mystified about because he did not understand the cultural and geographic references.
This may sound a bit stereotypical, but it was as it was. On a stereotypical but true note…. Sarcasm, I’m sorry but most Americans I meet whilst travelling still don’t get it unless it smacks them in their face, especially from a German, people always take me too seriously, they think we have no sense of humour!

3)Food diversity. The greatest thing about America is your diversity, and your food reflects it, but that is your history, not ours. So yes the food may sometimes be a little limited, especially if you are in cities only. But seriously have a look round for somewhere where you cannot read the menu and order…. that one, usually works out ok, until you order Donkey in Estonia.

4)Politeness, I am afraid Matt that I am going to have to completely disagree with you for about the first time I can remember when reading your articles. You mention “The rules of society say you won’t go into a 15 minute diatribe about your day but I think people mean it when they ask. It’s just friendly and polite.” I disagree. When I got to America I find I agree with the comment above from David that the usual drivel uttered from a shop assistants mouth is purely corporate B.S. In Europe if someone asks you, you could probably go into your 15minute diatribe and they will probably listen. I find that to be more worthy than a cheesey white smile that merely says “Walmart wants your money”

And may I add point number 5… Europe’s cultures are as vastly different between countries and even different between regions in a country. Unfortunately for most Americans almost all these regions and countries have been visited by the typical ignorant American holiday makers who refuse to speak their language and can usually be found congregated on the Autobahn rest stations at McDonalds. I know that this is not true for all Americans, but I find the same if is true of the English in some places.

Oh yes, and the French will hate everyone and be rude anyway so come to Bavaria, not Munchen, but the real Bavaria, in the mountains or in the little farming towns, enjoy some real honest hospitality, and try many different types of food (ok – many different types of sausage).

Viel Spass, Viel Gluck!

I don’t like the Speedos.

Great post. Iagree, I LOVE Europe, but there are some things that really make me appreciate America (in particular, California!) Like, the ability to buy an avocado any time of the year. I really missed those when I lived in Ireland….

Joy

Hi Matt,

I actually agree with you on all points. But maybe that’s because I’m an American! Though I’ll admit that my European exposure has only been from France and Germany. I remember being absolutely amazed at how early places closed… especially the metros. I once had to walk quite a distance back to my hotel because I wasn’t aware that the metro had stopped and that it was impossible to find a taxi.

As for politeness – I think only Americans are the ones that understand our sincerity. I guess it comes across as fake to others. But in general, when someone takes the time to ask me how I’m doing… I assume they really want to know! And that’s not to say that there aren’t rude people in America either. There are quite a few places where the workers won’t say “hi” or they act like customers are a big inconvenience to them. Those are places I don’t return to. AND – I don’t tip unless I’m happy with the service!

Great post, Matt! Now I’m going to go enjoy some brie with my baguette that I got from a local market!

- Joy

Brendan

Have to agree with the Europeans about the politeness thing. I’m from the south where we are suppose to have southern hospitality. A lot of its just fake pre programmed BS to make the insecure feel better about themselves imo

It has been a long tradition (longer than the entire history of the united states ;)) that things in the UK close Sunday afternoon, and removing the Sunday trading law and going American is what has made our culture less British and more American, I personally think this is a shame, and if everything went the American way then you’d have nothing to complain about ;) and it’ll be diluting our own culture. The idea of having Sundays off was from the Christian religion of spending time with family on a day of rest. I think it’s unfortunate family values are sacrificed in the name of convinience.

Also I’m sure you’re aware European production rates are much higher then the states one reason being we have more time off. The Spanish enjoy their siesta during the day allowing them to work hard in mornings and party hard at night. I think seeing French construction workers enjoy wine and cheese outside building sites is brilliant too.

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I can understand your POV about service, however it comes across to me as impolite to keep asking how things are when I’m trying to eat. I don’t like tipping, only yanks seem to know how to do it correctly, I prefer things with a price tag thanks.

*************

Yes American has more variety of junk food, good for you guys.

But I think effectively stating that all the countries in Europe (That’s Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, Denmark, Australia, Finland, Norway, Sweden and a few others I apolgise for not remembering right now) have less diversity then the USA is rather uninformed….

*************

The politeness thing is just unnatural to me. Rude is more fun and partially where I get my sense of humour from. That’s just part of culture in the UK, then we can complain about it afterwards, it’s brilliant!
Consistent overly polite culture I find extremely annoying and much prefer a miserable face to serve me every once in a while, again, it’s a sense of humour thing.

************

Just a last statement – I’m not intentionally being rude here, but I hope as a well travelled man you can appreciate different cultures outlook on things. It is one of the most interesting parts of travel I find :-)

Jkmertz

In your paragraphs, whenever you make constrast something from Europe you contrast it with “America”. For God’s sake, why do you people born in the United States keep having the poise of calling a single country by the name of a whole continent? Why? The things you to hate about Europe seem to be the ones you do not have at home. It seems like you would like to find the same things abroad. What is the point on that? I can’t belive someone devoted to travelling writes a whole article about his/her comfort zone. I might agree with you on the Service, but when it comes to food I can’t agree at all.

Man, I feel you on the service. It’s not just unfriendly–it’s usually inattentive and uninformed. The tip model has a lot of drawbacks, but you do end up making more, which makes you care more, and makes for better service.

jforestphotos

Hi Matt,

I mostly agree with you here. I think that nowhere is perfect, but some places are better than others. For me, the lack of businesses open on a sunday isn’t a huge problem, nor is the closing time around 7 or 8pm. Eventually I want to live in Italy somewhere, and I know it will be a bureaucratic nightmare, but I will put up with that for the food, climate, culture, countryside, coastline, etc etc etc.

I do however think that most of the american “hi, how are you?” is fake. It’s just a social nicety that we use, but mostly, people do not really care if you are ok or not. That’s why noone ever says “AWFUL” to that question. It’s always “I’m fine, how are you?”

That’s my 2 cents :)

-Josh

Clever title of this post – designed to provoke and draw a crowd and congrats it worked! As has been said in the comments already most of this is just cultural differences – you say ‘tom-ay-to’ and I say ‘to-MATT-o’ – excuse the ‘Matt’ pun ;-)

I would expand on one of the points made by a commenter about generalising these as US versus EU differences and add that the examples you gave apply mostly to large cities e.g. the convenience factor and level of service and quality of food in Boise, Idaho would be very different to Manhattan, New York.

Conversely the friendliness and politeness of country folk in rural Ireland would put most Dublin city slickers (including myself) to shame.

Having been born in Europe and lived in North and South America and currently in Hong Kong, I tend to think of these cultural differences as simply differences and not something to ‘Hate’ or dwell on.

It’s interesting to hear your perspectives as always!

I don’t hate europe and these are interesting differences..

but me? design a post title to get comments? never :)

Enjoyed the post Matt, and as my reply would be too long for here I have made it a post of my own on 501 Places – I hope you don’t me half-stealing your title, with credit of course.

Your four topics (food, service, convenience and politeness) have created some great discussion, as intended no doubt. As a seasoned traveller you have no doubt experienced the highs and lows of each of these in different parts of Europe and equally in the US. I know exactly where to go for late night shops, for great service and great food in the UK, and see politeness wherever I go. If I am elswhere I don’t find these things as easily (except for politeness which I am convinced is in equal abundance the world over; it’s just a question of tapping into it). Isn’t that it though? It’s about adapting to the environment in which we find ourselves. After all, few people will describe their culture as fundamentally rude.

Don’t know about Cheez-Its, but I think I can pass on them :-)

Thanks for starting a great debate

What do people in Europe do when they work until 5 and everything is closed by the time they get there? They get absouletly nothing done in the evenings. Drives me insane. Shopping on Saturday, which is pretty much the only day anyone including myself can shop, is a nightmare. You need all day Sunday to recover from the madness, the crowds and the stress.

I know! i went with you lol

Wolfgang

I understand and respect your personal preferences from the US which will obviously never fit well into any “European” country, given the cultural differences.

I think there is one huge mistake your statements are based on: GENERALIZATION.

Saying “things about Europe” is not objective because there is no such thing as “European”. “Europe” consists of a lot of countries and each one of them is different. Slovenia is not the same kind of “Europe” like France. Just as Germany will never be like Spain, and Italy will never be like Denmark, Hungary will never be like Austria, Belgium will never be like Poland, Greece will never be like Finland, Romania will never be like Liechtenstein, etc.

YOU SEEM TO GENERALIZE BASED ON TOO LITTLE EXPERIENCE.

The idea for the article is great but you might re-write it in a more objective way and after visiting more countries in “Europe”. :-)

Well, you are right but any web article of 500 words is going to be a generalization.

victoria

Interesting how you say that you miss your friendly service from America. While i will agree that the service on the whole is friendlier the customers are not. I serve a lot of Americans and I can always point them out because they are rude. Maybe in America people are just trained to put up with others wile the Europeans arn’t?

I love Europe so much that I finally decided to move here, and there are really only two things that make me heartsick for America:

1) Plentiful ice.

2) Free refills.

I live in France, in the French Alps region, and I hate to admit it but I agree with most of this post. I find the French far less friendly, open and polite than Americans (they have the Bonjour, etc but it’s about formality, not friendliness). I have also had terrible customer service experiences here and I miss being able to shop on Sundays. And boy, do I miss good ethnic food like Thai, Mexican. You can find some in the big cities but I live in a smaller city that doesnt have ethnic food so I gorge myself when I visit the US. However, there are things that France does far better than the US like health care, fighting for what they want (Americans are incredibly apathetic) with demonstrations and strikes, and they aren’t workaholics like us. So basically, no country is perfect! Cynthia in the French Alps

imissgermany

just came from frankfurt, germany 2 weeks ago and loved it but you’re right, there’s some annoying things about germany atleast (don’t know about the rest of europe)
1. people are generally not friendly, talkative, or approachable
2. most of the food are actually good but not too much variety; ex. mcdonalds and burger king are only burger fast foods
3. not service oriented; you’ll see your waiter about 2-3 times only while dining and there’s someyimes only 1 waiter for like 10 tables
4. you have to pay for everything; parking space, bags in groceries, water at the restaurant; plus they don’t give you ice on your dinks or refills
5. motels/hotels, even with high ratings are not as nice unlike the US; don’t have high expectations
6. most businesses closed on sundays; usually any retail stores, malls, hair/nail salons and groceries; only stuff open are restaurants, bars, cafes, movies, bakeries, museums; on weekdays, they are open up to 8 pm; PLUS they really don’t have much of a one stop store such as WalMart, Target, or Costco. The only one I saw in germany was Metro.

Are we just being spoiled as Americans? What do you guys think

Craig

You’re not being spoiled. As a Brit, I’m not a fan of mass Americanisation.

You say you ‘only’ get a waiter 2-3 times during a meal. Why would you want any more? I don’t want to be interrupted when I’m eating out. The only reason I need a waiter is to bring food and drinks. If something is not ok, I will tell them, I don’t need to be continually asked.

Unfortunately some UK restaurants are following the UK and waiters are becoming too intrusive during meal times in my opinions.

With regards to one stop shops, I think we have a lot more in the UK than mainland Europe (we have Tesco, Asda etc). I have mixed feelings about them. These shops cannot offer a personal level of service that you get on the High Streets in small towns. I am from a small town in Gloucestershire, and people always greet me with a ‘Hello’ when I walk in. If I know the people working in the shop, they may ask me how I am, but will leave me alone to look unless I ask them for help. You don’t get this service in the big stores. You also don’t get the quality. A local butcher provides better meat than a super market. Bigger stores also don’t provide a community feel.

That said, we do most of our shopping in a big store as most smaller shops are closed on Sunday and working a 6 day week, means thats the only day to shop.

I really agree with you on paying for things like parking, it drives me mad ad is killing our high streets off.

One last thing, this is not a rant and I’m not having a go at you. I’ve been to the States and loved it, it’s totally different and thats what makes travelling great. I just disagree on a few points thats all. I do agree with what you say below as well. Especially history. Europe has it in abundance.

imissgermany

in addition, here’s some stuff i love about germany:
1. fashion-almost every single woman dressed very nice in a way that they look like people we only see in fashion magazines in the U.S.; about 75% or more of the women are slender; they also wore minimal makeup; i went there in the fall so everyone dressed in layers of scarf, blouse, pea coats (a must for all german women), boots; hats; and yes, they do wear jeans BUT not with sweatshirts and sneakers like we do in the US; many times, I would spend time just people watching and amazed how nice they dressed
2. Coffee- is it just me or their coffee there is extra good? Go to any bakery and they serve excellent coffee macchiato or latte with whip cream
3. Food servings- definitely smaller than the US but you won’t be starving afterwards; maybe this is why it’s rare for someone to ask for a doggie bag after dining; unlike here in the US, many times, they will give you monstrous servings; i miss the currywurst w/ pommes frittes, turkish kebabs, and plain strussels
4. Walking-I’ve never walked so much in my life! It’s a good form of exercise though and maybe along with the smaller food serving, this is why I lost weight over there
5. History-being a history lover, I am just amazed of the castles, cathedrals, and other stuff I saw; Germany is very old and rich in history; we went to Aachen cathedral and just couldn’t believe that Charlamgne walked on the same hallways 1200 years ago, that was walking on; I also saw stone crosses that were built in the medieval times to stop the black plague
6.weather-well, sometimes I liked it sometimes I didn’t; I live in sunny southern Cali so sometimes, I enjoyed the gloomy, rainy, cloudy weather but hated it if it went on for more than 3 days; I also couldn’t get used to the idea that some businesses (even restaurants with indoor dining!) closed nov 1 until feb 28 the following year; life pretty much remains unchanged all year if you live in southern california and you have access to almost anything here 24/7 so in this case, it was a little rough.

Great post NomadicMatt! I agree with your post. Please share your dislikes/likes if you’ve been to Europe. Im very intersted to hear your thoughts!

Michelle

i miss germany…………….You liked being in europe because of the women being slender and dressing nicely? LOL how pathetic and shallow. Thank god I focused on things that actually matter like getting an education….what clothes people wear and what size they wear isnt one of them. Get an education and a life and maybe you wont need to focus on the color of someone’s scarf. Thank god I keep busy and hopefully you can do the same.

Lucille

. . . . . It would be much easier, – if you would just consider, as the people in London say; – “Europe ? – now, – that’s an other cup of tea,” –
– The key is to; – A c c e p t the Continent, as it is. ( The atmosphere is, of course not the same, as where you went to Elementary School. )
– - do not compare and you would have a ‘winning-streak’ .
What do you think ?
Lucille / [email protected]

– - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Aaron K

Hey, I found this blog really funny. I’m originally from Canada and up there in our igloos we tend to think that the world loves us or something – there are even stories about how people from the US put canadian flags on their gear while travelling (I have not encountered this). The rational? You have to live in a box to realize that globally many people dislike North Americans just because their north american. Is it because the red neck texans must tote guns? The avoidance and derogation of the Kyoto protocals? Perhaps it was George Bush and the panic intelligent people feel when they realize he had access to nuclear missles? Hmm, Jerry Springer? I just.. don’t.. know :)

My experience is that most people globally, and especially Europeans can be biased towards north americans. Maybe its the somewhat generic attitude that many north americans have that “USA is the best place in the world to live” or the notion that somehow it is the cultural center of the universe but… many people globally find north americans arrogant. Perhaps your catching some of their bias…

Course it is still bias… mind you I find it a little alarming that after exposure to fine european cusine that your pineing for cheeze-ys.

I would give up this mecca of capital industrilist corruption for the humanistic cafes of europe any day. It may have its problems but it also has.. history.. culture.. and a senuality that does not exist in the western world.

Then again, I think that every person has a temperment and that different places innately suite them.

Like I personally love the relaxed attitude of a european evening. It is time to just exist. Drink some wine, enjoy tapas. Chase the leggy blond’s eyes at the table across from you. Walk down a cobblestone road and feel the ancientness. So I cant make it in time to best buy to purchase my next bigger LCDLEDTVSETEXTRAVAGANZA. Big deal, I’d prefer to slip back to that little old apartment nestled in the old side of town; turn on some flamenco music, pick some of my fresh basil and enjoy a glass of wine which I occasionally pour sips of into whatever I am cooking. The evening breeze carries with it memories of galacian fires and ancient roman civilization. There is a dignity here in peasentry and a love of existence for the sake of existence.

To me, that is life. to hell with cheezez/cheezums/or whatever those little orange balls of dehydrated bread fried in lard and kraft dinner cheeze mix are called.

No disrespect intended – its just that most of what you dislike about Europe is what makes me love it.

Amanda

Thanks I was wondering what to give my sister who moved to Europe=) I will send her peanut butter cups, cheese its and cereal I remember was something she missed. You know the good stuff with marshmellows a lot of sugar etc.

Blue

I come from SE Asia – Malaysia, to be exact. I’ve never understood when Westerners described the SE Asians as “warm and friendly” … that is until I went to Europe for the very first time last year. I was rather taken aback by how the Milanese (that was my first stop) interacted with me but very soon realized that that’s simply how they are. The Europeans are friendly people but they do maintain some kind of distance. I love Europe and am already making plans to go back there later this year.

Cheers!

Gaby

politeness in America is a little overdone, I have to say. Now, I am not American, I’m latin and we are pretty damn friendly… but it’s completely different. As a retail store/restaurant employee I’ve been taken to the back of the store by the manager because I don’t smile at every customer that crosses paths with me, and it’s not because I refuse to, It’s just that it has to come natural.

I think the best service is made by the people that know how to read their table/customer. It is part of their work and some Europeans should really be more attentive.

and so true about convenience… I absolutely HATE places that close early. I guess I’m just spoiled… but life is to live outside… and working some sundays/evenings to get your turn to enjoy convenience the rest of them sounds damn good to me.

Politeness! Give me a break. You can have Europeans eating out of your hand if you know how to deal with them. It really is quite simple. Just be over-the-top polite to them and they will do their best to return the favor.

Hotel GO

You sound like you are comparing the US to any one place in Europe at a time. To compare say Paris to the US is pointless, especially in terms of cultural diversity and foods etc. It would be more accurate to compare the US to Europe as a whole – I think you’ll find there is all the culinery diversity across Europe to match the US and more.

Jessica

I agree with you, Matt! I am American and moved to Sweden to get the “international experience” and I have to say…one year would have been more than long enough to experience everything I needed to. The longer I live here (7 years total, on-and-off), the more I miss the things you wrote about. Especially customer service and politeness. I have never lived in any non-Scandinavian European country, so I can’t speak for the whole of Europe, but the “customer service” in Scandinavia is non-existent, and sometimes downright hostile.

I would also write “racism” on the list of things I do not like about Europe. I did not notice it at first (and I have heard things are better in England than they are here), but Scandinavia is an extremely racist place to live. I am in a mixed-race relationship, and I have seen first-hand how people of color get treated here (Asian engineers unable to work as anything but taxi drivers, people repeatedly referred to by stereotypes- even on TV and radio, racist jokes on TV with absolutely no backlash from the general public, racist billboards for national soccer competitions, you name it.)

http://www.thelocal.se/1528/20050601/

I am here to study. I am a Swedish citizen now, but my fiancé and I are leaving for the USA as soon as I am done with my degree. We might even leave early.

Kyli

@Jessica

I co-sign everything you just said in your comment. Although I don’t know as much about Sweden, but I’ll assume you do, since you live there.
I would say that xenophobia and racism definitely applies to Italy and all of Eastern Europe. They aren’t used to diversity and don’t seem to want to embrace it anytime in the near future.

Alex

TOTALLY agree with each of these points. I’ve been living in the south of France for almost a year, and while many things about living here are amazing, there are just sooo many things I miss about Canada. To add a couple more points to your list:

- Efficiency! I hate to generalize here, but from my experience, French people are much more concerned about when they get to take their next smoke break than helping you out. Example: I wanted to borrow a key for the study room in my student residence, and the receptionist-lady was smoking and told me she’d get it for me as soon as she was done her cigarette. I was absolutely stunned.

- NO SMOKING LAWS. Even though France is slightly better than countries such as Austria or Czech Republic, where you can smoke INSIDE bars/restaurants, I still seem to run into people smoking left, right and center. And although they go “outside” to do it, they’re normally only about 4 feet from a doorway, so you end up walking through a cloud of smoke anyhow.

Anyways, I too love Europe, I think it’s more cultured, more interesting and less “go go go.” But from my experience it’s not somewhere I would ever want to live permanently – I’ve come to realize I like how things are done at home :)

JeannieL

(seems the topic of fake smiles is such a hot item) A few wise excerpts from Cultural Anthropologists:

“It is difficult to generalize about Americans and facial expressiveness because of individual and ethnic differences in the United States. People from certain ethnic backgrounds in the United States tend to more facially expressive than others. The key, is to try not to judge people whose ways of showing emotions are different. If we judge according to our own cultural norms, we may make the mistake of “reading’ the other person incorrectly.”

“Facial expressions carry meaning that is determined by situations and relationships. For instance, in American culture the smile is typically an expression of pleasure. Yet it also has other functions. A woman’s smile at a police officer does not carry the same meaning as the smile she gives to a young child. A smile may show affection, convey politeness, or disguise true feelings. For example many people in Russia consider smiling at strangers in public to be unusual and even suspicious behavior. Yet many Americans smile freely at strangers in public places (although this is less common in big cities). Some Russians believe that Americans smile in the wrong places; some Americans believe that Russians don’t smile enough. In Southeast Asian cultures, a smile is frequently used to cover emotional pain or embarrassment.”

“Culture does not always determine the message of nonverbal communication. The individual’s personality, the context, and the relationship also influence its meaning. However, like verbal language, nonverbal language is linked to person’s cultural background. People are generally comfortable with others who have “body language” similar to their own. One research study demonstrated that when British graduate students imitated some Arab patterns of nonverbal behavior (making increased eye contact, smiling, and directly facing their Arab partners), the Arabs felt that these students were more likeable and trustworthy than most of the other British students.”

“For Americans, the usual distance in social conversation ranges from about an arm’s length to four feet. Less space in the American culture may be associated with either greater intimacy or aggressive behavior. The common practice of saying “Excuse me,” for the slightest accidental touching of another person reveals how uncomfortable Americans are if people get too close. Thus, a person whose “space” has been intruded upon by another may feel threatened and react defensively. In cultures where close physical contact is acceptable and even desirable, Americans may be perceived as cold and distant.”

Traveller

Dude, if you’re frustrated about smoking habits in countries like Austria or France, I wonder what you would say if you visited Greece. You can’t get away from the cigarette smoke over there. Bank tellers, receptionists, clerks, shop assistants etc. smoke while serving you, and they think they have the right to blow smoke in your face. Even doctors smoke over there.

Henry

You want good food or sub-way or any other ‘good’ food then you go to London! Seriously! They have all the restaurants, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Tapas, Sub-Way, McDonalds, F&M. London is the biggest city in Europe and has the most for you! Sure it can be expensive for most Europeans but it’s totally worth it!

NomadicMatt

London is a great place to eat!

mayormikeb

this discussion is funny. just take the examples of Provence, Manhattan, some dreary northern UK town, some miasmic southern US town, some hideous Chinese backwater, Bali, the 18th Bezirk of Vienna, Tokyo….

We all know the Manhattan below 96th st would be rate the highest in all 4 of these (quite arbitrary) categories with the largest english-speaking sample.

NYC aint America. But if you are looking for these 4 categories look no further than huge, global centers of art, natural beauty + commerce…SF, London, Tokyo, Miami, Barcelona…but all these will be more specific than NYC in their traits.

mayormikeb

but as i look at your website….i see that you may be looking at this from a “nomadic” perspective. in other words:

rambling around in Asia vs rambling around in Europe
rambling around in Europe vs rambling around South America

in that case it pays to have more money.

american

In response to the discussion about North American “politeness”:

If you’re not from North America, you may not understand the “politeness” being discussed here. Obviously some of the “politeness” coming from businesses is false and done for the sake of money, but it wouldn’t be done if it didn’t make a difference. Businesses adopt policies of that nature because they want to blend in with the culture in order to gain more customers and therefore make more money. It’s not like it’s a vast, corporate conspiracy that has altered the entire culture of North America; it actually comes from somewhere. Also, just because some businesses are superficial doesn’t mean all North American individuals are.

Everybody is different. Some of us may never ask “How are you?” unless we’re willing to listen (maybe because we’re genuinely that friendly and open with strangers, or because the person being asked is close). It’s true that, in some cases, people will say they’re doing well even if that’s not the case, but oftentimes it’s said in a revealing tone. It wouldn’t be abnormal for a follow-up question to be asked regarding that tone.

We don’t often give long answers because we acknowledge that we’re all on-the-move. Giving a long answer would be like stealing someone else’s time away, forcing them into a position where they have to decide to either put off what they were going to do or rudely interrupt. So if we don’t have the time for any type of answer, why bother asking at all? Because many of us actually do care, but, at the same time, short answers will suffice. “How are you?” means exactly that. It doesn’t mean “How are you, what brought you to that state, and what are you plans for it?” If we’re curious about that, we can ask additional questions.

Even if the asker doesn’t care about the answer, questions like “How are you?” function like greetings that are very similar to saying something like “Hey.” However, they carry additional meaning. Whether or not the individual who asks it actually wants to be given an answer, it’s a demonstration of politeness. It’s just the standard here. It may be an anachronism (like so many other aspects of cultures), but doing otherwise unavoidably demonstrates impoliteness. It’s not that we’re always trying to be polite; sometimes we’re just afraid of being impolite. This may seem like a lot of pointless nonsense, but, first of all, that’s what a lot of culture is. Second of all, if we want to be impolite (for whatever reason), it’s as simple as omitting these pleasantries. ;)

Lucy

Hi Matt,

First of all really good website. I am only sorry that I did not come across it earlier. So now I am catching up with some of your old blog posts.

I know things about Europe bother you but try to understand them.

Shops – Shops are usually open on Sundays but only until 12 or 3pm (depends on the area). I think there is no need for more. If there is something urgent to survive, you have gas stations. What is good about it? This way they actually get time off to spend time with friends that are also off. Workers in those shops are probably happier than the ones that have to work on Sundays. As Sunday is a family day, where children dont have school and most members of family have time to do a day trip to the mountains, lake, coast, etc. And until these cashiers are not paid more than minimum wage (some cases even below it – yes it happens a lot), no one will be prepared to work longer hours. For example: Imagine getting 700Euros where your minimal living costs (purely basic surviving) are 600Euros, if you have two people on this wage it is easier but if they have 1 kid in school, you can imagine how it is for them. But as an average consumer it can be an inconvenience sometimes.

Service – I do agree with you that service is mostly bad. And your suggestion about working for tips would be probably much better for both sides. If you look my previous example, this would be a good way to get people to work with a smile on as they know it is up to them how much they earn. and they know that if they work hard, their wage will be big enough to live “normally”. But definitely service sucks.

Food – yup there is not much diversity unless you live in London. On this one I am totally with you. We need more worldly food choices and not just our traditional cuisine (I love it, but hey I want to have a good maple syrup or Theos chocolate sometimes).

Politeness – I can not agree or disagree. But bear in mind that for most Europeans English is not their first language. I know that some languages (Slavic ones especially) have the different intonation of words. for example: Give me that object. (in some languages can mean in a very mean way, non polite way or it can mean the most polite way, depends on intonation of it) But when you translate it in English the intonation does not help at all. it will always sound rude (but non native english speakers will not notice it as they will try to use intonation). But in shops I must agree that they are not polite at all. and How are you is not common either so I agree to that.

Taylor

Wow, everyone is taking this awfully seriously, aren’t they? I think you make valid points– you’re not hatin’, just sayin’. Because, yeah, Europe has many wonderful parts to it. But there are bad/inconvenient things too. That’s how every place is.

imissgermany

to michelle,

this post is more than 3 years old when I first went there and I’ve actually been there 5 times now. i have 2 bachelor’s degrees and actually just finished a master’s degree this spring . it’s not about pathetic or shallow, i like what i like and so does everyone else. if you’re so busy, you shouldn’t be making negative comments on sites like this because you wouldn’t have the time or effort to do so. you would be out there saving the world.

Imissgermany

Hey Michelle!

This page is about people voicing out what they personally like or don’t like irregardless of what it is, you see the title above? There is no such thing as a right or wrong answer. Unfortunately, some people like to start crap about other people’s input to make themselves feel better since they are miserable, plus read my comment further down.

Edit De Nef

Well Matt,
You should visit Antwerp (in Belgium of course) : skipped by many going from Paris to Amsterdam.
It’s my hometown : great food from all over the world (yes, also junkfood but most people here don’t like it) shops open until late, no-nonsense people (yes, rude sometimes, but that is because “tourists” and many times Americans, are also very rude and demaning, so we just give them back what we get : that is what Belgians and certainly from Antwerp, are like :-)
We are just honest :-)
Travelled USA lots of times, what I dislike :
1. A high percentage seems to know nothing about the rest of the world (history, geography,….)
2. Food : no real cosy town-centres, so no hanging on a sunny terrace for hours and hours with friends enjoying food and wine. When your plate is empty, the waiter “looks you away”.
More ice than liquid in the drinks.
3. Weapon-culture (shocking for most of us !!)
4. People looking “down” on the rest of the world (feeling superior) : no, we are not mideavel and cute :-) Bruges by the way (also in Belgium is just a postcard, not a real town :-)
And …. in fact you were all Europeans or Africans once, right ??

What I DO like in the USA :
The beautiful and diverse landscapes and my dear friends, living in Nashville for more than 30 years (but they are also Belgians :-)))

I travelled all over the world (like you Matt : going from hammock backpacking in Costa Rica to luxury resorts on the Maldives to crossing the outback of Australia in the smallest minivan).
But my heart is in AFRICA : pure, colorful, beautiful nature, history, … and lost of misery, yes, but it gets under your skin.
Will be in Kenia all month of November : counting the days !
Apart from that : great blogs and newsletters with good tips and very recognisable : wish I had thought of that a few years ago ;-)
Love from Antwerp !
Edith

Teela

Hi Matt,

Love this post, and your others. I can’t believe all the debate it created! One interesting thing is I’ve noticed from working in a Hotel in NYC, is the European travelers are MUCH nicer when they come here than Americans, a lot more understanding and friendly, but I agree when abroad they don’t seem like me as much :( Everyone seems to be getting quite defensive too! I guess we’re all really protective of where we live lol. I happen to think in the US when we ask someone how they are, we mean it, no one expects to hear a life story, but we do genuinely like to see that your day is going well!

:) Teela

hayley

great article!!

hayley

man people love to nit pick haha. damn. chill out people, great post

Elena

Great article!

Just need to ask (because as an experienced traveller I think you know this one), when you say “America” do you mean The States or the whole continent?

It is really incorrect and annoying for all the other countries who share the same continent. If you talk about Europeans, Asians, Africans and… Americans (wait they are just speaking of USA?).

NomadicMatt

I mean the United States.

Yeah I lived in Spain for a couple months and things closing early and on Sundays was annoying especially coming from NYC. Supermarkets especially. If I wanted to make dinner, I had to make sure I shopped earlier in the week or else -_-.

Thank goodness there were small shops that were open. But hey you do get used to it.

Having lived in Europe for my whole life until moving to SE Asia over three years ago, I can certainly see where you’re coming from. NYC is my favorite city,in the US (and the world), and one of the reasons I love it so much is because of the people and the general level of service. SE Asia has a similar level of service and the people are also a lot more upbeat. As a Brit, it’s still hard for me to understand how some many Brits, and other Europeans, complain so much when they have such a good life. People in SE Asia are much poorer, but seem much more happy. And you’re also right about the food – there’s a lot less choice in Europe.

Kyli

In my opinion: Sicily, Marseille France, Iceland have the friendliest people in Europe.
I Iove those places! They are friendly and keep it real. Keeping it real: especially Marseille and the Marseillaise. I could spend years in Marseille.

The lack of smiling in most of Europe and lack of friendliness puts me off. Which is why I couldn’t wait to get out of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet satellite countries when I lived in Georgia and visited Ukraine and Bulgaria.

I do enjoy Germany and the Scandinavian countries a lot but like most colder climates, the people as individuals come across as conformists to me. Very old world. This is the way things have been done for 700 years so why change it?

Personally I’d rather spend my time in the Caribbean, Latin America or West/East Africa. They are friendly and everyone smiles all the time and loves foreigners. I’ll take Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Mexico, Ecuador, Barbados, Martinique, Angola, Mauritius, and Cape Verde any day over anything European (unless it’s one of the places I mentioned before)

I think that North Americans put the European continent on a high pedestal. Why? I don’t know. There’s the assumption that if it’s European….then of course, it must be superior. Old world versus New world.

Food: I’m vegan so I can’t relate /can’t appreciate the fastfood/junk-convenience food desire.

Things staying open 24 hours: Pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals should be open 24 hours worldwide. Stores and shopping centers? No. Retail employees need to sleep, eat, and relax too.

Great post Matt! Keep them coming!

Paris is cool, but Matt, may I suggest Edinburgh as your final destination.

Paris is beautiful and stylish, but like all capital cities, in parts it is expensive, dirty and crowded. Most crucially, it’s a rather closed society – set up by the French, for the French.

You’ll be much happier in Scotland lad. When you’ve reached the end of your travels, the capital of Scotland awaits.

(1) Most beautiful city in Europe, castle smack right in the middle
(2) The writer of literature and culture, the place for writers
(3) Good festivals
(4) Cheap, friendly, easy-going, not crowded
(5) Good decent English speaking folks
(6) Easy access to all of Europe, cheap rail and flights to anywhere in the EU
(7) An open society, all of the opportunities the UK has to offer.

Gabriele

“America has a way better junk food.” This really made me laugh!

Emma Olmi

I love your blog!
But I have to disagree on this post.

You actually are absolutely right on the convenience point but thats about it; unless you are talking about a different Europe than mine.

I am European. Grown up in Portugal and Spain, been living in London for the last 7 years and I can tell you I have travelled extensively in Europe. I also know USA quite well in order to compare.

I understand you are talking about Europe as a whole, but seems to me you are probably looking into something like paris where YES, people are rude, and YES, you will just pretty much find French cuisine, however, I have never met as optimist people than the Portuguese, or can we really find people more polite than the English????
as for variety of food, well, yes we cant compare a small town in Italy with New York but we CAN compare London with NY and dont see much difference on where to find the comfort food. :p

Europe is a big and very diverse continent, lets try not to generalize :)

Rob Davies

I have to disagree with this. Most of the things you listed you can get all the time in the UK. We have a wide range of diversity of food, service is generally good, people are always polite and shops are open every day of the week.
Sure it isn’t 24/7, though garages can be, but supermarkets are open till pretty late as are many little stores.