January 27, 2009

For the things we love Europe for

When a friend from Germany calls you and tells you that her vacation is coming up and he is thinking of going to Belgium for chocolate shopping and then to Normandy (northern France) for caramel liquor and on the way back will check out a play on the West End of London, you start thinking about your ten-day vacation and, based on your relatively remote location, about the realistic locations you could visit in ten days, taken you are allowed to take all ten days at once. My point is, you start to wonder and day-dream of what your life would have been like if you’ve lived in Europe. Anywhere in Europe, that’s it.

Just as I was about to put together a list of the things ‘we love Europe for’, I received an email from my Parisian friend, who is in the midst of planning her vacation next month, even though, as I recall, she just took one two months ago. She told me that this time she is going to New York for a week or longer and than she will spend some quality time with her friends in Los Angeles (she just can’t get over the open pool at the Standard West Hollywood with a city sky-view.) And even though, we, as the proud residents of DC, don’t have to really plan a trip to New York, all we have to do is to reserve a space on the next weekend’s Megabus DC-NY, we still can’t get over the “unfairness” of the longevity of our American vacations.

So, here are the things that we love Europe for (agree or disagree, please feel free to contribute to the list.)

1.5 months of vacation.

A 29.99-Euro airfare from London to Rome, from Rome to Berlin, from Paris to Athens…

Men wear Speedos on the beach
Women wear no bra tops on the beach
…and everyone is OK with both of the above.

People have natural teeth; one does not feel awkward if his or her teeth are not bleached out. (And some even find it sexy!)

Italians and Russians call subway – metro, Brits – tube, Germans – untergrundbahn, Portuguese - passagem subterranean…

A 2-hour lunch break in France.

Brandy and Gl├╝hwein (mulled wine) is ok to drink at lunch in Germany, on a work day.

Absinthe is legal, in some parts of Europe.

Almost all of Europe can be reached via rail, and most European countries offer great passes throughout Europe for those sixty years of age and over, and for people under 26 years of age can take advantage of reduced fares for youth passes.

European flight attendants are actually nice - no peanuts and free alcohol (bottled wine unlimited.)

You don’t have to smile if you have a stomach ache, or you broke up with a boyfriend/girlfriend, or you just spilled coffee on your new suit…you are a human being and they do understand it in Europe.

You don’t have to justify your sick days and your vacation time.

Europeans actually do take vacation, unlike 40% of the Americans (what’s up with that, are we trying to earn all the money in the world and then have a heart attack at 40 and take all our money to the grave?)

Europeans actually want to see Paris at 16, London at 20, Rome – at 25, Amsterdam – at…as early as possible (they do not believe that you’ve got to travel when you are at the age of having grandchildren.)

Europeans value friends – they actually mean it when they say “I’m here for you whenever you’d need me…”

Europeans actually do mean when they say at the wedding “Till death till we part” (and not “till you have a slight problem then we part!” 50% of marriages in USA end up in divorce. Source: AboutDivorce.org.)

Europeans actually enjoy spending Christmas and/or New Year’s with the family. Many people make up excuses not to visit the families.

Europeans do not believe in having “strawberries available year around, 24/7”; Europeans believe in seasonal harvests because they do want to enjoy strawberries that smell and taste like strawberries and not like foam. They do believe that watermelons are at their best in August, strawberries – in June and truffles in the fall.

(Learn the secret of French’s eating habits from “French Women Don't Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano.)

When Europeans invite friends over, they don’t just offer chips and salsa, they actually do offer food and drinks.

Europeans live to enjoy life; they do not live to enjoy work.

Europeans not only know the name of their own prime minister, but they also know the names of foreign authors, politicians, scores of soccer games and Forum One racers, as well as what languages are spoken in what countries, and what flora and fauna inhibit in other locations.

Europeans are not obsessed with showbiz, paparazzi only exist in “high trafficking” European areas of London, Cannes, Portofino and Monaco are for the most part. (Just think of how little we know of Madonna, Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow, among the others, because they live in Europe now.)

Europeans have other things in life to obsess about: culture, politics, economy, family & friends. (Maybe that is why they do not wear the latest jeans from 7 For All Man Kind and do not fancy hair extensions and fake sun tan from the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson.)

Europeans do not discuss their underwear, toilet habits and what they ate for breakfast.

Europeans do sweat when it’s hot and humid and they do have a bad hair day if they stayed over their friend’s house and didn’t happen to have a blow-dryer in their car (we don’t’ have to be prepared 24/7 for “perfection”, a human should not expect another human to be so damn perfect all the time.)

Europeans marry earlier, they divorce less and they try to avoid babysitters at all cost (perhaps it’s because European grandmothers do baby-sit their grandchildren.)

Europeans do not believe that having bacon, eggs and a toast each morning would shorten their lives (well, perhaps they’d die at 89, not at 90 years old.)

Europeans actually do try to speak a local language when they go to visit a foreign country (French does not ask a Portugese bystander if he/she speaks French, Greek does not ask an Italian if he/she speaks Greek.)

Europeans actually believe and encourage women to have kids, they give them up to six months paid maternity leave. They actually do understand that it takes longer than one day for a woman to gain strength back and it takes longer than a week to breastfeed a baby. (Maybe it's part of the European Union law?)

If this is not enough arguments to adore Europe for, don’t dislike Europeans for having the most delicious ‘organic’ food, for driving small cars and parking them on a boardwalk, and for turning off their computers at night to conserve the energy.
It all makes great sense! Once in a while I wish I was living in Europe, but then again – I do appreciate my country’s customer service, diversity in everything (from people to foods) and clean public restrooms. It’s all compared in relativity: what Europeans have, we don’t and what we have, they don’t. That’s the point for all of us to travel and experience different cultures so that we can return home appreciating our country even more.

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