How The United States and Europe Differ
How do The United States and Europe differ?
Aaaah, let me count the ways!
For one thing, Europeans dress differently than Americans. Head to a major tourist destination, whether Paris or San Francisco, for example. A majority of the American travelers you encounter — especially vacationers — will be wearing bright colors of polo shirts and warm-up suits, fanny packs and comfortable shoes, baseball caps and logo gear. A majority of European travelers, on the other hand, are likely to be attired in layers of only the neutral tones of white, black, gray and subtle earth tones. They have long ago learned that such colors much less readily show the dust and dirt of city travel, and can endure less frequent launderings while still staying presentable. And layering allows one to be comfortable under almost any conditions, and as dressy as one might need to be when stopping in at a museum, bistro or cathedral. (Europeans also seem to be somewhat less enthusiastic about logo gear of any color.)
Americans are, in general, thicker and fatter than Europeans. This is most likely due to our inordinate dependence on the automobile, coupled with our love of the ‘good life’ of convenience foods and large portions. Due to the far greater cost of vehicle fuel for most Europeans, as well as the difficulty of driving in heavily populated and congested central city districts, more Europeans rely on foot, bicycle and public transportation than do Americans. All of that additional aerobic exercise each day helps keep one trim. It is also quite common for many Europeans to stop each evening at the end of the day’s work to pick up some fresh bread, poultry, vegetables and wine for the evening’s freshly-prepared dinner, rather than resort to the drive-thru bucket of chicken with the sides of mashed potatoes and vat o’ soda.
Most European nations have populations that skew older than the citizenry of the United States. With our continuing influx of more-prolific immigrants and the high birth rate of our growing Latino population, the United States has a relatively young demographic, compared to the aging cohorts of many European countries. This exacerbates economic stagnation for much of Europe, as older workers demand increased medical care and continuing pensions, supported by a shrinking base of working age citizens.
Europe itself, is, of course, also much older than America. The United States will clock only its 236th birthday this year, while, by some historians’ yardsticks, France should likely commemorate its 1,526th! Americans might proudly point to the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista (1521) in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, or the Palace of the Governors (1610) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. But Europeans can rightly counter with the Megalithic Temples of Malta (roughly 3,000 BC). As an American traveling in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I could marvel at Harvard’s Massachusetts Hall, erected in 1720. Yet while strolling through Rome, I was stunned by the sprawled ruins of the Roman Forum (dating back to about 700 BC) spread out among the teeming Italian traffic of the 21st Century.
The United States dwarfs Europe geographically, however. Spanning from sea to shining sea, its land area is roughly three times that of all Europe’s score and more nations combined. With such broad geographic spread comes virtually every type of biome and climate, from Arctic Alaskan tundra, to tropical Hawaiian island, forested foothills, southwestern desert, Rocky Mountain high, Midwestern plains, redwood forests, lakes and rivers, canyons and mountains, tidal swamps and bayous. It is often difficult, even for Americans, to gauge the breadth of this land. If, for example, one was to scribe a roughly 250-mile-diameter circle upon the state of Texas, that circle could encompass both the cities of Dallas and Houston. A similar 250-mile-diameter circle scribed upon central Europe could embrace parts of four nations — Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria — as well as much of the Alps and many major cities, Munich, Venice, Zurich, Milan, Genoa and Turin among them.
But perhaps the single, most pervasive observable difference between The United States and Europe is the typical worldview and attitude of many of their respective citizens. While I'm sure there are broad spectra of world views and attitudes across the populations of all nations and cultures, it seems, in general, that many citizens of the USA consider themselves apart from the rest of the world, perhaps more advanced, or more sophisticated, or more enlightened (or even better) than citizens elsewhere. They claim the right to try anything, anywhere, at any time, and tolerate little hindrance. At its worst, this sense of themselves displays the Ugly American at its ugliest: arrogant, condescending, even imperialist, and perhaps willing to interfere anywhere about the planet. At its best, it makes The United States a world leader in health care advances, research and technology, entertainment media, and the advancement of such issues as basic freedoms, human rights, women's rights, education, diversity, the democratic rule of law, and many other admirable social causes. It can make The United States a very good friend for any other nation to have, and it certainly elevates the United States to role model for many other nations and cultures around the globe.
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