Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The never-ending debate

Talking to expat friends lately, watching the Olympics earlier this winter and the World Cup now, passing the sixth anniversary of my first trip to Malta: it's all led to many (often wine-fueled) conversations about what we all love about here or there. What each place excels at and just gets right.

As I said in my previous post, it's definitely not a contest—it's a fun, never-ending debate!

Europe vs. North America: I'm not the first to make the comparison, but here's my two cents on the best of here and there.

Europe wins at: Not interrupting your meal and letting you (heck, encouraging you) to sit at your table all night long after your food is cleared away / Real wages for servers / Affordable wine

North America wins at: Greasy diner food / Free water

Europe wins at: Roundabouts / Cutesy cars / Parking skills

North America wins at: Automatic cars (stick shift, I rue you) / Cheaper fuel
Europe wins at: Including taxes (VAT) in the sticker price

North American wins at: 24-hour grocery stores / Late night shopping / Sunday shopping

Europe wins at: A sense of daring (Erin Moore puts it nicely) and timelessness / Even in their chain stores (ahem, COS)

North America wins at: Accessibility

Europe wins at: Wine

North America wins at: Craft beer

Europe wins at: Everything / Especially cheese

North America wins at: Mexican food / Bagels

Europe wins at: Separate toilets and showers! / Colorful toilet paper

North America wins at: Ginormous, shiny kitchens

Europe wins at: Espresso

North America wins at: Cafes to work in with WiFi, electrical outlets, and big, comfy chairs

Europe wins at: Working on a case-by-case basis

North America wins at: Efficiency and fairness

It's your turn.
What does your country (or another you admire) get just 'right'?

Besides Germany and soccer football ;)


  1. The separate shower-toilet option makes Europe a winner, every single time. And while N. America might have the upper hand when it comes to breeding hardworking go-getters that "live to work," I prefer the European "work to live" mentality. Not being crippled by debt plus the ability to enjoy a glass of wine during an afternoon business meeting without being tossed disapproving frowns trumps a lot of things...well, in my books at least.

    Great post!

    1. Yes, yes, yes!

      Love that Europe doesn't demonize wine, and that's it's totally acceptable in professional situations :)

      And separate toilets are THE BEST.

    2. Being able to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer while pregnant without being demonized is also nice :-)

    3. Hehe, I imagine :)

      I also think Europe does a lot of parenting things really well. It's not perfect, but its more relaxed (and practical) attitude to parenting, child safety, etc. is certainly admirable.

      And multilingualism. Now that is something else Europe does well.

  2. I agree with every comparison Jess, and like JoAnna, I prefer the slower pace of working life here (even though I'm not working.) I might also add under the House category, N. America takes the cake when it comes to washing machines & dryers. the capacity and efficiency of machines at home are miles better than the standard in Europe. 35 minutes to dry a load of laundry…what?! [Perhaps this is the 'housewife' coming out in me ;-) ]

  3. Fantastic list! I had to agree with almost all of these, except the cheese one: here in the Czech Republic you either get Gouda or Edam and that's pretty much it-- blech! And I simply must add: "drip coffee" to the cafe culture list. Most of the time I order a coffee" just HOPING they'll bring me the real thing, but it's alllllways an americano.

    1. Hehe, drip coffee is non existent in southern Europe, too!

      Oh, that's so sad about the cheese in CR :( what are some good Czech food specialties you'd miss if you left?

  4. Wins all around. Love this list! I don't know that any nation has got it all right but I'm grateful to have had the chance to experience different ways of thinking and living.

  5. Oh Jess, this is brilliant. I eventually even stopped counting the number of conversations I'd get into on this subject with expat friends in Brussels. I'd add though, as much as Europe is absolutely lovely in the summertime, North America wins for summers: BBQs, picnics, swimming pools and outdoor activities galore, please. And movie theatres. And sports stadiums. Europe wins for outdoor cafes, nostalgia and dressing fabulously even in melting weather.


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