A few weeks ago, there was a insightful Business Insider article by Sophie-Claire Hoeller that went viral about 16 Things Europeans Find Strange About America. Guess what, Europe? Americans are equally confused by Europe and a lot of things Europeans do!
So in response, and because I’ve traveled extensively to Europe (Spain, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Romania, Moldova, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Transdnistr, Ukraine, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Poland, France, and Turkey…which still counts as part of Europe, at least the European side of Istanbul…Just to name a few), here is my detailed list of 10 Things Americans Find Strange About Europe. You’ll notice that some things that we both find strange, like our tipping, taxes, portion sizes, and measurement systems, overlap. But read below, dear reader, and you’ll see The Traveling Bachelor completely prove why our way is better. Of course….Because #MURICA!
1. Paying for (still/tap) water, mixers at the bar, bread, and other things that should be free
This is the most ridiculous thing for most Americans to understand about Europe. Your cities can be insanely hot in the summer (I’m looking at you, Barcelona, Rome, and Dubrovnik!), and every living local, tourist, and person needs to stay hydrated! Tap water and mixers for drinks should ALWAYS be free, with the possible exception of Red Bull and expensive energy drinks. I was confused about why everyone, including myself, was always drinking wine and beer in the mid-day, and it’s because when restaurants and bars don’t serve tap water for free, you might as well buy alcohol. Is your water quality really that horrible? And also, why are Europeans obsessed with drinking gassy mineral water with meals? Like, who does that! If I wanted to be a big, bloated mess, I’d stay in America and drink an entire humongous 64 ounce (that’s 1.89 liters, you goofy Europeans) Big Gulp of Coca-Cola from 7-11, thank you very much!
And having to pay for a separate mixer like Coke, Sprite, soda water, tonic, or a juice to mix with your basic vodka, gin, or whiskey is just absolutely bonkers. That ish should be FREE, just like it is everywhere in the good ‘ ol USA. Whether it’s Belgrade or Prague or Stockholm, your insistence that customers should pay separately for mixers forces people to double-fist, spend more for needlessly expensive cocktails, insanely guard their mixers they paid for at the bar, and only drink shots, beer, or wine that don’t require mixers instead. Having to pay for basic flavoring, mixers, juice that should come for free is bizarrely totalitarian for liberal Europe.
Don’t get me started on the sneaky way some of you guys (I’m looking at you, Italy and Montenegro!) try to just provide bread at the dinner table, and then we find out there’s the equivalent of a $1-$2 charge for what should be a free service. Bread, breadsticks, butter, jelly, and the like should always be free! I mean, c’mon, we have an entire restaurant chain in America, the awful Olive Garden, that prides itself on filling fat Americans up with unlimited breadsticks…before the actual meal. Why are you charging us for bread? Freedom isn’t free…Give me liberty and diabetes, or give me death!
2. Paying to have to go to the bathroom in public and your bathroom layouts
So after you insist on charging us for all that water, mixers, and bread at your restaurants and bars, now you want to charge us for having to suddenly go take a leak or drop a deuce? Huh? Okay, granted, usually you can find a place to go to the bathroom for free if you are taking a train (Although cleanliness varies: German train bathrooms >>> Ukrainian train bathrooms), are in a restaurant or bar, or are in a hotel.
But to charge us 0.50 Euro in your shopping malls, your museums, and occasionally your public parks is insane! You’re basically regulating and make a basic uncontrollable bodily function cost something. And you’re encouraging public urination at least and possibly worse! Plus most of your bathrooms in hotels, apartments, and homes seem to be smaller than the size of most people’s closets, and possibly built in the Cold War 1950’s DDR era with a strange toilet and shower that requires a degree in mathematics to use. With a highly inefficient shower curtain system that gets the entire bathroom totally wet after a shower, of course
Please make more normal bathrooms, and stop charging all your citizens and poor tourists to your country to have to go Number Un or Number Deux. Triumph The Dog, from Conan O’Brien, and myself think that your bathroom pricing rules are good for one thing only:
3. Bizarre tipping practices
So you round up the bill at restaurants? Or nothing? Or do you give a standard 10%? But nothing for takeaway? And is your tip quality-service dependent or not? Ayudame! It’s a standard 15-20% in America, depending on how good service is. Service industry people in our country have to work for their tip, as it should be!
As for buying drinks in Europe, do you round up the cost and give the bartender extra? Or don’t tip at all? Or give a Euro or equivalent for drinks, which is what we do in America? Which is it? Germans, Norwegians, and Montenegrins all seem to have vastly differing answers and practices. I will say in general, it seems like y’all never tip at the bar. Tsk tsk…We give a standard $1 per drink, glass of wine, or cocktail, unless it’s ordered as part of the meal. Easy to understand.
Once again, don’t get me started on tipping rip-off cabbie drivers (See #5 below). In general, if I don’t feel like I’m getting ripped off, I round up in Europe. But once again, I know Europeans who never tip the cabbie at all. It’s routine to give 10% in America…because we usually aren’t getting scammed at the airport, train station, strip club, etc.! See, our way of tipping isn’t so hard to understand! And BTW, we know that you sneaky European cabbie cheaters are setting the meter to the Tariff 2 or higher rate when it should be Tariff 1 so you can charge us more and make it seem legit. We may be extremely poorly educated in the U.S., but we’re not stupid!
4. Food and drink portion sizes and ordering issues
Reading a menu in Europe, especially one that involves steak, meats, or seafood, and deciding what and how much to order, is sometimes an exercise in futility for most Americans. How much is 200 grams of a steak? Will that feed a Manchester United football hooligan, or just an anorexic Parisian model? It definitely won’t feed one of us fat-ass overweight Americans. Or will it? C’mon, make it easy for us! Our hamburgers don’t come in grams, we like excessive portion sizes and definitely excessive quantities of meat. Give me a Double-Double In & Out Animal Style Cheeseburger any day, at least I know what I’m getting!
Oh, and of course we think we’re getting a great steal on your seafood and some super fresh fish, when we see the prices on your menus (I’m looking at you, Istanbul!). Then we get the bill, and realized that price refers to the price per kilogram, not the actual price of the whole fish meal. We usually end up having to pay for the whole damn fish and paying like double the cost on the menu or street sign. Remember, we Americans are horrible at math, and we don’t like to read. Like ever. Make it easy for us: Just quote us the freaking price of the meal. Or show us some pictures. We’re really, really good at pictures.
Also, you guys are super super stingy about your alcohol pours at the bars, and seem confused about giving ice or occasionally limes or lemons with cocktails. You always measure out your shots of heavy liquor and alcohol in those small lame jiggers. That just makes you look super cheap. Pour it and eyeball it like a proper American bartender. Pour longer if we are a really hot chick with a nice rack or your buddy from around the neighborhood. That’s just good service! #MURICA!
5. Pickpocketing, rip-off taxis, and other strange security measures
Seriously? Pickpocketing? Wheat era are you guys living in…Charles Dickens’ London during the Industrial Revolution!? GROW UP! This isn’t freaking Game of Thrones or medieval times. Why are bizarre street urchins, hookers, seemingly normal looking couples, club promoters, and random guys in the bars all trying to steal every single one of our iPhones, GoPros, cameras, purses, etc? C’mon, we bought all that stuff on overextended credit cards, it’s not like we actually are rich in America! Cut us a freaking break. Even the police, especially in some parts of Europe, like the Ukraine, are willing to shake you down for money, just because they don’t like the way you or your passport look. What happened to “Serve and Protect?”
The first time I was in Paris, a dude tried to lift my camera while I was entering a taxi near the Moulin Rouge, while pretending to help me get in. Luckily I caught the bastard. On my first trip to Barcelona, 3 out of 5 (that’s 60%) of my friends were pickpocketed within 4 days. That’s insane! All right, granted we were drunk most of the time and living next to Las Ramblas, so that’s probably our own fault. I’ve seen a guy pretending to be drunk pickpocket a nice Ukrainian dad/family man on an airport shuttle in the Kiev train station, and my friend was pushed down and had her bag stolen by a seemingly nice couple as she entered her CouchSurfing building (Barcelona, once again). Even in the busy mid-day craziness of a NYC Times Square subway station, I guarantee you pickpocketing only happens once in a blue moon.
I’m completely unsurprised that Barcelona, Paris, and Rome are rated as some of the most likely cities in the world to get pickpocketed. 8 of the Top 10 Cities to Get Pickpocketed in are all in Europe! Lame, Europe. In America, when we steal someone’s stuff, it at least involves embezzling, tax evasion, identity theft, or some convoluted pyramid scheme. Get more creative! Pickpocketing and getting ripped off by cabbies and the police? Nein, nein, NEIN!!!
6. Unique business hours at stores, restaurants, and clubs
Okay, this is worse in some places than others. Barcelona wakes up and opens it’s businesses late, then take a break in the afternoon when nothing is open, and then reopens again at some random time in the early evening. If you’re trying to find a non-chain place to buy shoes or maybe get an early meal in old-town Barcelona, you’re going to be saying “Dios mio!” a lot.
How did 10 pm become a normal time on this planet to start eating dinner and going to the restaurants, and 2 am a normal time to show up at a club? My friends and I went to famous Razzmatazz in Barcelona at 11:30 pm and they told us to come back in half an hour because it wasn’t even open! WTF? Partying which begins from 1 am until the sun comes up in Berlin, Belgrade, and Stockholm is a luxury that only you Europeans (especially northern Europeans) enjoy. You guys get way more sun than us Americans in the summertime. But once you hit the age of 30, you’re basically gonna hurt yourself if you keep that up!
I get that your alcohol is insanely expensive in Scandinavia, Norway, Finland, and Sweden, and you all need to preparty at home until 1 am so you don’t go broke buying $20 beers, but there’s no excuse in Berlin. I thought sleeping in until 10 am in America was a lot, but when the clubs go until the sun comes up, you basically blow your entire morning and afternoon in Europe sleeping! It’s a self-fulfilling, repeating cycle of late-night party chaos that is sure to destroy you liver and sleep-cycle!
And what’s up with like everything in Scandinavia and some other countries being closed on Sundays? I used to thing it was a religious thing, and then realized places like Sweden and Norway are totally not religious. Nobody every goes to church. My bet is all you Scandinavians partied so hard and so late on the weekends that if you tried to keep some stores, restaurants, and stores open on a Sunday, nobody would show up for work on Sunday anyway! Ja or Nej?
7. Confusing public transportation costs and policies
All-day metro passes are great in Europe, like in Paris or Munich. Until you find out you have to go somewhere and don’t know if it’s in the A-B or B-C ring. Or possibly doesn’t cover your whole group, because there are group passes also.
And if you happen to buy a single-ride paper ticket, does it cover transfers or just one ride? In some European cities, like in San Francisco and most major US cities, you get 90 minutes with a single-ride paper ticket. In places like Belgrade, the 90 minute multiple-transfers is only for the electronic card holders. German and Serbian ticket-checkers are sneakier than ninjas. They pop up everywhere and raise everybody’s blood pressure. Nobody needs that sort of stress! Check out the cross-town Geary 38 bus in San Francisco or the Metro in LA. Students, locals, tourists, crazy people, homeless, and literally everybody else run on the SF bus with and without valid day or card passes, and nobody ever ever checks. I estimate that on any typical San Francisco bus, only about 40% of people have actually paid the fare. Why are your public transport police so hardcore?
Oh and if you American tourists are wondering whether you should actually validate/punch your single-ride paper metro ticket before you start your ride? Do it. Absolutely do it. You’re screwed otherwise if you get caught. It doesn’t matter how ridiculously located or hard to find those validation machines are on those platforms, buses, or trams. Why don’t you just give tourists a warning instead of writing tickets? For shame, Europe! For shame! Stick with giving out parking tickets for asinine and convoluted parking rules, streets, and neighborhoods, like we do in Los Angeles and the rest of America.
8. Fashion sense and wardrobe sizes
Your slim-fit, skin-tight clothing is way too clingy and revealing of the body for all us large and in-charge Americans. And that’s just the male clothing! Sure, we should be used to tinier clothing sizes now that you guys forced Zara and H&M on us. I’m a slim and short guy, so trust me I’m pretty happy when I go shopping in Europe. But that average fat-ass and humongous American who normally takes up 2-3 seats on an airplane? Not so much. Plus you guys, especially in Croatia, Lithuania, and Montenegro have some of the tallest people in the world. How do you possibly manage to make such wide variety of clothing sizes, and not run out of material?
And what the heck is a size 40 shoe or sandal? Is that big, is that small? Does it fit on a Chihuahua or Andre the Giant? Stick to nice normal shoe sizes that have single digit numbers or are in the teens. We have no idea what we are buying if we order something online! There’s a reason you guys in Europe will never be blessed with an easy way to buys shoes like we do with Zappos.com. It’s all too confusing.
Oh, and if you are wondering, shaving your head and wearing soccer jerseys (not futbol, or football…it’s soccer, dammit) of your favorite player throughout Europe is not cool. Cheesy zip-up polyester running jackets in Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and Russia is so 1990’s. You’re not trying out for an extra role for the Bratislava scene in Eurotrip. Stop being a cliché, please.
As for wearing Speedos (i.e. swimming nuthuggers) anywhere on the beach, in the ocean, in public, or even the privacy of your own home in Europe or anywhere else in the world? No…Just, no! For all of humanity’s sake and eyeballs.
9. Europeans willingness to pay taxes
Ok, so you guys get free health care, some of you guys get free or extremely subsidized university education, excellent maternity leave and paternity leave (those two words don’t even make sense in America; they never appear next to each other!), have fairly safe cities, and have an alarmingly low number of people who are intentionally or unintentionally shot and killed by their police (I’m looking at you, Norway!).
But why are you so eager to pay upwards of 40-50% on all the money you earn in taxes? That’s just insane! Even Gerard Depardieu, who somehow is a Parisian icon even though he’s the size of most obese Americans now, left France for Russia because they were going to charge him like a 75% tax rate. Why would you possibly pay your hard-earned money to some “socialist” system of government that keeps you happy, healthy, well-educated, with a lower infant mortality rate, pregnancy complication rate, and produces hotter individuals? At least Greece has the right idea: Just doesn’t pay anything to anybody, whether it’s the government, countries you’ve borrowed from, or the IMF! Go Greece! OPA!
You have to understand, America was founded on the idea that Europeans and the English were charging us way too much and screwing us over in taxes. That didn’t work out so well for the Brits, if you remember. So if you told the average American who wasn’t part of “The 1 Precent” that they had to pay 40-50% of their income in taxes, they would have an aneurysm. I don’t care if they are the most liberal Americans who are gay-married to their hippie-acting, Bernie Sanders-voting, lumbersexual-looking, Burning man-attending, pot-producing, organic-farm/vegan/gluten-free diet-eating transgender life-coach in West Hollywood. If you made them pay that much in taxes, they would still storm the White House with torches.
And what the heck is a VAT? I’ve been to Europe over 30 times, and it always seems that I’m paying for some sort of VAT with food, clothing, alcohol, or anything that costs money, and it’s always like 10-20%. I don’t even know what it is. It’s always included in the price to make it a nice normal, round number. That makes no sense! Americans expect to see some bizarrely convoluted final price on the bill, like $5.33 for an Egg McMuffin, with supremely varying tax-rates depending whether you are in Honolulu or Houston. Get with the times, Europe! Maybe this explains why all of us Americans constantly want to pay with a credit card for everything from a stick of gum to a Lamborghini. Who actually constantly carries around coins and cash nowadays? Oh that’s right? Europe!
10. Ridiculous measurements and numbering systems
I’ve seen the silly Facebook charts on why the Celsius scale is better than Fahrenheit, why the metric system makes more sense than feet and inches, why everyone should use kilograms instead of ounces and pounds, and why fluids should come in the liter instead of the ounce or gallon. Bullshit. Sorry…I call it like I see it.
Especially in my home of Hawaii, it’s obvious we have the superior system of measurements. You may say Celsius makes sense because water freezes at 0, but what the heck is 23 degrees Celsius? Should I put on a T-shirt or a snowboard jacket? When it’s above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and headed to 100 degrees, which almost never happens in Hawaii, we know it’s a balls-dripping hot day. 100 degrees is a nice round “It’s too f-ing hot outside” number. When my temperature is 37 degrees, should I be driving to the emergency room and freaking out or just chillaxing because that’s a normal 98.6 degrees? Come to think of it, everything sounds worse in Celsius. What sounds better, a boy band named 98 Degrees or a boy band named 36.666666667 Degrees? Yeah, I thought so!
When the waves are bombing and Kelly Slater is dropping down the face of some humongous wave, what sounds better? That he ripped down the face of some epic 25 foot set at Pipeline Beach, or that he ripped down the face of a 7.62 meter wave? Thought so!
I already explained above in #4 why ordering food or anything in kilograms or grams is completely ridiculous and likely to lead to confusion. When you are at some European airport and the airline asks you if your cabin bag is under 8 kilograms or your check-in luggage is under 20 kilograms, your average American will basically respond with “I have no idea, brah!” Stop making travel so difficult for us! Not like any of us Americans ever do travel or use our passport. But we might one day!
And what the heck is the size of 0.187 liters of wine? Is that like for like babies or will that give me a proper buzz when I’m enjoying my overpriced pasta at some tourist trap in Centro Historico in Rome? We want to get ripped and drunk when we are traveling so we can act like that obnoxiously loud American you always see in the movies! Don’t you really, really want to see that?
In conclusion, why would you possibly make a list of things Europeans find strange about America and then include 16 things? No good list has some random number like “16.” Everybody knows that all good lists should have a nice round number of 10…or possibly 100! A nice round number. David Lettermen, Roger Ebert, Time Magazine, The Economist, the Miss America pageant, and Maxim magazine all agree. Who cares that those are all mainly American institutions?
Just admit it Europe, you want to be us so very, very badly. In all our gas-guzzling, carbon-emission producing, gun-toting, and red-cup drinking glory. I know, I know…We are way less confusing and strange than you guys. Don’t be peanut butter and #jelly. We forgive you! Good luck getting through our borders once Donald Trump is president. 🙂