Friday, October 19, 2012

Euro Living, Part V: Lifestyle & Night Life

Duomo in Milan.
  Last Spring I started a series on Euro Living. A collection of the things I find interesting, cool, funny, annoying, etc about being an American living in Europe. I made it all the way through four blogs, and then I got distracted -- I went home! 

  There was one more post I wanted to publish, but I didn't get around to it this summer. 

  So a few months late, here's the conclusion of my Euro Living series! For the rest the entries, check out the links below.   

Social Life and Alcohol

  Going out in Europe is a whole different experience than it is in the States. Clubs and bars routinely stay open until 6am throughout Europe, if not later (or is it earlier??). With a few exceptions, everything closes by 2am in the US -- usually when people START going out in Europe.

  I think it's more normal for kids (mid-to-late teens to early 20s) to start going out at a younger age in Europe than American kids do (though I hardly know what's normal, and never did!). In the US, if a kid says he's going out, it has a negative connotation. That usually people take it as, he's up to no good. In Europe, it's just a part of growing up, and partaking in the normal social life.

Post game festivities in Italy.
  Of course, alcohol is looked at drastically differently in Europe in comparison with the US. Between the drinking ages (21 in the US, across the board, and 16-18 years old in varying European countries), and differences in culture, it's my observation that Europeans develop a different attitude towards alcohol than Americans do.

  Because Europeans have a younger drinking age, it seems that kids learn how to 'deal with it' earlier in life. It's not taboo, so kids aren't hiding it from their parents (as happens in the US). They're at an age where they're still living under their parents' roof, so there is supervision. Because of this, parents can teach their kids a few lessons about what they believe to be appropriate behavior.

  Having wine or beer at lunch (even during the work day) is not seen as a big deal in many European countries. That can hardly be said for the US. I've also observed women in Europe drinking an occasional glass of wine or beer while pregnant without hesitation. In the US, witnesses to that would look at the mom-to-be in horror.

Heading out for some fun in Sweden.
  Legal blood alcohol limits (to drive) are much lower throughout European countries. .08% is the legal limit in the US. Whereas .05% is commonly seen in Europe (Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Austria, and so on...). In Sweden, and a few other countries, the limit is as low as .02%. With lower levels, driving after just one drink is not worth the risk, so people do not drive. Period.


  It's no secret that Europe as a whole has a more of a liberal way to life. Cursing in songs on the radio is not a big deal. The same can be said for television. 'Adult' language and nudity is commonality on standard cable channels.

  In fact, in France, during their Presidential election this past May, Francois Hollande (the eventual winner) used a Jay-Z/Kanye West song (you can probably guess which one) for one of his campaign ads. If President Obama, or any other politician in the US, touched that song, or anything like it, he would be crucified! (Didn't the Obamas, pretty ridiculously, take heat for fist-bumping?)

  Even with all the big, beautiful churches and cathedrals that cover Europe, they're mostly seen as tourist attractions by the locals. I've found that not many Europeans go to church on a regular basis. The ONLY time I remember a European talking about going to church was in Italy in 2005 when the Pope passed away (and it was just to go light a candle for him). Another time was when my Italian team went to Mass at the start of our playoffs the same year. I guess we needed a little more help than usual that year! (I'm not Catholic, but the majority of my teammates were.)

Yes, I'm sloppy and lazy.
  Smoking is far more common in Europe. Just like the US though, you can't smoke inside much anymore. My first two years in Italy, I came to associate the smell of cigarettes with Italy. Thankfully, in the middle of my second year (2004-2005), they enacted a law banning smoking indoors. But still, I see far more smokers in Europe than I do in the States.

  Sad to say, but the sloppy/lazy American rings true when it comes to fashion and clothing. I find that Europeans dress up a lot more than Americans do on average. The US, for the most part, dresses much more casually than they do in Europe.

  I've grown so used to wearing what's convenient, or what's comfortable, that I really don't pay much attention. So I find it funny when I get the 'you're an alien stare' if I go to the store in sweatpants or shorts -- which happens quite often.

A Little America, Abroad
NikeTown London. Had to visit!
Starbucks in Braunschweig. And in my sweats, no less.
  Even though I've been in Europe, off and on, for almost 10 years, I still get excited when I see an American brand store or restaurant -- ala Starbucks, Nike, T.G.I. Fridays, Subway, Hard Rock Cafe (unless it's in the town you live it, then you get used to it. But that hasn't happened very many times for me!).

  I may not go into the restaurant every time, but just seeing it usually makes me smile, or at least think of home for quick second.

  There are a few stores, no matter when or where I see them, that I can't stay out of though. If I see the Nike swoosh, or the green and white Starbucks logo, I will surely be inside the store a few moments later.

  The downside though, is that the items inside are extremely overpriced (compared with the price in the US), so I usually refrain from buying anything other than a cup of coffee.

  I also enjoy bringing American things to Europeans. I have been know to share Thanksgiving traditions, Halloween, pancakes and maple syrup, s'mores, and the Super Bowl with my teammates and friends in Europe! They usually are a big hit.

  Hopefully you've enjoyed my Euro Living series. It really is fascinating to sit down and think about all the differences between everyday life in Europe versus the US. They are two vastly different places, and there are tremendous differences between the two cultures (if you can lump the European culture into one!).

  I think both the US, and Europe as a whole, are very special, unique places. I try to embrace the things I see as positives in both places, while trying not to let the 'negatives' bring me down too much!

  What are some differences you have encountered?

Euro Living, Part 1
Euro Living Part 2
Euro Living Part 3
Euro Living Part 4

1 comment:

  1. Tipping, at least in the UK, is different also. I'm with you on Starbucks and found it to be about double the prices in the US and they charge for a glass cup.