People Are Sharing 30 Things About Europe That Americans Would Find Weird
What do Europe and the United States have in common? Depending on who you ask, the answer might be, “Not much!” But the majority of inhabitants of both places love Europe. Americans live for their summer trips to Paris or Rome and love dedicating the next six months of their Instagram feed to photos in front of the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum, and Europeans love staying in Europe because it can be incredibly easy and affordable to travel within the continent. There are about as many countries in Europe as there are states in the US, providing nearly unlimited cultural experiences.
But when Americans hop across the pond to Europe, there are a number of cultural differences that might stand out to them, depending on where they visit. Curious Reddit users have been bringing these quirks to light for years, asking for examples of things that are “normal in Europe but strange in America”, what surprises Americans most about Europe, the biggest differences Americans who move to Europe have observed, and things that are socially acceptable outside the US but would be “horrifying” inside. We’ve gone through these threads to find the most interesting responses and gathered them for you to read down below, so if you’re an American planning a Euro-trip, you can avoid some of the inevitable culture shock. And if you’re not from Europe or the US, you can enjoy hearing a bit about European culture from other people on the outside.
Read on to also find interviews with Dani Heinrich, creator of the travel blog Globetrotter Girls, Sarah Hollis, the woman behind The Pack Mama blog, and Erin and Erin of the blog Surviving Europe to hear about some of the cultural differences they have observed from living in Europe and the US. Then once you’ve finished this list, be sure to check out Bored Panda’s last publication on the same topic right here.
Not me, but my sister. She may say something else if she were asked, but this had always stuck out to me.
She moved to Sweden about 4 years ago. A year prior to the move, she noticed a large lump on her neck, kind of just under her ear area. Concerned, we went to instacare to check it out. Tumor. Benign, so not dangerous yet but we still wondered how much it would cost to remove.
I think the number was around $17,000. After insurance.
So she waited, got surgery after being in Sweden for awhile. The entire thing cost her $30
To hear about this topic from a travel expert, we reached out to Dani Heinrich, the woman behind the blog Globetrotter Girls. Though she is originally from Germany, Dani has traveled extensively around the world, so we asked her if she could note some of the biggest differences she has observed between American and European cultures. "The most shocking thing I saw when I traveled around the Southwest of the US: people carrying guns on them – and openly showing them! As someone who has lived in several European countries where I have never ever seen anyone carrying a gun, that was astonishing to me. It also scared me, to be honest – how quickly would these people to use their guns if something or someone upset them?"
"The other thing that shocked me were the portion sizes in restaurants. Oftentimes, the food portions were twice as big as portions in Europe. The same goes for the size of fast food drink containers (a small one in the US equals a large size in Europe) and coffee cups (do we really need half a liter of coffee, or in the case of an iced coffee at Dunkin’: 32 ounces (just under one liter)?!"
Americans think 100 years is a long time, and Europeans think 100 miles is a long way.
We also asked Dani if there was a favorite place of hers she has visited in the US and Europe. "I love the landscapes of the Southwestern US," she told us. "The canyons and deserts, the saguaro cacti in Arizona and the colorful rock formations in Utah and Arizona. I can’t get enough of the scenery there, but I also love Southern California. As for cities, New York, New Orleans and Savannah are my top three."
"In Europe, I love all the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea – no matter if it’s Turkey, Spain, Italy, Croatia or Malta: I love the Mediterranean coastline, the Mediterranean diet, the wine, the culture and the rich history of the region. Italy is probably my favorite country – the towns are all so picturesque, the food is incredibly delicious, and the history – the Roman Empire in particular – is fascinating."
I'm Canadian, but I had a pretty profound moment when I realized the bench I was sitting on was older than my country.
Lastly, we asked Dani why she believes traveling and experiencing other cultures is important. "Traveling the world has really shifted my perspective on a lot of things," she told us. "A lot of things that I took for granted, such as free education and free healthcare, both things I was lucky enough to grow up with – I don’t take them for granted anymore after spending a few years in the US. I also find it very rewarding to learn about different cultures, different ways of doing things, and expanding my horizon by trying new foods and talking to people who have a completely different background." If you're interested in hearing more about Dani's travels, be sure to check out her blog right here.
Still trying to get used to my five weeks of vacation. The three weeks this summer with my family was incredible. Still having two weeks to spend with them at Christmas, is beyond belief. All vacation is paid vacation. And it is standard everywhere. Oh and the two hour lunch, and 32 hour work week. I think this is is literally going to add up to years more with my family. Since I think time with my family is the most important thing, this just makes the quality of life here so much higher. I don't know if I will ever get used to it. But I love it!
We also reached out to Sarah Hollis, creator of The Pack Mama, to hear her perspective on being an American living in Europe. Sarah, along with her husband, two dogs and one cat, moved from Chicago to Austria a year and a half ago. She told us that some of the biggest differences they have observed are the concepts of work-life balance, public transportation, and animal acceptance. “The mentality here is to work to live rather than live to work,” Sarah says. “To help this work-life balance become a reality, Austrian companies provide workers with 5 weeks of vacation plus many annual holidays.”
She also noted the mandatory 16 weeks of paid maternity leave for up to 2 years in Austria and said that most businesses are closed on Sundays as well. “Americans who understand the craving for Chick-fil-A on Sunday will understand this struggle, but these closures offer the store employees a good work-life balance too. In America, convenience and accessibility are key, so the Sunday closures were a big shock at first.”
How everyone uses normal speaking voices, and how loud I am as an American.
As far as public transit, Sarah explained that there are endless options in Europe. “Whether you are cruising down sections of the speed limitless autobahn in Germany, biking along the canals of Amsterdam, or taking a high-speed train from Austria to Switzerland, European public transport exceeds the American form of travel. European airport security lines are much more efficient to get through, and if you are in GreatBritain, Malta, or Ireland, you will find yourself driving on the opposite side of the road, which can be a shock and an adventure the first time you do it.”
She also has noticed that European cities tend to be more dog friendly than American cities. “For pet-parents of dogs who would typically be listed on a ‘banned breed’ list, you and your dog are welcome in Austria because it is the only country that does not prohibit the entry of any breed of dog. Dogs are also free to join you in public places like shops and restaurants, and even on public transport like the aforementioned trains, ferries, buses, and cable cars.”
How awesomely rural a lot of England is. I stayed in Cambridge and was impressed by how well preserved the green space was.
Also, when you buy produce, how it's usually labeled with the farm it came from. Awesome.
We wanted to hear some of Sarah’s favorite destinations in Europe, and she recommended checking out the beautiful hiking trails of the Salzkammergut in Upper Austria, the Aescher cliff-side restaurant in Appenzell, Switzerland, the 16th century Manor, Manor De Juganville, in Normandy, France, and the sunset on the Dingle Peninsula in Kerry, Ireland.
When asked why traveling and experiencing other cultures is important to Sarah, she told us that, “It changes you. The things you see make you think differently. The environment you are in makes you act differently. The people you are surrounded by make you speak differently. And because of our travels and experiences, we have been changed for the good.”
“There are 195 countries in the world, and so far, we have traveled to 22 of them. Every time we travel to a new place, we realize how many more places we still need to see, and how much more we still must learn about the world and the people who live here.”
If you’d like to hear more about Sarah’s travels, be sure to check out The Pack Mama right here.
Got off the plane in Frankfurt and there were people riding bicycles and smoking cigarettes inside the airport. There were also people riding bicycles and smoking cigarettes at the same time inside the airport.
I also got the notion that people in Europe in general were far more free than in the United States. It opened my eyes to the fact that the USA isn't really such a "sweet land of liberty" and freedom at all.
We also reached out to Erin and Erin of the blog Surviving Europe to hear about their experiences as American expats. What surprised them most about Europe was the “effortless and naturally relaxed lifestyle”. “It’s nothing they have to work towards or focus on intentionally, it’s automatic in their every day and something their cultures allow for without effort,” they explained. “We are always on the move here in the US, and our culture is more naturally go, go, go. It’s harder to pause and take a second without feeling guilty. In Europe, it’s generally not, and that is something we admired most about living in Austria.”
“What shocked us, living in a city outside of Salzburg, was the fact that on Sundays there was absolutely nothing open, aside from the gas station. And it was a celebrated thing. Because Sunday is the day to relax and for you to spend time with your family. Period. Everyone respects the fact that people who work at grocery stores or shops need their Sundays too. Everyone deserves a day to relax without question. It was so considerate and authentic because that’s what they know and value inherently.”
It is much safer. There are (almost) no panhandlers. People are much more relaxed and secure about their lives. Everyone is at least bilingual. People are generally better educated and knowledgeable about the world. Health care is a breeze. Public transportation makes life better (I wouldn't even think of buying a car). People are somewhat more open to different points of view and perspectives. Junk food is consumed, but just as something extra once in a while - it's generally not seen as 'real' food or a proper meal. There's a general sense of being in a society, 'in it together', respect for human dignity. Protecting the environment is in everyone's interest. Canals. Lots of canals.
We also asked if they had a favorite place they had visited in Europe. “It’s so hard to choose because we loved SO many different destinations for SO many reasons,” they told us. “One of our favorite places we ever visited in Europe was Trento, Italy. What a hidden paradise! Since it’s located in Northern Italy, so close to Austria, it’s almost like the two countries combined in the heart of the Dolomites. The Buonconsiglio Castle, that towers over the city, is like something out of a fairytale. The food is Austrian and Italian influenced, which are 2 of our favorite cuisines. Everyone we met was kind and so passionate about where they lived. It’s traditional, but also forward thinking and in the present, since Trento is a college town (University of Trento). There was even a Reggae festival taking place when we were there! That is not something you see in most smaller European cities. We loved everything about it!”
The three things that struck me when I visited France for the first time:
- So many people smoking.
- You can actually get near old things. I live in California, where 150 years is archaic. Walking through a 900 year old building, and being able to touch the walls was mindblowing to me.
- Just how insanely easy it is to spot other Americans.
Lastly, we wanted to hear why they think traveling and experiencing new cultures is important. “[It] is the most important thing you can do to develop and grow. It opens your eyes to a way of life that is so different from the one you’re living. It expands your mind and provides you with a rare understanding that a world does in fact exist outside of yours,” they told Bored Panda. “And it can be a world so completely opposite of what you’re used to. We are so focused on our day to day routines that most forget to stop and look around. Travel kind of forces that, but in the best way. For us, it's also a form of meditation, allowing you to step away and open yourself up to a world of endless possibilities. You can take what you've absorbed from your experience and apply it to your life back home. Travel changes you in ways nothing else can, and there is simply nothing as rewarding and impactful.”
If you’d like to hear more about Erin and Erin’s travels, be sure to check out Surviving Europe right here.
The other day I asked a pharmacist how much my prescription would be and she laaaaaaaughed and laughed, as in, 'Oh you silly Americans, having to pay for your medicine...'
Also, the wind in Scotland is simply hilarious. I couldn't stand still without being pushed backwards, let alone walk in a straight line.
Living in the NL for a year now, moved from Texas. A lot of comments already mentioned the main differences, but one other is taxes. The taxes are wayyy higher here which was difficult to reconcile at first. However, once you see how far your tax money goes here versus in the US, I actually would prefer to pay more in taxes to have a nicer place to live for everyone.
A few immediate differences include almost no hobos, no really bad areas of town, public areas and parks are really nicely kept, etc.
Before we get into cultural differences, there are plenty of physical differences between the US and Europe that can be startling to residents of either place when they take a trip to the other. First of all, the US is quite massive. The entire country combined has a landmass of about 3.8 million square miles (or 9.8 million square kilometers), while the entire continent of Europe has a landmass of only 3.9 million square miles (or 10.2 million square kilometers). And when you compare the landmass of the EU to the US, the EU is only about half the size of the United States. This makes traveling in Europe seem extremely easy to Americans, as flights always feel short and driving is a breeze when many of us are used to taking multiple-day-long road trips. On the other hand, Europeans are sometimes shocked by the vastness of the US when they attempt to visit multiple states within one trip.
Many Americans are also surprised by how efficient public transit is in most European countries. Coming from a nation that requires the majority of its citizens to rely on cars as their primary modes of transportation, Americans often find it refreshing how great buses and trains are in Europe. Especially within capital cities, biking, walking and scootering are viable options to get around as well. Very few cities in the US are built to accommodate cyclists or pedestrians, and even fewer have excellent public transportation. Contrary to most European cities where residents can get around without ever needing their own vehicles, unless Americans live in one of about 15 cities in the US, they are probably reliant on their cars.
How clean and efficient the rail system is. AmTrak is a f*cking joke.
The Italian's way of driving. Never in anytime of my life was I more paranoid of being hit by a moped.
Aside from many Europeans not using cars because they don’t need to, plenty of people in Europe opt to go without a car for environmental or health reasons. Taking advantage of walkable or bikeable cities is a great way for residents in European countries to stay fit and active, which is probably one of the reasons why Europeans are generally healthier than Americans, especially adults between the ages of 55-64. Europeans are also serious about protecting the environment, with recycling mandates becoming stricter and stricter over time. The US should definitely take note of the ways European nations have prioritized taking care of the planet and making transportation accessible; it’s about time they caught up.
When I was sixteen I went to Poland (Krakow) with my best friend and our moms. I had never been to Europe before and we were coming from a densely populated small state, where pretty much no ethnicity seems to be a minority. Poland was the whitest f*cking place I have ever been. I only met two black guys and an Asian chick while I was there, and all three were British. I guess it makes sense that I'm used to seeing all kinds of people, coming from the US, but it was shocking to teenage me.
Another thing was that all of the people were beautiful. Well-dressed, perfect hair, and ridiculously good looking. All we wanted to do was talk to guys all day.
The way the use of foreign languages is seen. In the states, there was always a certain amount of indifference, or even stigma for being a foreign-language enthusiast.
But around here, the use of foreign languages on a daily basis is essentially a social norm.
Went to London and Paris recently. I tipped a bartender in London and he looked shocked. Also everything I bought was the exact price it said. I'm so used to adding up 6.5 percent to everything.
When it comes to cultural differences, Americans can encounter countless culture shocks in various European countries. From the first time an American is confronted with a public restroom that costs money (I still think that should be illegal…) to paying for tap water (Again, how is this legal?) to spending their first summer in an apartment, excuse me a flat, without air conditioning, Europe can feel like a completely different world for first time visitors. Cold drinks are served with much less ice than back home, people enjoy swimming in freezing cold water, and summer days have seemingly endless daylight due to being further north in the hemisphere.
I never realized how consistently, unconsciously unsafe I felt in the USA until I moved over here. People don't really f*ck with you or your sh*t where I live now.
Public transportation across cities, in rural areas and across countries.
Many of the differences that Americans encounter are pleasant surprises, though. For example, going places where tax is already factored into the price of an item on the shelf can be refreshing. In the US, tax rates vary state to state, so you are never 100% what something costs until you check out. Tipping culture is also very different in Europe. When eating at a restaurant in most European countries, tipping is not required, but if you would like to leave something, 10% should be fine. In the US, leaving a tip of 10% at a restaurant would be an insult to your server, but because they receive actual wages in most other countries, they don’t have to rely on tips.
People in Scotland (Specifically Glasgow) are the nicest I've ever met, seriously. People would have friendly conversations with you at bus stops, and one person even lent me £2 spare cash at a gas station for petrol. It seems to be 90% of people there are like that. Very unusual.
I lived in Hengelo for a year for work purposes. Bike culture in the Netherlands is absolutely wonderful and I miss it.
The lack of branding on stores, and it made me completely jealous. You mean, drugstores can exist without ten-foot high signs? Restaurants can look like normal buildings? Revolutionary.
And how could I go through this entire article without mentioning some of the elephants in the room: healthcare and guns. On average, Americans spend about $10k a year on healthcare costs, while the average citizen in the EU spends about 3,100€ on healthcare annually. Aside from not fearing they will be plunged into debt every time they go to the hospital, Europeans also have to worry much less about gun violence. Due to the lax gun control policies in the US, “age-adjusted firearm homicide rates in the US are 22 times greater than in the European Union”, as reported by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. While no one in the world should have to worry about exorbitant medical bills or gun violence where they live, Americans certainly encounter both of those things far less in Europe than back home.
My first trip into Amberg, Germany, a bus pulled up to the station and a bunch of small children got off and wandered into the fußgängerzone completely unaccompanied by adults. That's how safe it was.
That and the more liberal sexuality. According to many of the friends I had, I was the only American they had ever met to even attempt learning German. I had never been told that my accent was so sexy before. That was all it took to go home with some of them.
Definitely worth going back.
I moved to the Netherlands in 2005 and I think the biggest difference between here and the USA is work. There's a minimum of 21 days paid vacation, you don't have only 3 sick days for the entire year, and if you're asked to work overtime you can say no without risk of being fired on the spot (DO NOT miss at will employment).
It did take about 3 years to be able to call in sick without major guilt and about the same amount of time to learn to take vacation days vs. hoarding them.
The cleanliness in Germany shocked me. While driving through the countryside, there was not a single piece of garbage on the road anywhere. Just about everywhere in the USA has litter almost everywhere.
Traveling and experiencing other cultures is often an eye-opening experience. Especially for Americans who can easily go their entire lives without ever leaving the country, cultural differences when visiting Europe can be vast, but it is important to view any other nation with an open mind and a respectful attitude. Hopefully this list has inspired you to go out and do some of your own traveling this summer, and maybe even learned a thing or two about a nation you haven't yet visited! Be sure to upvote all of your favorite responses, and then let us know in the comments if you have ever traveled from the US to Europe, or vice versa, what did you find most surprising?
The lack of homeless people. I live in Germany and I think I've seen maybe 5 homeless people here, most of which were probably refugees. I went back to the US last year and was astonished at all of the homeless people everywhere. They were literally on every corner. It broke my heart. I had completely forgotten about that part of life there.
I was on a two-day shore leave in Bergen, Norway. I don't know if I just happened to be in the right places at the right time, but everything was clean, and everyone was beautiful and chic. Women, men, everyone. That place seemed perfect.
I traveled around most of Europe with my parents when I was 15. By far, the most surprising part about Europe was how relaxed you guys were with sexuality. I'm from the south and being open about your sexually is generally frowned upon. But in Europe? Boobs. Boobs everywhere.
When we first touched down in Belgium there was a museum which had an exhibit called 'The Art of Orgasm'. I found an ad booklet in Switzerland for watches that was just 20 pages of attractive women making out. One night in a hotel I discovered that most of the channels on the TV were soft core porn.
I shared a bedroom with my parents for most of the trip.
It was a challenging time for me.
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