The 7 things I now understand a little bit better about Americans (in Europe)

My post titled “7 things I don’t understand about Americans in Europe” keeps drawing new comments, and not all of them are friendly. But I welcome them all, since the goal of the post was, in fact, to learn more about Americans in Europe and why they behave the way they do. Thanks to all those people (mostly Americans) who took the trouble to comment, I have indeed learned a few new things.

  1. Why don’t they drink tap water?
    Still unexplained. Possible answers were “Maybe it’s because we’re next to Mexico”, blaming low quality of tap water in some parts of Europe (and extrapolation to other parts), and more generalizing “American paranoia” (the last one is from an American, I merely quote here).
  2. Why do they think Europe has a “low season”?
    I was duly pointed to the fact that “Certain parts of Europe do in fact have low seasons, they just tend to be tourist magnets.” So yes, some sea-side resorts have low seasons, but the weather then is rather bad, and most businesses are closed, so in fact, they have no season at all then. If you’re going to Ibiza or Dubrovnik in the “low season” be prepared to visit a ghost town.
  3. Why do they use money belts? and
  4. Why don’t they use ATM’s?
    Commentators combined answers to these two questions, so I guess they are related.  I can live with the explanation that (some) Americans are not used to the crowds – “In America, we usually drive in cars and don’t walk much or use public transport.” Another commenter says that “pickpocketing certainly exists across the globe but is pronounced in Europe due to social problems.” I tend to disagree with this broad statement – social problems anywhere in Europe are nothing compared to India or Latin America. Perhaps, indeed, as another commenter suggests, “Money belts are a combination of paranoia and ignorance.”
    As far as ATM’s are concerned, apparently, “For Americans, ATMs often have very high fees for foreign transactions.” On the other hand, it does not apply for all Americans, as these comments clearly show: “Money belts are stupid. My wife and I use ATMs.” “I have never owned a money belt! They’re totally useless. I find that you’re better off with a little bit of street smarts and an ATM card with no international fees.”
  5. Why are they in such a rush?
    The most common explanation is the one I originally came up with myself – limited vacation days. But, as I’ve written in another post, the shocking truth is that Americans don’t even use the little leave they have! Why they insist on choosing quantity instead of quality? One commenter explains it as follows: “I could sit around in cafés or parks lounging and relaxing but how is that any better than moving at a fast pace to see as many sights and museums as possible?” Personally, I think a good vacation is exactly the opposite of “moving at a fast pace”, and is actually intended for relaxing. But has made a career out of writing about it, so I’ll refer all further questions to him.
  6. Why don’t they have a clue?
    Still a bit vague here, even though my question seems justified. Apparently, “most Americans think of Europe as Disneyland”. This is perhaps explained by “They don’t have a clue because they are never taught to be curious about what the rest of the world is like”, although it seems a broad generalization. But, as one commenter rightfully pointed out, “99% of them won’t even come over to Europe for not having enough time so, support the ones that do!” I couldn’t agree more.
  7. What’s up with Paris?
    As one commenter puts it, “there’s an unhealthy obsession in American culture with Paris as the capital of romance and beauty. Personally, I think it is neither.” On the other hand, another commenter says “I don’t know if I can explain Paris if you haven’t been there. I don’t think I would want to live in Paris, but as a tourist, I love Paris. ” According to others, “Paris is dirty, overhyped, and overrun with tourists”, “Paris is incredible but it’s also a dirty, angry city with tons of social problems.” So there’s definitely something about Paris, I just didn’t have the chance to check it out for myself yet.

It does appear that my post has hit a nerve, even though for some it was the wrong nerve – if you want to know more, check out the comments of the original post here. I still don’t understand (some) Americans, but thanks to the feedback, I understand them a little bit better. More comments are warmly welcomed!

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Can we have the right for dignity?

I’m sure everyone noticed that last week’s news was particularly bad. In fact, it was absolutely horrible. Here in the Netherlands the scale and impact of the MH17 disaster only now begin to be realized, as the victims are brought back for identification, and a seemingly endless caravan of funeral cars rolls on the road.

Sadly, these dignified images have been preceded by much less dignified ones. I’m sure you’ve seen those, too – it was pretty impossible to avoid them. Even the national news showed every obscene detail from the scene, without editing anything out. Why do they do it? We know there was a disaster. We know it is gruesome. We know it. But do we really need to see all the details on the evening news? Just a few years ago, showing parts of dead bodies on national TV would have been unthinkable. The dead were shown covered in a sheet or pixelated, preserving their dignity as a token of respect. Now, the mainstream media seemingly fight a losing battle with Twitter and Whatsapp for who is showing the most eerie images.

Its not even myself I am concerned about. Yes, my stomach turns if I see the victims of the tragedy of MH17 scattered in a field, but at least I am a grown-up person, well capable of dealing with it. But I have a daughter, who’s just one year old. Right now she’s too young to realize the horror of these images and too young to ask questions about them. It won’t take long though before she does ask questions about what she sees on TV and in the newspapers. And its me who will have to provide the answers. Some day I will have to explain to her that the world can be a bad, bad place at times. But I was hoping that I have a few more years before I have to have this conversation with her, and I would like to choose that moment myself and not to be forced upon me by some news editor chasing the ratings.

And actually, well, yes, its myself I am concerned about, too. Because if God forbid I make the news in the wrong way, the last thing I want is for my mutilated remains to be on public display. We now have the right to be forgotten. Can we also have the right for dignity? Please?

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Is Luxembourg the biggest microstate or just another small European country?

Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City are usually counted as European microstates. As you may know, I don’t consider Monaco and Vatican City as “countries” or “states”, since they don’t have their own football team, which I view as the basic necessity to be considered a country. On the other hand, Faroe Islands and Gibraltar are members of UEFA, so naturally I do count them as a microstate, too. But some people, including authors of books about microstates, consider Luxembourg a mircostate as well. In addition, Iceland, Montenegro and Cyprus are sometimes considered microstates, although having been to Iceland I don’t know how you can call anything about it “micro”.

Luxembourg is the odd one though. While the “real” microstates in Europe are really tiny, all of them being smaller than 500 km square, Luxembourg is more than 2500 km square, bigger than all the others combined. You can’t really walk through it in a day, like you can do in Andorra or Gibraltar (well, OK, walking 50 km across Andorra is going to be tough but I am sure it can be done). In addition, Luxembourg has a population of about half a million, which I find rather big for a “microstate” (same applies to Malta, but its an island so other rules apply). On the other hand, Luxembourg, as well as the other countries on the list, participates in the Games of the Small States of Europe. So sportswise, Luxembourg considers itself small enough to play in the “Little League”, but does it make it a “microstate”?

Most Dutch only know Luxembourg as the place to buy cheap gasoline on the way to France. I filled up there, too, and gas is seriously cheap there (its about the only thing that’s cheap in Luxembourg). But I’ve been to Luxembourg on other occasions as well, and I think, eventually, I wouldn’t call Luxembourg a microstate. And the reason is – it has what other microstates don’t have. The thing about microstates is that they are rather uniform – they are just not big enough to have a variety of landscape, culture or climate. Luxembourg is diverse. There’s the capital, which has the vibe of a big city with all the banking going on. There are the wooded hills of the Ardennes, which, compared to the rest of the BeNeLux are about as densely populated as the Sahara. And of course there’s the wine-growing valley of the Mosel, which is absolutely charming. As a holiday destination Luxembourg is pretty ideal. Its small enough to get around easilly, big enough to have a little bit of everything and even if its a bit expensive, you can shop for cheap groceries just across the border, like all the locals do.

The biggest of the tiny countries, or the smallest of the small countries, Luxembourg is absolutely worth a visit.

Luxembourg City

Luxembourg City

Castles on every corner in Luxembourg

Castles on every corner in Luxembourg

Great hiking, too

Great hiking, too

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Filed under Europe, Just another small European country