How to tell you’re in Europe

Last Sunday, I got up at 6 in the morning. And went to the airport. To pick up my mother in law. Yes, I know, I am a hero. But to be honest – I didn’t mind at all. I was actually awake from 5 – my daughter got her first tooth and told us all about how it feels at 5 in the morning. My mother in law is a darling, so I am happy to do her a favour. Sunday morning is about the only time the roads in a small European country are empty, so driving is actually fun. And finally – I like airports. Being at an airport and seeing all the people coming and going, backpackers, business travellers, organized groups, sports teams, gives me that travelling sensation – and when I’m not the one flying, I can have the joys of travel without the drawbacks like carrying (and losing) luggage or going through security.

Besides – I was going to Schiphol, the brightest, most organized, cleanest airport in Europe. And cleanliness is important. You can easily determine the level of a country’s culture and civilization. Forget about HDI, GNH and GDP. Just check the cleanliness of its public toilets. A country where the public toilets are kept clean, obviously cares about the health, well-being and comfort of its people. Of course, clean toilets by themselves are not enough. Its what we scientists call “a necessary yet insufficient condition”. But as a first approximation its a good indication for the quality of life in a country.

Speaking of which, public toilets also de-facto demarcate the borders of Europe. As you probably know, the border between Europe and Asia is poorly defined and has shifted repeatedly in the past centuries. Well, its actually very easy to tell whether you’re in Europe or in Asia. Enter a public toilet. If you have to squat – you’re in Asia. If you can sit – you’re in Europe. If you don’t have to hesitate whether you can sit safely – you’re in a developed European country. Have a nice stay.

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