Eurotrip: 5 Days of People Watching

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Eurotrip: 5 Days of People Watching

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Just got back from my first trip to Europe. It was a business trip and thus, I didn’t have a lot of extra time to sight see. The extent of my trip consisted of two days in Amsterdam and three in Germany.

Later in my life I would like to do a lot of long term travel. I want to do it both for the experiences and for the personal growth it will bring. I want each travel experience to make me more eclectic in a practical, non-elitist way.

So with that, let me give an alternating list of how Europe’s methodologies are better than America’s and vice versa.

E1. Europeans bike more within their cities. Talk about a great way to exercise, save money, and reduce your carbon footprint… Nowhere was this more apparent than Amsterdam. Walking along the canals and through the narrow streets I was pleased to see people biking everywhere and bikes chained to every possible tree, rail, and rack.

Bikes in an Amsterdam Canal

A1. America’s public restrooms are clean and free, Europe’s are not. My short experience in Amsterdam led me to believe that there are no free public restrooms. The different restrooms I visited there charged me between half a euro and two euros. The two euro restroom was a spectacle; there was one man collecting the money, one woman directing people towards what stall they should use, and another man supervising. Gotta love Keynesianism.

E2. Kids in Europe are taught to ride bikes on no-pedal two-wheelers. I saw several toddlers scurrying around on these: No-Pedal Bike for KidsAfter gaining a little bit of speed, they would lift their legs up and coast. That should be the first step in learning to ride a bike: master the feeling of balancing on two wheels. Somehow in America we adopted tricycles and training wheels in order for our kids to learn speed before balance. Imagine teaching somebody to drive a car by showing them how to floor the gas pedal, then revealing that there is a steering wheel. America is doing it backwards.

A2. It’s hard to find bottled water in Europe (especially Germany). Sparkling mineral water is much more common that still water in Germany. Even visiting a climbing gym near Cologne Germany, I couldn’t get non-carbonated bottled water. Actually I did buy a water, and after working on a couple exhausting climbs I cracked it only to nearly choke on the water as the carbonation burned my throat… Not refreshing. I ended up shaking my bottle until I had lowered the carbonation level to a tolerable level.

E3. Factories in Germany are extremely clean. As opposed to every grimy manufacturing facility I’ve been to in the US, the ones in Germany were spotless. Workers would vacuum, sweep, mop, and wipe down their work areas during every shift. Very refreshing to see. E3.5 : Safety glasses aren’t required by default in most shop floors in Europe.

A3. By design, free wifi is poor quality in Europe. In Bonn I stayed at the Hilton, and the free wifi there was so unreliable and slow that I could barely use imessage on my phone. Of course, if I want an upgrade I could’ve purchased the premium wifi for 25 Euro per night. My room already costed 200 Euro a night… I am unbelievably bitter about my experience at the Hilton in Bonn… All because of the wifi. The cycle of bad quality free wifi, but good quality paid wifi was repeated twice more during my 5 day stay in Europe. My guess is that it’s common everywhere.

E4. There are less obese people in Europe. Talk about the Aryan Race…

A4. Convenience items can be found at every US gas station and pharmacy… Also, gas stations and pharmacies can be found every mile. In Europe it was much more difficult to find simple items like deodorant and headphones.

E5. Europeans aren’t afraid to eat and hang-out outside. Even in 50 Fahrenheit weather, more people were eating outdoors in Amsterdam than indoors. In America, the tables outside Applebees will rarely be filled if it isn’t 70-76 degrees out.

A5. The cost of living is cheaper in America. If your goal is to travel on a budget, Europe will destroy you. Check out Expatistan’s cost of living index & map: http://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/index

E6. The metric system.

A6. No smoking indoors. We don’t allow smoking indoors in Michigan, except for Detroit Casinos and cigar bars. Most states in the US have laws banning smoking in restaurants… I didn’t realize how much I appreciated these laws until I picked up second-hand smoking in Amsterdam.

E7. Climbing gyms are much more lead climbing friendly. There were routes equivalent to 5.4 YDS where beginners could lead climb. Quick draws on these beginner routes were bolted every meter. Great stuff.

A7. American stores have more favorable hours for the consumer. In Cologne, everything shut down at 8pm.

Well that’s all I could think of off the top of my head. Feel free to leave a comment if you agree… Not if you disagree though; nobody cares.


10 Comments

Swedish Mustache

May 23, 2014 at 5:37 am

Another thing I think is helpful for the people seeking financial independence in Europe is the fact the majority of employees are paid once a month, whether they are hourly or salaried workers. I have felt that getting paid once a month forces people to budget better and plan expenses.

Also, I walk to work everyday, or occasional if I go to a different office (I have two) I take the train. but additionally, since taxes are higher and the social system takes care of many large expenses that otherwise have to be done individually in the states, It seems I have more money to invest that isn’t going to bills and payments. I have a cell phone and rent to pay every month, that’s it. We have a car but is used only for going to my wife’s parents house occasionally and trips to nature.

We just recently had a child, and we walked out of the hospital with our wallets untouched…. perfect!

    Josh

    May 24, 2014 at 12:08 am

    Many of the people I know who are paid weekly are living from check to check. It takes much more discipline to live from month paycheck to month paycheck, I like that.

    Americans and Europeans definitely face different struggles achieving financial independence. In America, where taxes are relatively low, it’s easier to save a greater percentage of gross income. However in “retirement”, Americans will face more expenses centered around healthcare and transportation. In Europe social programs make these two categories more affordable. I wonder which system is easier on the individual aspiring to become financially independent.

DivHut

May 23, 2014 at 7:28 am

Great article. Love reading about all the difference between the USA and parts of Europe that you have seen. That’s one of the great things about travel, it really opens up your eyes and give you different perspectives. I enjoyed that child’s training bike versus how we do in here.

    Josh

    May 24, 2014 at 12:15 am

    DivHut,

    Thanks for stopping by. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple weeks now, and very much enjoying it.

    I’m looking forward to a time in my life where I can travel the world, experience new cultures, and rock climb! Every travel experience is mind-expanding.

    I envy the amount you’ve already traveled being 40 years old. Have you read the book Vagabonding – Rolf Potts? I highly recommend it.

      James

      December 11, 2014 at 1:18 am

      Not to be rude but I suggest you don’t do this alone as in all hotseny you sound too naive. I mean you think you need a passport for each country? You need a passport from YOUR country, not other countries. Go with someone else or wait until you’re in your mid 20 s. I did it in my mid 20 s but by then I was very street wise even so it’s very daunting to go to places where you don’t speak the language where you get lost as it’s a new city, etc. Again your naivety shows re not knowing that certain European countries are dangerous to travel to alone. You would be hassled by men alot in countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal Greece, hassling could range from following you in a flirtatious manner to actually attacking you as these cultures are different they may think you are promiscuous or something to be travelling alone. That’s why I avoided those countries when I went. I researched my trip thoroughly, the Lonely Planet guidebooks are the best ones they have warnings in them about dangers annoyances also warnings for female travellers. Even some places I went to that I thought would be safe, actually weren’t so you need to be able to handle that get yourself out of some bad situations. For instance I found Germany easy to travel around in but I had major problems in Berlin in broad daylight. Like being followed by creepy old men, a dangerous looking homeless man, being abused by a neo nazi who didn’t like non German people in his country, having an old Turkish man try get his young grandchild to open the zip of my backpack on the train rob me, etc, he tried this 3 times even though he knew I knew what he was up to. I also had a nasty incident in an innocent German town, which is a popular tourist spot, where a local teenager pushed me into a shop window really violently as evidently he hated tourists. You just never know what can happen. If you are too innocent sensitive then you won’t cope. The other thing about these incidents is that in Germany the public won’t come to help you, they just look after themselves. Other than that my trip was great but I’m just trying to illustrate to you that I don’t think you’re the right age I don’t think you have enough life experience to cope.When I was travelling I stayed in youth hostels as it was cheap every now then I’d come across another female travelling alone but she wasn’t the type to be able to handle it. They’d be all desperate clingy looking for me to tell them what to do mother them. There is nothing more annoying than that. It’s fun to meet other travellers, but not ones like that! I wasn’t going to have my travelling ruined by having to hold some silly girl by the hand every step of the way. One of them was actually following me around Europe as I had made the mistake of telling her of my itinerary. I don’t get why she chose to travel alone when clearly she couldn’t cope. In the end I lied told her I’d changed my itinerary again so that she’d head off to all the wrong countries. Lol, I had to get rid of he somehow, she was kind of nuts really annoying.People do look for lone travellers to rob, etc as a teenage female on your own you are much more vulnerable. How about doing an organised tour instead? But research those carefully as the Contiki ones some others are often full of young people just getting drunk sleeping around with one another that seems like a waste of a trip to Europe to me, not to mention a pretty trashy poor character thing to do as well, I mean they can just stay at home do that anyway!I’m surprised your parents are letting you go alone too. Another way you can test how you feel is to travel far away somewhere in your own country or to a neighbouring country on your own see how you feel on your own. But bear in mind that will be easy if you are American only going to Canada, which is similar in culture also English speaking. Still, it’s a trial run of sorts.Also alot of people get lonely on their own don’t find it fun. You could also advertise for a travelling companion go with another girl from where you live, but meet her first of course find out if what she wants to do on the trip is the same as what you want to do. I think there are even websites where you can seek travelling companions, just be careful to meet with them in a public place, etc.Frequent traveller

    Olga

    December 11, 2014 at 7:53 am

    Yes you can travel by youlresf in Europe at 17.You need a US passport to get to all of those countries (not a passport of each country)You can stay in total, within Europe for 90 days (you will not need a visa) To go from France for one day to another country, go back to your family in France and then go out the next day will cost you more money and be very tiring. It also depends on where in France your base will be. To give you an example, I am currently in the south of France, close to the Spanish border. It takes me 14 hours to drive from here to the south of Germany.So I would look at a map of Europe, calculate how much time you will be having and then look at where you would like to go. e.g if you would like to go to Germany, Switzerland, Italy, then plan you trip without going back to France. Go from France to switzerland to Italy to German and from there back to France.Just an idea.You would need to look at the train schedules. e.g you could take a day train to Munich, spend some time there, take a night train to Berlin, and come back on a daytrain, to see some more of the countryside.Frequent traveller

Dividend Life

May 24, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Hi Josh,
Some good observations there. I’m from the UK although I lived in Germany for 4 years and am now settled in Detroit. All things considered, I much prefer the US.

Things have changed in Germany since the time that I lived there (1995-1999) – the stores closed at noon on Saturday, “late night shopping” was extended hours until 6pm on Thursdays instead of 4pm. I hope too by now that the German “shelf” toilets are extinct.

I never needed a car in Europe or the UK which was nice either (I’d walk, bike or train to get around).

Culture and differing perspective is an interesting topic though. I remember being shouted at in Germany for crossing an empty street at a crossing when the pedestrian light was red; in the UK that was a given and legal but in Germany it was setting a bad example for children.

    Ermanno

    December 11, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Joverine.Thank you . I just checked out your blog and your work is fantsatic( in all senses of the term actually!)Tera. It really is beautiful, I agree.Thank you

Josh

May 26, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Interesting that you settled in Detroit… That’s where I’m currently living and working. What industry are you working in?

I feel like until I’ve gotten used to the differences, I’ll always be making lists of cultural differences when I travel.

    Linda

    December 11, 2014 at 2:56 am

    FIRST OF ALL.. go to the mall book store and BUY a copy of EUROPE BY EURAIL that will tell you EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW and is a much better srcoue than asking here on Answers from a bunch of people who have never been outside the state where they were bornSECOND Apply for your PASSPORT NOW it can take up to 6 WEEKS.. plus you need to get a CERTIFIED COPY of your BIRTH CERTIFICATE and that can take a week or two, so the sooner you apply, the better off you will be and you will need to present your passport in order to BUY the Youthrail pass, because you MUST buy it BEFORE leaving the U.S. And you can BUY IT from ANY TRAVEL AGENT.AVOID tours.. they are for the timid types who can only talk AmeriKan and want to travel in luxury while having someone else transport their bags and talk to the locals for them.The best deal is a ONE MONTH YOUTHRAIL PASS.. you travel the trains at night and sightsee during the day.. it saves on hotel costs AND your travel is already paid for. About ever 5 or 6 days you can find a hostel somewhere for a day or two to do your laundry and get a good meal.You will need about $1000 for the month if you live on the trains like everyone else your age does.. so you will have a LOT of company.OH.. when you BUY the EUROPE BY EURAIL see if you can also BUY a copy of the THOMAS COOK RAILROAD TIMETABLE.. because you will learn to LIVE BY THAT BOOK.. it gives the schedules for ALL THE EURAIL TRAINS so you can plan your trips in advance.If you are going in the spring, start your travels in the south Spain is a good place.. if you are going in the summer or fall, then start your trip in the North one of the Benelux countries.Have fun and LEARN A LITTLE OF THE LANGUAGES you will encounter even if you can’t speak the language, if you just learn the words for PLEASE THANK YOU and CAN YOU HELP ME?.. will do WONDERS to get you aroundAquatic Biologist

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