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Ten Basic Differences Between the USA and Europe

Updated on July 22, 2016
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1. Work Hours

Its no secret that Americans are overworked. Very few Europeans work over 40 hours a week, and in some countries even less. Sure, some Americans may say that Europeans are lazy and less productive, but this is simply not true. Most European countries have much more worker friendly labor laws than the US. Even though Americans are working longer hours than ever and with less benefits and rights than ever, the economy is still in the worst shape since the Great Depression. Simply being worked to the bone by employers does not equate to productivity. It only leads to American workers being more stressed and with less time than Europeans.

2. Vacation

This closely ties in to Number 1. Most Europeans have a minimum of 4 weeks vacation, and most of them actually use their vacation time without being looked down on by employers, because there are laws that guarantee vacation time. Many Europeans also take out all or most of their vacation at one time, which is virtually unheard of in the States, where taking 2-3 days off at a time seems like pushing it. Americans are chained to their work with hardly ay free time. Whatever free time they do have is spent shopping or watching TV, whereas most Europeans travel somewhere, even if it is just domestically in many cases. It is not surprising that so many Americans hate their jobs and bosses. Sure, most people are slaves to a wage, but there is a big difference between actually feeling like you are a slave and not actually feeling that way.

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3. Lunch time

Europeans actually leave their desks during lunch time, and many for an hour or more at a time. In the US eating your lunch anywhere else than at your table can set you up to look like a slacker who doesn't want to give "100%". Stuffing our faces in front of our monitors will not help productivity. I doubt people can even digest food properly when staring at their work. In Europe lunch is considered the most important meal of the day and usually involves having at least two courses, and not just a sandwich and a Coke as in the US. If workers can actually eat at a human pace then they are more likely to perform better.

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4. Discussing TV Shows

"Its what people will be talking about all week", is a claim many TV channel like to make about some huge TV event. The sad truth is that many Americans do discuss TV shows at the workplace, this usually being the only conversation topic that they can all add to. Being overworked leads to just going home and flopping down in front of the TV and watching whatever everyone else watches. Talking about the lives of fictional characters or reality show "stars" is perceived as better than getting into personal issues and talking about our own lives. Europeans tend not to focus on TV shows so much, especially not as a topic of conversation.

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5. Less Driving

In general Europeans drive less because public transport systems are a lot better than in the US. Americans are already stressed out by working and debt, but then they add on some more by having to drive to and from work in most cases through traffic filled with cars driven by other stressed and angry drivers. This is also expensive. Having breakfast in cars is also not a very healthy thing. People don't pay attention to the road as much when they are focused on chewing and drinking whatever sugar laden "breakfast" they are having. In Europe you have the option of using mostly pretty clean and well run buses, trams, trains etc. to get to work, where you can snooze, read, stare out the window, or just relax, or have some breakfast at your leisure.

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6. Sports Not Family Affairs

In Europe attending sports games is not usually a family affair like in the US, where children get balloons or bobble head dolls and the whole family goes out to watch whatever. Soccer games for instance are almost exclusively attended by male fans, and are not meant to be a sort of Disney land family event. European soccer fans and fans of other sports almost never eat anything during games, instead they drink alcohol, which gives the atmosphere at games a more intense feel than US sports games. People don't go to watch sports just to do something. They go because they actually gave an emotional tie to their teams. European sports teams do not pick up and move from one city to another whenever they are not making enough money like US sports franchises do. Teams stay in their own cities for better or for worse, leading to a loyal and intense fan base and historical rivalries which American sports simply do not have, or if they do have rivalries they are largely contrived just for the sake of having something that they want fans to consider as real rivalries, when in fact they are not.

Greek soccer fans
Greek soccer fans | Source

7. Smaller Food Portions

Americans are getting fatter and fatter. Europeans are getting a bit bigger too because of a more sedentary life style as opposed to a few decades ago. However, the US still takes the cake, and a big cake at that. US food and drink portions are truly enormous compared to European portions. Sure, in the US you might be getting more for your money, but do you need that much more? The more you get used to the more you'll need in order to be satisfied. Europeans have much smaller sized drinks as well. A small pop or coffee in the US is like a large in Europe. Europeans don't even have XL sizes in groceries, foods, drinks, and not many in clothes as a result. Less is more, especially when we are talking about overall health.

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8. Dressing Up

Europeans (especially women in Central and Eastern Europe), dress much better than Americans in general. You will hardly see anyone in Europe go to a mall or anywhere outside wearing baggy sweatpants, big sweatshirt, bright white tennis shoes, out of style jeans or out of style clothes of any kind, and without makeup. Sure, this is a generalization, but its true. Kids at college dress up nicely, and girls really dress up, unlike many in the US who are OK going to class in PJ bottoms and over sized college logo sweatshirts. Maybe its because Europeans can actually see each other more because they walk around that they dress up and don't look sloppy. Americans mostly see each other as heads behind a steering wheel, thus making what they wear less important.

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9. Moving around

European cities are a lot more pedestrian friendly, leading to people walking around more and being active. In the US it is rare to see people walking on sidewalks, and if they are seen it is usually assumed that they have had their license revoked for DUI or they are too poor to get a car. Americans don't consider just going for a walk to be exercise: everything has to be done in the extreme. This means power walking instead of just normal walking; riding race bikes wearing all the pro bike riding gear instead of just riding your bike to the store dressed normally; running for miles and miles and suffering through it whilst wearing the most expensive running shoes there are instead of just not eating so much etc. Physical activity doesn't have to be extreme, it just has to be consistent and coupled with less consumption in order to work.

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10. Separated Towns

Vast sprawling US style suburbs are not common in Europe. In the US you can drive for miles through developed areas which look like one large city when in fact they are several separate towns that have grown together into mega suburbs. The only way you know that you have passed from one city to another is by signs dumped on the sides of road which can be very hard to notice. This type of sprawl is not common in Europe, where you can see when you have left one town and are entering another by the empty territories in between.

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It must be mentioned that of course all of the above are generalizations and that there are many exceptions. However, in essence these differences do exist between the US and Europe in general. Of course there are also differences between European countries too, but for the sake of brevity those have not been explored here.

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      LOL 8 days ago

      This article is biased against America

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      Kyle 4 weeks ago

      Interesting article. While a lot of points are valid, some are silly and a little off.

      Americans do work more, but where did the plane, the car (mass produced), the computer, the internet, the mobile phone, etc., etc. come from? I also don't mind the work, super rewarding.

      The US is much larger and having public transportation is 90% or more of the cities is impractical.

      Are you saying drunk men at a "Football" game is better than a family atmosphere at an MLB game? Hmm.

      The TV thing in America is pathetic as are the food portions, the clothes (especially women) people wear.

      Oh, yeah, and traffic is silly, but only in the big cities. I'm 34 and I've never had more than a 15-minute commute.

      Interesting but not entirely accurate.

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      LJS 4 weeks ago

      The points you made may be somewhat accurate, but not without giving off a slightly pretentious vibe. To state that all Americans are stressed and hate their lives, enslaved by their jobs is simply false. Many Americans enjoy their lives and are well adjusted to the quirks of daily American life, the stressful things and the relaxing things. Just as Europeans are used to a seemingly more “relaxed” lifestyle, some Americans could not bear to live in the somewhat boring daily life that they have come to know as European lifestyle. You mentioned that Americans typically discuss television because it is a thing that everybody can engage in. I have never discussed television when I worked in America before. You portray Americans as dull witted and stupid, unable to comprehend and discuss things like their own lives and world issues. While it may be discouraged to share political opinions in most European nations, this is an American difference, and with such a wide array of cultural backgrounds, American debate is, and has been from past experience, much more interesting and heartfelt than that of a European debate, because European’s views differ on a smaller scale, the tidbits of the whole idea, while American ideas and political beliefs stem from religious and cultural POVs and they debate whole issues. I also would like to note the falsity of the highly stereotyped idea that Americans are fat and lazy. Yes their food portions tend to be bigger, but to simply suggest that Americans do not monitor what goes into their bodies and do not limit themselves is false. Americans have just as much temperance as Europeans, and the recent surge in push for healthy food options is a strong American market. This stereotype is, and has been for a long time, falsified and stems from America’s consumption of goods, a habit that stems from marketing and sales and capitalism of the early 1900’s. Yet another falsity is the idea that Americans are not bound to their sports teams. Teams that are city bound rarely move, and yes, if they are not making money, they may move, but if they are not making money, that means that there are fewer fans, and thus less people care about them. Moving them to a different city may result in spark of support for these teams. Another issue that you pointed out was that American families attend games as a family. Why this is an issue to you is a question to myself. This attendance of sports allows a bond of kids to a team, and can result in a close deep bond with a sports team, associated with memories of family. Americans tend to love the team that their parents love, and this is a good reason why. As a born and raised American who has now lived in Europe for a while, I’m surprised that this article has had no corrections/edits. Europe is a great place to live if you want a change from the American lifestyle, but the culture in Europe cannot be compared to America in that it is up to each individual person to decide whether they wish to live in America or Europe. I am living in Switzerland because of a job, and I am coming back to America (specifically Milwaukee, Wisconsin) while I’m on holiday. I have already arranged for a my relocation to Madison, Wisconsin next year. I was disappointed to see this article seem so stuck up, and it is clearly written by somebody who does not know America as an American, rather by a person who sees America through the steriotypes that dominate the European view of America.

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      Abid Krak 2 months ago

      In Europe if you make $15.00/hour You get $15.00 /hour after taxes in your pocket. In US if you make $15.00 You get $10.00 after taxes in your pocket.

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      Lena Durante 3 months ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      How true these are! Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are lucky enough to have above-average public transportation, at least.

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      Tony Garrett 5 months ago

      This was a great artical. I really think so because i really wont to move to england when i turn 18 or 19 mabey 20 in the next few years. this is because i really hate mississippi weather and i like the economy in europe better.

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      Walter 8 months ago

      The food looks good

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      Dan 10 months ago

      I have to agree with many points posted here. I myself was born and grew up in Europe (Poland) and moved to the US at the age of 26. Lived in the States for about 8 years and moved back to Europe. Why?

      Both places are great but I value more personal time and traveling versus money and material things. I earned good money in the US but could never enjoy life (with only 10 or 15 vcation days anually) and when I lost my job I was left with no healthcare. (since it was employer based and without income I could not afford insurance myself).

      I think I could have stayed in the US, but their healthcare system and no control on corporations and social policies (vacation, maternity leave) suck big time.

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      Nayrb 11 months ago

      No real sports rivalries in the US?? Go to a Steelers/ Ravens football game and see how contrived the emotion feels. Don't venture into topics you know nothing of....,,

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      yupagain 2 years ago

      Yes again very true, in america they even have those deals at some restaurants that if you eat the whole 10 pound steak you don't pay for it, (but you will have to pay for the clogged arteries). They all drive and have mega highways but those are not same highways as in europe where you can drive without touching steering wheel at 200km/h because corners are specially profiled like on the race tracks, and of course there are barriers and underpasses unlike in america where a deer or anything else can wander right in front of your car but then you're only driving 55 so I guess it doesn't matter...

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      Frenchy 2 years ago

      Great list. although I am not sure I agree with the "better dress" comment. I use to think that too before I left Canada for France.

      NO WAY was I going to go out anywhere in Europe without looking perfect - like all those amazing European women.... yeah well..... big slap in the face that was. I'm probably the only person walking down Les champs elysee all dolled up - most people are in sweat pants, and I dont think they are tourists, you can usually spot them out. Makes me sad, i'm all nostalgic for the France I see on TV in those old movies.

      In the South of France (Ive lived all over France), I was amazed at how badly dressed and overweight many were (ok now I sound like a snob). One reason is despite what we north americans think, many French people struggle economically and cant afford Chanel, LV, YSL etc. Hence the simple-less than amazing haute couture we associate with their culture. There is also a lack of space to store all your clothing, hence they dont own as much as we do. Nonetheless, I love Europe and dont want to leave

    • frantisek78 profile image
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      frantisek78 3 years ago

      Hi Pippa, thanks for your thoughts and taking the time to comment.

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      Pippa 3 years ago

      Hi there! This was a really entertaining read and I really enjoyed it. I was a little bit overwhelmed by the obvious criticism of USA but then I scrolled through the comments and saw the 'socialist bastard'-one I reevaluated my first thought. I do need to say, though, that I'd honestly prefer the 'happy family' approach to sports they have in America as opposed to the European one. As it was said, our teams has a very intense fan base and mixed with the factor of alcohol the games tend to end up quite violent. Just what I've seen from the raging completion and almost hatred, that can exist between fans of different teams, in my relatively small country I wouldn't dare to be within a ten kilometer radius of, for example, a Real Madrid-FC Barcelona game or a Manchester United-City one.

      Sorry, just had to defend our neigbours to the West a little bit.

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      David Hunt 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      I'd accuse you of having a European bias... except everything you write is true. We Americans are being squeezed and used up by companies and that's very difficult for some to accept as fact. The rugged, independent American (we don't need no steenkin' health care system) mythos is constantly echoed whenever anyone "whines" about long hours and decreasing benefits-- if you're lucky to have a job.

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      Matt 3 years ago

      I can't believe the Americans get such a small amount of time off every year. The 4 weeks holiday in Europe is a MINIMUM, most companies offer between 4 and 5 weeks off every year.

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      Yoleen Lucas 4 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      "Getting a driver license in Europe is harder than it is in the US."

      And for good reason!

      It's true that European cities are laid out in circles, while American ones are in square grids. That makes it easier to drive in America, plus it's easier to avoid getting lost.

      You may want to check out my hubs, "My Adventures Touring Europe in 1982". While I got lost in nearly every major city I visited, I only tell the major incidents in Munich and Venice. I haven't written those chapters yet; I've only written three, but you may want to check those out and remain updated. There will be 23 chapters in all.

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      frantisek78 4 years ago

      I wouldn't say Americans are the best drivers in the world. It is a lot more difficult to drive in Europe, especially in centuries old city centers that were not built for car traffic. You don't really see drivers in Europe eating/drinking while driving. Even though Europeans might seem to be driving like maniacs, they usually are good drivers. Getting a driver license in Europe is harder than it is in the US.

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      Yoleen Lucas 4 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I visited Europe in 1982, and was very impressed with it. The only thing that didn't impress me was the driving. They drive like maniacs! It's a good thing they have an excellent rail system!

      I would not drive in Europe! Americans are the best drivers in the world!

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      BS 4 years ago

      This whole page is simply terrible and wrong. I know you will delete this comment but its worth having you read this. Eurpean socialist bastard, you clearly have no idea what the typical American life style is about. USA is clearly a better country than almost socialist France. And FYI the euro is a terrible currency and I hope hyperinflation happens turning your economy to shit. USA will take any country in an arms race, and France has proved itself to be pathetic one to many times. Don't fuck with America or we will kill you.

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      frantisek78 5 years ago

      @SkeetyD: thanks reading and for the comment. Glad you enjoyed it!

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      SkeetyD 5 years ago from Barbados

      I enjoyed this article. Most these things have crossed my mind at some point in time

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      frantisek78 5 years ago

      Thanks donabhatt !

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      donabhatt 5 years ago from Hyderabad

      Great observation........

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      frantisek78 5 years ago

      @UnnamedHarald: Well said. It's easier for people to blame others for "laziness" than to blame their own people for taking advantage of them, or themselves for putting up with it.

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      David Hunt 5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      You may get some flack on this article-- we Americans don't like finding out that we're over-worked drones so anytime Europeans work less, get more vacations, well, that is obviously European "softness" not American corporations taking advantage of the American work ethic-- which is actually an immigrant quality.

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      frantisek78 5 years ago

      @Suhail and my dog Thanks for reading and for commenting. Yes, Canada is a lot more like Europe than the US, both politically and socially. This is in large part due to Canada's having had much closer relations for a longer time with the UK and France than the US has had, which practiced isolationalism for much of the 19th century and for almost half of the 2oth century (with a short foray into WWI thrown in).

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      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 5 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Great hub. From what you wrote, it seems that Canada is closer to Europe than the USA :-)

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      frantisek78 5 years ago

      Thanks for your comments ASchwartz! Yeah, it is a big problem when employers manage to make those people who would like to take out the vacations that they have earned look bad in the eyes of their colleagues. It is just like any other dictatorial system, where personal rights are trampled in the name of a "greater cause", which here would be profits for the CEOs.

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      ASchwartz 5 years ago from Kentucky

      You mean I couldn't wear my spongebob pajama pants grocery shopping in Europe? ... bummer

      But seriously I have worked for a company that severely looked down on people who took vacation time. Other workers resented you, because it put more work on them. Apparently the "right" thing to do was take your payout (at a higher tax rate) for vacation time at the end of the year.

      Good hub!

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      frantisek78 5 years ago

      @point2make : Thanks a lot for reading and for your comment. I appreciate the vote up!

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      point2make 5 years ago

      You make some excellent points......well done. It is interesting when you think about all the differences between nations. Sometimes we easily forget there is a whole other world beyond our borders. Voted this hub up!

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      frantisek78 5 years ago

      Glad you enjoyed my hub and my observations Tracy! Thanks for reading and sharing, I appreciate it!

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      Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Great observations, well done! I will share this.