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different strokes for different folks - what major cultural difference to you find between Europeans and Americans?

different strokes for different folks - what major cultural difference to you find between Europeans and Americans?

Old Jan 26th, 2005, 06:35 AM
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When we were in the the northern UK, we found when we ordered wine , they had little lines around the glass, denoting small or large glasses of wine...of course I had the large;-).
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 06:40 AM
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I'm surprised no one has mentioned the European feeling that table manners are an indicator of the way a person was brought up; lots of Americans grow up never learning to hold their cutlery correctly. They hold the knife in their fist and stab at their food, which to them is just an efficient way of getting food to mouth, but to Europeans this shows a shocking lapse in upbringing. Some adult Americans even go so far as to chew with their mouths open. Good table manners are a minor detail, in the whole scheme of things, but would it be hard for Americans to understand that their manners might be considered gross, and try to adapt?
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 07:19 AM
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Lois: I seem to recall a previous post about the American way of using a knife and fork to cut up food but then the knife was put down and the for swapped to the other hand to pick up the food. Is that right? I have to say that seemed really weird to me - mostly because it seemed so complicated and time-consuming!
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 07:29 AM
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Americans are very friendly and believe in instant and short lived friendship.

I was surprised when I first came to live in the US that children called me by my first name.
In Europe we are more formal and young people address their adults friends or acquaintance as Mrs. or Mr. so and so.

Europeans are more aware about whats going on in the world.
They have an innate curiosity about the world in general and like to learn about different cultures, languages etc..,

The schools in Europe are more like prisons is true.
There is not such things as football, proms or other extra activities, the schools are strictly a learning places, but when a person finally graduated from high school, you can bet that he/she knows how to read or write and is very knowledgeable.
We dont have such thing as multiple choice or true or false in our school examinations.

Europeans in general, even the less educated are
knowledgeable about the Arts, classical music, opera etc..,
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 07:37 AM
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How freely men pee whereever they want...hey if you have to go, you have to go...saw it more in Holland than any other city in Europe.
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 07:41 AM
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While thousands are in need of food and sustenance there are people who are obsessing about the word "bruschetta" being mis-pronounced. I'll let you figure out on which continent they currently reside.
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 07:49 AM
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I am a Spaniard (Basque), have a lot of contact with US people and have noticed some (minor) cultural differences. Major: all related to food.

Also, I consider the USA rather more a homogeneous country than "Europe", which is a very complex mixture. A Spaniard has very little in common with, say, a British (Iīd dare say, NOTHING), and generalizing is very risky. Of course, there are also differences among the States in the US, but not so marked as in Europe. Following, my list of (minor) cultural differences (which match many of a fodorite above):

- Americans ask about money a lot, Europeans rarely.
- European attitude towards sex, nudity, gays, is (much) more liberal.
- European attitude towards smoking and alcohol is more tolerant (decreasing)
- American patriotism is overwhelming compared to that in European countries (not a major issue to many)
- European use plastic bags in supermarkets, Americans use paper.
- Religion is a major issue for many Americans, while in Europe is mostly outdated and something of the past.
- We donīt tip as much as you do, in fact, it is rare. And when we do, it is never a fixed percentage or amount.
- More pages on International section in our newspapers.
- Dressing: much more fashion concerned in Europe than in most of the US.

But, then again, Europe is a rather complicated concept and I have generalized too much...
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 08:51 AM
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I can't presume to answer for all Europeans or all Americans, but I was born and raised in Russia prior to immigrating to US, and am now married to an all-American man. We have a few cultural differences

The one thing that comes to mind is closing/leaving doors in the house open. Doors, especially doors to bedrooms and bathrooms were always left closed in my previous life. So I keep on closing them in my house in US. Hubby insists on leaving every door wide open, on purpose. Although the actual purpose escapes me right now, I am pretty sure there is an explanation.

One does not get a house tour when one enters someone else's house for the first time in Russia. You only get to see the common areas, including the kitchen.

Another thing that appeared to me to be quite different until I got used to it was when there are no available chairs/benches/other appropriate seating, that children and adults would just plonk on the floor/ground/whatever was available. For some reason this was just never done in Russia and would get you stared at if you tried. Not that'd bother me much.

Another obvious difference is of course people smiling at each other, strangers greeting each other on the street and similar. That kind of behavior would get you checked in into a mental institution in Russia. At least it used to be unheard of. I still can't quite bring myself to smile at total strangers But I do enjoy the fact that people are so much more friendlier here, even though I live in Boston, which is not exactly known for its extreme friendliness.

DH was training himself to look grumpy and say a mean "Nyet" before his first trip to Moscow. Still got figured out for a Yank every time, before he even opened his mouth. Something about lack of deep seated suspicion in his eyes, I was told

A couple of other things are that a) he takes for granted that things have been engineered in such a way as to allow an easy user interaction (i.e., there is little red string to pull to open a packet of sliced cheese and one does not need to attack it with knives, teeth or anything else that can be used. I was deeply impressed with that kind of built-in user friendliness since I would automatically go the attack route. And b)that you can accomplish anything in a legal and a clearly defined way. He does not look for ways to cheat the system, beat the system, or get under the system's radar, since he assumes that the system is also built to allow a reasonable user interaction (INS would be one exception, though). This was a new and very refreshing way to live one's life which I happily embraced. But in all fairness, one could not get anything done if one tried to work with the system/bureaucracy in the former USSR. So I can't really blame my former compatriots for the survival techinques that they/we (I left as a teen) developed over time.

Sorry for such a long and rambling reply...
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 09:21 AM
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Tulips, just wanted to let you know US grocery stores have places where you recycle your plastic bags. Yes, I agree that businesses keep it way too cold inside but belive me, Americans don't do this in their homes. Electric bills are waaaay to high. And most cities recycle either every week or every other week, plastic, aluminum, and paper. Not saying everyone does it but most do. I won't go into America's love with large vehicles
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 09:25 AM
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Kasperdoggie, I enjoyed your interesting response!
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 09:59 AM
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I agree that there are many social, cultural, and religious differences between Europe and the US. One thing we've only touched lightly on is size (it matters!)

The US is very large, and, while it is divided into states, one doesn't experience much of a culture shock from state to state. I first realized this when I went to England the first time. I could drive to another country in less than an hour??? I grew up in Miami, Florida, where it was at least 8 hours drive to the next state, which was very similar to my state.

With many people, even in this day and age, never traveling far from their birthplace, is it any wonder Americans are a bit ethnocentic? Canadians are very similar to us. The only real 'foreign' culture within reach is Mexico. And that culture, regardless of the truth of the matter, is seen as inferior.

So, in Europe, you travel from the Netherlands to France and see a great cultural shift. You probably know a lot of the language of the neighboring country due to vacations, visits, and neighbors. Newspapers and books probably carry info on all the countries in the immediate area.

Not us -- the good ole US of A is very ethnocentric, and many children are raised to believe we are the BEST country in the world, bar none, and our ways are the ONLY way to do things.

I would agree we have the best plumbing, and the greatest ability to rise based on work performance and ambition... however...

I think that the European education system is MUCH more effective (we graduate students that can't even read!), that the vacation schedule is much more 'user-friendly', and that the multi-culturalism taught at a young age is much more healthy.

Having grown up in Miami, I realized very early on that there were other cultures, and that people loved those cultures. And that learning another language was desirable and valuable... thus I am reasonably fluent in Spanish, and have tried to learn Danish, Italian, and some Irish. I agree that most Americans can barely speak their own language

Were I to have children (I may still), I would prefer to have them schooled in a European school, but would still instill the patriotic, ambitious values of the USA in them.



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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 10:05 AM
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travelinwifey; I've just been reading Bill Bryson's Notes from a big country; not new, but just got around to reading it. He quotes that statistic about the US using 20% of the world's resources with 5% of the world population. Very funny book by the way, written by an American who lived in the UK for 20 years. It's certainly an entertaining look at quirky American habits!

Greendragon; some European schoolchildren also learn that their country is the best in the world (France comes to mind!).
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 10:07 AM
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Laurensuite's observation that insults reveal more about the person making the insult than anything about the intended victim is revealing considering that her original post is nothing more than a litany of insults against Americans. Anti-American bigotry is no different than any other type of bigotry. For example, take the first two criticisms of her original post and replace "Americans" with "Jews" and see how it reads. Sound familiar?
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 10:27 AM
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Question to those who consider tissues being wasteful:

If while on vacation in Europe, one has either severe allergies which causes a constant drippy nose or a severe head cold with drippy eyes and drippy nose, what would a non-American use when there is a need to constantly blow your nose if not a box of tissues?

Just curious...
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 10:33 AM
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Kasperdoggie, I think we are friendly in Boston, Don't forget alot of people you meet here are from somewhere else.
When I worked, I was the only one who actually lived in the city and from here. Liked your post very much.
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 10:41 AM
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I hate to get into a discussion about tissues, of all things, but...
Don't misinterpret. It's not that tissues themselves are wasteful (although in most cases - except for the carrying around part - toilet paper will work). I've needed to get small purse packs of them on several European trips when I've experienced exactly what you're talking about.
Tissues are just being used by me here as a kind of symbol for excess.
They're bigger than needed for much of what they get used for. People often grab a handful when they only need one or two. They're highly bleached (bad for envoronment). And now it's not good enough to just have basic ones, they have to be 3-ply ultra soft, lotion infested....
My point about N. American wastefulness is that we refuse to put up with any minor discomfort. Hence the huge vehicles and houses, air conditioning even when it's not always needed, our habit of driving everywhere, too much ice in drinks, enormous food portions, long daily showers/baths that use gallons of hot water... and over use of tissues!!
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 10:51 AM
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I enjoyed reading your post also Kasperdoggie..I imagine that life in Russia was more challenging and you had to watch what to say or act quite often.
America must have been to you like a different world.

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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 10:57 AM
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Kasperdoggie,
Thanks for that very thoughtful post.
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 11:14 AM
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<Americans are very friendly but Europeans are more honest (regarding opinions or feelings).>


<Europeans in general, even the less educated are
knowledgeable about the Arts, classical music, opera etc..,>

Do these blanket generalizations serve any purpose other than to illuminate each of our personal prejudices?
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Old Jan 26th, 2005, 11:55 AM
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Kswl.it is not a personal prejudice I am just stating facts.
I have lived many years in many states in the US: NY, louisiana, Hawaii, California and now I reside in Texas.

Met many people from different social and economical background , thus I can honestly make an impartial and objective statement.
My DH is American so are my children and grandchildren and the US has been my home for a number of years now..
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