50 Things I Learned Abroad (#40-36 Culture)

This post is part of a larger collection of the 50 Things I Learned Abroad after a year spent in Europe. Stay tuned for more.

Please take note. I spent one year in Europe. I am by no means an expert on “European” culture, not to mention that there is no one European Culture. Obviously, things vary widely so take my lessons learned with a grain of salt. That said, here’s some thoughts I came away with:

#40 – Tipping Culture is the Worst.

This is less about Europe and more about the US. Being overseas just reinforced my already existing notion that tipping sucks. At best, tipping is a way of participating in an informal economy, ensuring that workers take home their hard earned money based on their good old hard-work-ethic (in theory). At worst, its discriminatory (Did you know, blonde women get the best tips regardless of service?) and a way for businesses to not properly compensate their employees (I used to earn $2.80/hr as a server in Arizona. When the restaurant had no customers, I went home with less than $20 for a day’s work). In Europe, tipping isn’t so rampant and they’ve got it right. Though they still tip in some occupations, at least most employees’ wages aren’t determined by it.

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#39 – There is Nudity on TV and No One Cares.

One morning before I went to work, I stopped for coffee at a bar where the morning news was being shown. It was going to be hot. So hot, in fact, that the news felt the need to demonstrate, with full frontal female nudity, the fact that it would be a good opportunity to hit the beach. As the camera lingered on the woman, displayed on at least three big-screen TVs, no one looked up. No one cared. Despite what Americans are lead to believe, if you allow nudity on TV, every channel doesn’t turn into HBO and society doesn’t fall into chaos. Who knew?

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#38 – Americans are afraid of everything.

Your child could be abducted on their way home from school! You could catch a disease from those under-cooked egg yolks! After being back for a few days, I noticed it immediately: Americans are scared. In a way, we have a right to be (our homicide rate is ridiculous when compared to other industrialized nations)  but that doesn’t mean we should live in perpetual fear. A friend of mine told me her sister won’t walk from her car to her front door for fear of being assaulted and she lives in a nice neighborhood. The news every night announces a new way you can die from something seemingly innocuous in your home. People rush to live in gated communities. Mothers fret over making sure their baby never consumes a bite of non-organic produce. It’s ridiculous, especially when you’ve been away from it for a year.

#37 – Bidets are stupid.

I don’t have anything to say about this.

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#36 – You cannot escape America (if you don’t try).

I had a conversation with a German guy who lamented the fact that American media was taking over the world. “We only get American movies!” “We only get American music!”. While it is definitely true that the latest horrible American RomCom will be playing at theaters across Europe and the newest Britney jam is surely playing somewhere at any given moment, its not all America’s fault. Though American Media is prolific and powerful, they do not force everyone in the world to love pop music and stupid movies. People just love crap.  My response to him: Support your country’s film industry. Support your country’s music scene. Choose what you consume. Somehow I am more familiar with music in Sweden than I am with the new Katy Perry song, so I know it can be done. And anyway, we don’t corner the market on creating low-brow media. I’m looking at you, Sálvame

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