Let’s start with the obvious: The Food. While America may be the Horn of Plenty, the additives and polyunsaturated fats and corn syrup by the gallon in almost everything you eat, makes for an entire country of Pillsbury Doughboys and girls (think: Wall-E), all with diabetes 1 and/or 2. If those 'no global' Europeans could just rebel against the real culprits: Nestlè and Coca Cola et.al. onslaught, and go back to offering homemade iced teas and all that – (think: Italy is still Starbucks free) well, then, we’re in for a lot longer life than ever and one that’s pretty much fat and sugar free.
The Cars. Hopefully, gas prices will get so high in Europe that people will stop driving altogether. But not having to see 9 out of 10 cars as an SUV or hiked up pickup truck is certainly an eye-appealing, global warming of my heart, and simply (as a miniscule Honda civic driver) safer.
Nationalized health care. Say what you will about the breakdown in the Italian (or European) health care systems, but people still receive treatments relatively inexpensively and even long term without fear of bankruptcy. Sure, it’s stress-inducing to wait 10 months for an RMI after discovering a lump, or longer for a basic physical, but, it’s even more horrific to wait for your zillion dollar bill after services, too. I don’t partake in the national system, but I can tell you plenty of long-living Europeans do – cost free.
Vacations. For those of us who stay behind, we might find the cheery ‘Chiuso per Ferie” signs pretty dismal (I haven’t been able to reach anyone at my bank since before Christmas), but, let’s face it: Europeans know that with hard work comes some pretty good downtime. In summer, beaches become blackberry free (except the edible kind), as things shut down and people tune right out. And while families relax and explore places together, and the city prostitutes wait longingly for their clientele to return home, that sort of mentality really lets everyone go about their vacationing care free. I’ve even heard of an entire paese that goes on holiday together, they like each other so well (although I’m not quite sure it’d be wise to publicize this little known fact, for the amount of looting that could take place next August).
Then there’s the cell phones. While I’ve discovered that pretty much everyone hates their carriers here in the USA (with AT&T taking the lead in customer dissatisfaction), Telecoms companies seem to be international in their pursuit of profits thru dodgy practices. But, one thing’s for sure: in Europe, we do not pay to receive calls nor texts. Here, they get you coming and going and it ain’t pretty. With these kinds of practices, it’s a wonder how the Americans (10 years behind the Europeans) ever got off of hold in the telecoms revolution.
And, while I’m at it, I might add the phone line debacle. Two months in the USA, and I’ve been feeling like it’s 1999 (and sadly, not enjoying a party line). You can hardly complete a call without the ‘line dropping’ at least once. Unbelievable. We’re supposedly the most advanced (technologically speaking) country on the planet, and you can’t place a call from Michigan to Ohio without retrying three times.
Air Travel. Yes, you read it right. Air Travel. Europeans still offer the most comfort for the dollar, if you count in FlyBaboo and discard RyanAir. It’s an outrage that the shoddy RyanAir practices are pretty much standard fare for every major US Airline (charging for luggage, drinks, skip the lines, etc.). But we still have Baboo and Virgin and even BA and ClickAir to look forward to (sorry, Air One – my former heartthrob - you’ve sold your soul to the devil). Americans get to look forward to paying for reclining seats or go Greyhound.
Knowing your retailer. While it does happen (often), in major metropolises, that you would know personally your coffee barman, dress shop, or pet shop owner, out in suburbia this is simply not the case. On one hand, it gives you that terrific sense of anonymity, which makes you feel somewhat invincible in a Clark Kent sort of way as you go about your daily errands. On the other, you kind of wish you could stop a moment to enjoy a nice chat with the store owner sitting outside his/her front stoop.