18 European Things That Make No Sense to Us

There are many things Europeans do that baffle us, and many of these are everyday parts of their lives. Even though the continent has many similarities to the U.S., there are still cultural differences between us. Here are 18 European things that make no sense to us. 

Daily Trips to the Grocery Store

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Europeans prefer fresh food, which means they take more trips to the grocery store each week. For example, WindUp writes, “Typically, they make multiple trips to the store a week, only purchasing foods needed for that day’s meals. On the other hand, Americans often favor cost effective, wholesale items with long shelf lives.”

Driving Times Are Considered Long

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Europeans don’t drive anywhere near as much as Americans do, which means they classify half-hour drives as being long. European cities are much more compact, so they don’t have to drive as far for what they need. There’s also less of a road trip culture in Europe. 

Bathroom Light Switches Outside

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Due to safety standards in Europe, bathroom light switches will always be on the outside, unless they have a corded light switch. This means wet hands aren’t touching electrical switches. Even though it’s a safer option, it still makes no sense to Americans.

Paid Public Toilets

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Many public toilets in Europe charge you to use them. It’s usually only a small amount of money and you’ll have it in your spare change. Europe does this as a way to ensure the toilets are adequately maintained and kept clean. It’s a complete contrast to America, which never charges for public restrooms. 

Long Summer Vacations

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CNBC tells us that the average American only gets 10 paid vacation days per year, but Europeans get 20, and this often means they’ll take a long one-month break. It’s a huge contrast to America and shows that Europeans appreciate their work-life balance. 

No Cappuccino After 11 a.m. 

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In Italy, it’s a traditional custom that you shouldn’t order a cappuccino after 11 a.m. Italians believe it’s a coffee that’s best suited to the morning, where you should stick to milkier versions. After 11 a.m., Italians will switch to strong coffees such as espresso or macchiato.  

Youthful Drinking Culture

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Europe has a lower drinking age compared to America. Most countries in Europe require you to be 18 or over to drink. Alcohol consumption in Europe is also far more casual, with some countries allowing you to drink in public. It reflects American strictness on alcohol consumption. 

Soccer Enthusiasm

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While America may love soccer, it’s nothing compared to how much the Europeans do. Most will have a club team that they support along with their national team, and sometimes the games can become quite competitive, not just between teams but also among fans. 

Leisurely Dining

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Europeans have a much slower dining experience compared to Americans. It’s common for them to have slow-paced sit-down meals, whereas Americans prefer the food-to-go culture and fast food. Europe has a social and cultural emphasis on enjoying food, whether that’s eating meals with family or al fresco dining. 

Political Diversity

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There are many countries in Europe that have multiple political parties. In the U.S., there are only two political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. It shows the differences in political engagement and how politics are represented in different nations. It means European countries have more choices when it comes to voting. 

Direct Communication Styles

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The Dutch are known for having direct styles of communication. For example, communications coach Diana Vermeul via LinkedIn writes, “The Dutch culture is more direct and straightforward than the US. Dutch people want to know right away what your goal of the conversation without any extra information is.”

Lack of Personal Space Awareness

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Europeans are well known for being more comfortable with a lack of personal space compared to Americans. They don’t mind closer interactions, whereas Americans prefer to have their own personal bubble. These cultural norms can really differ when it comes to greetings and physical proximity. 

Smoking Prevalence Among Youth

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There are more younger Europeans who smoke compared to Americans. Smoking is culturally accepted in certain European countries and isn’t as regulated. In many countries, cigarettes are also significantly cheaper compared to America. Teenage smoking isn’t something Americans agree with, and there are far more laws in place.  

Healthcare Access

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Healthcare is more universally available in Europe, and it comes with lower costs. The American healthcare system has many complexities and expenses, and people have to pay large sums of money to look after themselves. There are also more cultural values around health and wellness, especially as many countries have an outdoor lifestyle. 

Multi-language Proficiency

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It’s common for Europeans to speak more than one language. Many countries in Europe speak different languages, and it’s because of these geographical and cultural reasons that they’re able to easily communicate in the languages of neighboring nations. This is a huge comparison to America, which is known for only speaking English.

Leaving Babies Outside in Strollers

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In Scandinavian countries, it’s common for babies to be left outside so that they can sleep. This is backed by Business Insider, which writes, “Babies are left outside ‘in all sorts of weather’ and are ‘dressed in lightweight wool and have a down duvet’ which regulates their temperature, while their parents may be shopping or sitting in a coffee shop.” 

Public Transportation Reliance

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Europeans are more likely to use public transportation compared to Americans. This is because European cities have more efficient systems that make it easier for people to get around. This is much more environmentally friendly and makes things easier for tourists. It greatly contrasts with America’s dependency on cars. 

School Uniforms

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Schools in Europe have strict dress codes that often include uniforms, making students feel like one body. It contrasts with American schools, which are usually more relaxed and rarely have uniforms. Europe places more of a cultural emphasis on uniformity, discipline, and tradition when it comes to education.

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