I would like to start off with saying that I am not trying to attack Americans, I am just trying to describe the differences and the way I feel about it.
Beyond the stereotype (because we all love to generalize (including myself)), there is more to the image of the average American. European people tend to image the average American as a big person with oversized clothes preferably an American flag on it and an XXL Coke or a hamburger in the hand, and then a gun somewhere around the belt. Since I moved to America, first I got a huge culture shock, but I surprisingly found some great things about this country and their citizens. The fascinating thing is that there are so many differences between the two continents; Europe and America, besides just the language. I mean give it a try and Google; ‘differences between US & EU, you will see what is popping up first. 😉
To not be too offensive, let’s balance it up with stereotyping an average Dutch person; direct and honest in words which can be received as rude, trying to be funny 24/7, blond (&dumb?), blue eyes, tall, wooden shoes and preferably a joint in the hand and a Heineken bottle in the other hand. People tend to think that The Dutch like to visit the ‘coffee-shops’ and the ‘Red Light District’ often, since it is all legal. Oh and Germans like to call The Dutch ‘Cheese-heads’.
When you think about America, we tend to think that everything is huge. True, universities and campuses can be insanely big, something that doesn’t exist in Europe. But in Europe, a college education is cheap or even free and offers no frills. But, you won’t necessarily find these cute liberal arts colleges where the classes are small and the professors are eager to be mentors. No, in Europe, classes are typically held lecture-style and professors don’t consider their roles to be mentors. But, size alone doesn’t explain the difference. Most Americans, after all, desire to attend large state schools. At European universities, there is mostly no central campus, the university buildings are scattered across the city and lots of these buildings look more like office complexes. No quadrangle to meet. No dormitories. No sports teams. No mascots. Which was for me the solution to come to America and play college tennis.
- Dress code
I already started off with the stereotype American with oversized clothes and no desire for fashion. Students for example, love their hats, wear them in class or to a bar/club and never take them off, it looks like they are glued on. Are they so insecure about their haircut? Well, it looks like, Americans don’t always seem to care how their hair looks. While European boys can be sometimes too much, they take hours in the bathroom to make sure that their hair is on fleek. I received a major culture shock when I arrived; I can now basically go straight from waking up or Netflix into business class, since in the classroom athletic clothing or pajamas are considered as business casual.
As in Europe there is a higher standard of what you wear. Guys with skinny jeans could be a normal, daily outfit. Europeans care more about what you wear and how you dress, in the eyes of some Americans it could be ‘overdressed’, for them it would be what you wear to prom.
Again, America is huge and so are the distances; things are reversed when it comes to distances. Europeans would like to think that driving 100 km is quite a long way, while for Americans that would be rather near.
Yet, Europeans travel much more than Americans, inside or outside their own continent. This might be because Europeans are used to go “abroad” since their childhood, European countries being so small, and do not feel the whole experience to be so exceptional. Supposedly Seattle residents feel the same about going to Canada, a stone’s throw away.
Almost all Europeans have small cars with manual gears, while Americans have a marked preference for big and automatic ones, since the size matters in America. The whole world is trying to go ‘green’ and think about the environment, but America seem to have lack on that, since the trucks and the huge cars are still around in large amount.
Besides the car, public transportation isn’t a big thing in America, but the solution in Europe. In Europe, every city or even country is reachable by train or bus, there are even night trains in which you can sleep. Probably because of the smaller distances people are used to take the bike to do a grocery (seen the exercise of the day for an American, but part of daily life for Europeans), while in American people seem to drive for every minute they have to walk longer.
Some short facts that made me realize the differences;
- European countries all have a lot of traditional dishes from their region or city. The Netherlands is an exception, the Dutch aren’t famous really for any traditional dish. Fast food and the drive-thru really is a necessity in the American culture. Deep-fried food covered with sauces galore is an actual thing. This travesty they have the audacity to call “French bread.”
- Restaurants that serve ice in your water, no matter the weather. Waiters that come check on you every minute & fill water when you just had 1 sip. At least water is always for free, which is not the situation in Europe, a true downside of Europe in my opinion.
- Exaggerate behavior of employees in restaurants, I feel like they all graduated with a theater degree in school.
- Dutch people eat (good quality) bread in the morning and for lunch, in America they barely eat actual bread.
- Ungodly portion sizes at restaurants. The biggest size coke in EU is here the smallest, and there is not even refill in Europe.
- People fill your grocery’s in bags at the grocery store, I have never seen anyone doing that in Europe.
- The huge 3-liter wine bottles that I have never seen in Europe before. Quality before quantity I guess.
- The price for (quality) cheese $ in America……….
- Toilet visits are always free in America, great thing because you often have to pay to go pee in Europe. Even in de nightclub..
- Americans never put the fan on when they cook, just when it is necessary and the food is on ‘fire’.
- When I go to the shopping mall, every minute some employee comes up to me to ask if I need help (especially Victoria’s Secret).
- Being asked for your ID for every bar/club you are entering, even though you are way older than 21, and you look rather closer to 30.
- Texting is still big in America. For Europe, ‘Whatsapp’ is the shit. I haven’t ‘text’ someone in like 5 years I think. We all use Whatsapp, it just uses data/wifi and you can text and call. So, no one has a phone plan which has messages included.
- In America, they like to say ‘hey’ and ‘bye’ on the end of a message even though it is a good friend. Ending with XXX is inappropriate somehow.
- In Europe, they say more f*ck than anyone ever says in America, and English isn’t even our first language. It is received as rude in America, same as ‘shit’ and ‘pissed’.
- Stores, shops and gyms are 24/7 open, you won’t see that often in Europe.
- When someone says, “how are you?” but they really mean “hello” and actually DGAF how you are.
- There are so many people smoking (cigarettes) in Europe, in restaurants, clubs, in between breaks from classes. The smoking percentage is way lower in America, which is great.
- American flags. Everywhere. I don’t think you will ever see a Dutch flag by just walking through the city or neighborhood.
- Religion what is that? Religion is significantly less important to (western) European countries (Netherlands, Belgium etc.) than to Americans.
- Americans and Europeans don’t always agree on questions about morality, especially on issues related to sexuality (abortion etc.).
- I really have the feeling that people ‘hurry’ to get married/engaged. Which is not the situation in Europe, nevertheless people don’t always marry anymore, just because religion became less important.
- Then tipping, tipping is a necessity in America, for coffee, drinks and even tattoo’s and they prefer 20%, even if the service was mediocre. Which is a ridiculous amount in Europe. A couple of euros for a good meal is more than enough, especially for the stingy Dutch people.
I might seem to hate America, but don’t get me wrong, America is still a great part of the world with beautiful nature and people.
~ Stanzi Stuijt, Senior and International student from The Netherlands, studying Business Marketing at The University of Montana.