While traveling in Europe, you will notice that some of the normal, everyday parts of life are suddenly handled differently in other countries. I’m not just talking about the fact that people speak different languages, eat different food or start drinking way before 5pm. I’m talking about normal, everyday things and when you encounter them in a vastly different way than you’re used to, you’ll look like a kid that’s been handed vegetables when all you want is a pizza. My plan is to shine some light on the ones that just blow me away.
1. Siesta hour or nap hour
The concept of this is fantastic, but only a few major corporations have adopted this in the states including Google, Facebook and other hip companies. The practice is very common in Spanish culture. Siesta hour(s) is a midday nap commonly taken after a lunch and a beer (or sometimes two). Popular in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece this without a doubt would not fly in your job back in the states. Let’s play out a scenario: You’re at work then go to lunch, grab a beer or two and then decide that you require a nap. Without informing your boss, you just don’t come back for a couple hours. Once rested, you head your way back to work expecting to just show up and get back to the grind. Your boss would be sitting at your desk like Bill Lumbergh from Office Space and if you were lucky he would just say “I’m going to have to ask you to come in Saturday and Sunday, mmmmkay” . Realistically, they would can your ass and send you back to your house to take all the damn siesta naps you want. Or, picture this: you’re arriving at a small villa in Spain and you’re absolutely famished, so you head to the tienda or Supermercado only to find them closed midday, so you head back to your pension to wait it out. A couple hours later you head back down to same store only to find it still closed. Granted, everybody else in the town takes siestas too, but it does make you wonder if this could be a reason for the poor financial stability of these countries. It would be similar to shutting down a bar for happy hour. I don’t think you would stay in business long with a work ethic like that but I could be wrong. Either way, try it out in the States and let me know how that works out with your business!
2. Shower heads not on walls and no curtains
Taking a shower in Europe reminds me of this scene from Billy Madison, I mean…you’re basically power washing yourself. This is very similar to those times when you were a kid and played in the mud all day and your parents wouldn’t even let you in the door so they just hosed you off before you dared set foot in the house. But let’s not stop there…no shower curtain? Who the heck decided this would be a good idea? It adds an unnecessary step to the whole process! Who wants to mop up all the shit you just washed off yourself in order to have a clean floor to stand on? Not me. Put a shower head on the wall so water doesn’t spray everywhere, add a curtain and save yourself the money of having to add another drainage hole in the floor of your bathroom.
3. Light switches on the outside of the bathroom
Light switches are commonly on the OUTSIDE of the bathroom in Europe. Why? I have no idea, but it makes no sense to me. Why would you want to provide someone else with the control to your light while taking the Browns to the Super Bowl? Imagine when you were a kid in school and played that game “Bloody Murder” in which you say “bloody murder” 3 times while in the dark bathroom and wait to see the ghost in the mirror. Let’s be honest…we never saw anything or anybody in the mirror because we always turned on the lights, but just imagine if you had the lights on the outside of the bathroom. I’m pretty sure I would have never used the school’s facilities and would have just waited until I got in the safety of my home. But would that be safe? If you have siblings you would be right back in the danger zone. Another scenario: it’s 1990, you go to the toilet at school and kids shut off the light (that’s on the outside of the bathroom). You have no cell phone, no lighter, nothing with which to light up the room and to boot the little bastards stole all the TP….. Yeah, I rest my case, put the lights on the inside of the bathroom.
4. European bike locking
Europeans are very trusting people and I certainly admire that about their culture, but in some cases they are too trusting, as reflected in their bike locking techniques. I used to live in Washington, DC the city with the highest stolen bike percentage per capita of any city in the USA. Many people spend thousands of dollars on bikes only to have them stolen the next day, so they spend even more money and time on security measures to make sure their bikes don’t get stolen. We lock up to trees, poles, and whatever else we can find that is bolted down because if we didn’t, whatever we’d locked our bike to would be stolen right along with the bike. In Europe people won’t even lock a bike up to anything, they’ll just lock it to itself. If we did that in the States there would be thieves with trucks driving all day and night just throwing bikes in the back then cutting the locks off in the privacy of their homes some time later. The locks Europeans use couldn’t be any more junky. Some are as thin as a pencil and some use the kinds of chains you would use to lock the sliding lock on your house door. Not secure.
5. Public transportation honesty policy
Many countries in the EU have no gates that would prevent anybody from just walking on the train or bus without paying for an actual ticket. I’m not a thief per se, but given the opportunity to save some money on transportation I’m going to do it. I have been caught a couple times by the controllers only to be given a fine that I could pay at a later date (or not). It just doesn’t make sense to not have proper ticket machines that prevent people from just walking on. I see many locals paying but I also see many that don’t and so I do as the locals do. Imagine if there were no kiosks in New York City. There would be literally hundreds, maybe thousands of bums on the train at given time smelling up the joint and the sheer amount of police required to remove them would cost the city copious amounts of money.
6. Honesty boxes
An honesty box literally saved my life once. While hiking in the Swiss alps on a Sunday, I headed up a trail to a restaurant but found it closed. Thankfully, they had an honesty box. For all those unaware of what these are they are a box with food, beer, and water that a place will provide when they aren’t open. You simply put the amount of money that each item costs into the locked box next to the fridge. Granted, you can’t get change so the establishment normally ends up on the plus side and Switzerland is quite expensive as it is so the fact that you can’t get change kind of sucks but hey, it’s food when the restaurant is closed. Put a honesty box in Detroit, Michigan and it wouldn’t last 10min. It would be stolen along with the fridge and the metal box too as it can be scrapped for the metal to get crack money.
7. Public restrooms for charge
Charge me to pee? Are you crazy? If I have to pay to relieve myself, I’ll just go in the park on a tree and that’s why all the big parks, metros and other public areas smell of urine and shit. Go to Central park and smell around I’m sure you will get wiffs of bathroom smells but you won’t stumble across a bush that is essentially the only free bathroom in the area as you do in Europe. I love Europe but this is one thing that should change in my opinion. It just doesn’t make sense to charge for these things. I can understand a business refusing free restroom use unless you’re a paying customer but parks are public areas…I shouldn’t have to pay to enjoy them or there facilities.
8. Public bathrooms on the street, literally on the street
In Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany you will find these weird looking things on the street. They make them look like pissers and that’s because that’s exactly what they are. Anytime you’re leaving the red-light district and you want to “relieve” yourself, you have these stations to use. There is no plumbing, no drains, no flushing, and no TP…just a splash shield, so there is no real difference between using these and just peeing on a tree. I’m a guy…I can pee pretty much anywhere and I can assure you this is the last place I’d take a piss even if I was 3 sheets to the wind.