5 Ways to Know You’ve Become European

So you’re an expat living in Europe, or you’re thinking to become one. If you spend a few years on the continent you’ll certainly have to start adapting. But even more, you might find yourself transforming ideologically. I grew up in Florida and have now spent over 5 years in Europe. Particularly if you are American, here are 5 ways to know you’ve become European.

A glass pyramid in front of the Louvre Museum after it has just rained

1) People Generally Don’t Believe that Owning a Gun is Necessary 

Americans generally believe in the right to bear arms because of the archaic 2nd amendment which also states the necessity for a “well-regulated militia.” Given the country had only recently acquired their independence, it made sense back then. But Americans still believe in this right because they fear their government and apparently wish to battle Apache helicopters and armored tanks in the event Uncle Sam becomes tyrannical. Many in their government are happy to sell them weapons because it helps support their gun making friends, which helps fund their political campaigns. It’s a wonderful reach around!

Americans generally believe that if the good guys can’t have guns then nobody will be able to stop the bad guys (not that any good guys ever actually stop the bad guys when they shoot up schools and public places). So Americans believe everyone with healthy brain cells should pack heat for protection, until those brain cells become unhealthy, which could happen at any time. Europeans generally believe in none of this.

2)  Restaurant Dinners Are An Event 

Eating out in the US is generally something you do on a night out, before you do something else. You head over to Chilli’s, order a mountain of processed food, scarf it down and your overly friendly server toiling for you to pay their salary politely nudges you out the door.

In Europe, dinner out often is the event of the evening and it’s pretty common to spend 2-3 hours over several courses. In a country like the Netherlands, you will typically not be brought the check unless you specifically ask for it. So if you are in a hurry ask for the bill when your food comes, otherwise your server might disappear and you could be waiting a long time to leave.

3) Frivolous Waste is Less Commonplace

Too many Americans have a bad habit of wasting pretty much…everything. Walk up to a 7-11 on a hot summers day and you’ll see the windows fogged up like there’s a sexy orgy going down near the slurpee machine. Except there isn’t, it’s just that the air conditioning is set to freezing cold and the employee behind the register is wearing a parka. Along with their places of business, Americans love to over air condition or overheat their homes- so they can walk around in a t-shirt and shorts in winter and sleep under the covers in summer.

a traffic jam of goats on a winding two lane road in the mountains in Naxos

Americans love massive SUV’s that they never go off-roading in, but instead use to commute by themselves to work, possibly driving alongside another colleague driving their own SUV to the very same office…Dutch people frequently ride a bicycle to work. It’s good exercise and along with universal health care coverage, it helps them live longer, even according to the CIA World Factbook.

We just returned from a week in Bordeaux, France during a heat wave and I will say that I wish the French wasted more money on air conditioning. It was stiflingly hot and places that had a/c (not very many) generally could have turned it up higher. There is a happy balance everyone!

4) Guys Are More Likely to a Sport Man Purse

So technically mine is a messenger bag, but it wasn’t something I used growing up in Florida and I’d never dream of carrying it around on visits home to Orlando. Guys need to carry their stuff around too but I used a different method in the old days- it was called a car.

Killiney, Ireland, 5 ways to know you've become European
Taking the train to the beach with your man purse isn’t typically American. (Killiney, Ireland)

5) Dryers are Less Common in Homes 

Ok, so maybe this is also a city versus suburb or rural thing. If you’re European and you own a house in Northern or Western Europe, you’re more likely to own a drier. But the majority of Europeans who live in apartments (like us for over 5 years) make do without them.

We use a clothes rack which hangs near the radiator in winter, transforming our apartment into a mini laundromat. Like a giant gas guzzling car, if you’re American and you don’t own a drier, there’s a good chance the Jones’ are frowning down upon you (not that you should care). 


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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18 thoughts on “5 Ways to Know You’ve Become European

  1. I like this post! But, you should add one about healthcare. Like one of the selling points for your job is not that it comes with healthcare and dental benifits. And one about vacation-since it is so normal here, like in the summer all of your co-workers talk about where they are going for ‘holiday’

    1. Great points, thank you for sharing them! Yes health care is a fundamental human right here (not something solely to profit from). And a nice holiday is for pretty much everybody that has a job. It’s not necessary that so many Americans need to work 2 jobs just to feed and shelter themselves and their kids.

  2. Living in Melbourne as the population grows, I have found that we are now moving towards more use of public transport as traffic congestion means a long commute to and from work. The CBD and apartment living and easy access to reasonably priced eateries has meant more people eat out than cook. The Europeans are just ahead of us with their use of space.

    1. Public transport in Melbourne is great and I love living in cities where you don’t need a car. Why sit around in traffic wasting time and getting frustrated if you don’t have to?? I so wish the residents of my former home cities in Orlando and Tampa would get more on board with better public transport being a good idea and not just something for poor people (that’s very backwards thinking). Also, by having bad public transport in certain American cities, it can make life harder for down and out people to get ahead because it can take them forever to get to a new job across town without a car.

    1. Thank you Amanda! Yes I most certainly get non-Americans lack of understanding on the right to bear semi-automatic weapons that can gun down hordes of people. At the end of the day it comes down to one thing…*money* for gun makers and their political pawns.

    1. Thank you Tuscan! I would say I’ve evolved to think of myself as 50/50 after 5 and 1/2 years of living in Europe. There are things I certainly miss about living in the USA but enough things that detract me from moving back just yet.

  3. 6) you become a narrow minded, judgemental, and conceited European instead of narrow minded, judgemental, and conceited American?

    1. This post was half joking Dan…But sure, and I do this while enjoying the classic French dish of foie gras de canard (fat liver of duck) 😉

  4. Well, enjoy your foie gras as parts of the US (i.e. California) have outlawed its production as cruel treatment of animals (because somehow overfeeding cows, chickens, and pigs isn’t?). I know a couple friends who moved to Europe and after a fews years started having very judgemental views of Americans. Not that I don’t sometimes see their points, but things aren’t perfect over there either. So I couldn’t help but post my response.

    1. Thanks for coming back and explaining your point of view in more depth…I didn’t claim that Europe was perfect, there are loads of problems over here. The post was mainly aimed as a fun way of sharing some cultural differences between the 2 continents (which is obviously a massive generalization on my part seeing as how individual European countries can have vastly different cultures). I very much take offence to generalized America bashing like “Americans are the loudest and most ignorant travelers.” We are not, I’ve traveled enough to see obnoxious groups from everywhere.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Sofie! Actually my stance on guns was mostly the same when I lived in America. Sadly I did briefly consider buying one with the also common American mentality that “lots of other people have a gun so maybe I should have one too.” But when we lived in the States Bell said no, read the stats, you’re more likely to be killed by a gun if you own one. True story!

  5. I wholeheartedly disagree with point #4. Dining can be an experience of the night and the only experience. And I’ll be damned if a server is going to push me out the door. That’s the only upside of tipping: you want the tip, be nice, I’m paying your salary.

    Other than that, I think you nailed pretty much everything. It’s the one thing I love about people is that they learn from others to make their own lives and society better. Here’s hoping we Americans can learn that trait.

    1. Thanks for reading and joining the conversation Wondernuts (love the name btw!). You have a point on #4, you certainly don’t have to leave a restaurant but if you stop ordering stuff an American server will continue to come by asking if you want anything else. Then they’ll usually say “well if I can’t get you anything else I’ll just bring you the check, but there isn’t a rush to pay.” I did this exact thing when I waited tables at Bennigan’s in college and have experienced it loads from others. Thing is, I felt anyway, at that point that there is a rush to pay because the server works off tips so if I stop ordering somebody else might be waiting that might order something. I didn’t rush people out the door when I waited on them, I was nice, but I was still hoping they would just leave.

      Love your point on learning from each other and making all our societies better. That’s one of the greatest things about traveling. It’s wonderful to look at what someone else does better (whatever that might be) and try to implement that at home. What’s right is all a matter of interpretation but some things are more black and white than others.

  6. Haha this post is funny! I recognize a lot in my fiance. Except for the gun thing then … maybe you can talk to him 😉 Why put down this right to bear arm in laws? Just in case you need to fight your government? In Europe you would call that a revolution, which means you do things that are against the law anyway. He doesn’t have a man bag but he does have some pinkish colour in his wardrobe whch his American friends might think is weird. And I finally understand why he thinks it’s annoying that eating out lasts so long: he doesn’t think eating out is an event! Plus he’s impatient because he wants to go back to work, which is another big difference which tells me my fiance is not Europeanized: do you work to live or live to work?

    1. Thank you for reading and for the interesting comment Dutchie! 🙂 So as for the 2nd amendment giving Americans the right to bear arms- It was placed into law shortly after the founding in 1776 when America had just won a bloody war of Independence from Britain. The purpose at the time gave people the right to bear arms in the event the British were to attack again. The right to bear arms helped in the War of 1812. During the Civil War 50 years later that is debatable, though in my opinion I’m certainly glad the North won over the Confederacy! The law has stuck because guns have become ingrained in the American psyche, it’s good business for gun manufacturers and politicians are wary to tinker with the people’s “Bill of Rights.” Never mind that freedom of speech is under serious threat and the 2nd amendment was not created so Americans could topple their own government…On the other things you mentioned- I can definitely see why some Americans would become impatient in what would be perceived as a casual dinner, that ends up taking ages! haha. As for the “live to work or work to live” mantras, I think it’s all about balance, but we are creatures of habit. If we are used to working very long hours it is difficult to break that mentality. In an ideal world we’d have a perfect balance, whatever that is 🙂

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