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Is Life Better in Europe? 12 European Norms That Americans Can Only Dream Of

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What might seem like a commonplace routine for one individual can translate into a lavish indulgence for someone else. Activities that are perceived as ordinary on an average Tuesday in Europe could be deemed extravagant in the United States. These disparities in perspective are heavily influenced by cultural distinctions and significantly shape our perceptions of what constitutes the usual.

An online forum conversation starter sought to know the things Europeans have every day that Americans see as a luxury, and it’s an interesting observation.

1. Pastries and Coffee

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Getting a regular coffee and croissant in an American cafe will set you back several dollars, while the same in a European cafe is a dime a dozen.

Someone says, “Cafes in the US are marketed as very trendy, and if you want a pastry and a coffee, you should be ready to pay like 8-10 dollars. In most of Italy, Portugal, and Spain, you can get coffee and a croissant for like 3 euros.”

2. Cheaper-than-water Wine

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Americans have to cough up some pocket-denting amounts for (decent) wine, while Europeans seem to get good wine for a song.

One online user says, “This is only really true for Southern Europe. But cheap wine by the glass, cheap coffee, and pastries.”

Someone adds, “Where I live in Spain, the standard price for a glass of wine in a cafe or everyday (non-fancy, equivalent of a diner), restaurant is 80c-€1.”

3. Legal Right to Vacations

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Taking a vacation in America is a death-by-fire-or-by-water kind of decision. Not so in some European countries.

An online conversation contributor says in some European countries, you get “Six weeks vacation, extra pay just for vacation (at least in Germany), government healthcare.”

“Guaranteed 4+ weeks of vacation. And the fact that they are encouraged to take the vacation instead of being made to feel that it’s a burden to the employer that you go on vacation.” Someone agrees.

A not-so-happy American replies, “This makes me depressed and angry. F****g America.”

4. No Rush

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The rat race was invented in America, and everyone seems to be in a rush to get somewhere. In many parts of Europe, things are more relaxed.

A user says, “I spent time abroad in Italy for school, and there was just so much less of a “rush” everywhere. Oftentimes, the latest person to my classes were professors. Everyone really took their time, and I didn’t really feel the bustle of constantly “going” somewhere when I was there.”

Someone agrees, “Mediterranean Europe is very different from other parts. I’ve gone to Spain most years of my life, lived there for 3 and a [few] months last year and it’s as you describe.”

5. Affordable University

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Tertiary education in the US is quite pricey, and when some people choose to go abroad, it’s considered a luxury.

One user demystifies this and says, “Our daughter is going to university in Scotland. Our US friends always respond with shock at the “luxury” of going overseas for school until I tell them it’s 1/2 the cost of an equivalent US college. That includes travel expenses.”

Someone adds, “If you’re Scottish, it’s free!” This is also true for most EU countries.

I’m now Googling “How to be Scottish fast.”

6. Healthcare

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Apparently, American healthcare is sick and not in the cool terms kids of today refer to.

One user says, “[The] Top answer should be health care, but the problem is, the only Americans who care are the ones without health care.”

Another one adds, “I’m terrified of potentially going bankrupt over a serious illness that I can’t afford.”

Someone else says, “When my wife was in hospital here in Scotland, I still worried about money. Was she going to keep getting paid by her employer and the cost of parking and the expensive hospital shop during visits. But that was it, I can’t imagine what it is like with those bills.”

7. Walking Spaces

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Just leaving your house and walking seems like a huge luxury in America. You almost always need to drive somewhere to be able to walk or ride a bike.

“Not having to use a car for every single time that you leave your house… For a lot of people, you have to go drive somewhere to take a walk… This place can be a hell, and it is numbing.” Someone says.

8. Efficient Public Transport

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A user says, “I don’t think Europeans realize that in most US states, we have no public transportation at all. We aren’t saying it’s bad. It’s nonexistent.”

The one that does exist is not good either. The American Society of Civil Engineers ranked American public transport poorly [D- in 2021], and it’s a shock for a first-world country. Most of the European Countries’ public transport seems smooth, well connected, and very usual.

A contributor says, “I visited Budapest for 4 days and used their public transportation at least 15 times during my stay. Never had to wait more than 10 minutes, worst delay I saw was like 3 minutes, and not once has a bus or a train/tram never just showed up. It was great.”

9. Fair-Priced Food

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A commenter says that most of Europe has local bakeries with wonderful fair-priced food readily available on their walking commute.

Someone comments, “I wish, man… I wish. Food costs are a b***h nowadays.”

10. Easy Entry Into Neighbouring Countries

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A user is amused that some European citizens can cross over to other countries in just a matter of hours.

One says Europeans “Can travel between different countries in Europe without spending days driving or flying.”

Another one adds, “I can just sit in a car here in Germany and drive to France, NL … and all the other EU countries, just realising I’m in another country because of the traffic signs.”

We can’t blame Americans for how large their country is, can we?

11. A Walk With a Beer

It seems quite normal for one to stroll with a drink in hand in some European countries.

A user says, “Being able to walk around town with a beer is awesome.”

Someone adds, “Public drinking is effectively legal in Ireland. I’ve drank beers while walking past cops in numerous cities, and no one has ever said anything.”

It may not be the same everywhere.

12. Maternity Leave

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Having sufficient laid leave after having a baby is a luxury that most women in the US can only dream of.


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