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Thread: A take on American vs European culture

  1. #1
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    Default A take on American vs European culture

    I was just reading this article that I was sent about an American detailing his visit to Rome, and the end had a little commentary about the differences in cultures... I thought it was kinda interesting.

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    From: http://www.nationalreview.com/kerry/...0411190905.asp

    Now, here's a bit of a political observation (besides the Communist-party march I found myself walking through).

    The last evening we were there, Mrs. Kerry Spot and I were sitting in a wine bar when, over at the next table, some British banker was discussing Italian culture with a woman who was (I think) his coworker. The guy seemed like the epitome of British propriety, coupled with an incensed mood — picture John Cleese. The gist of his rant was that Italian society is dominated by a patronage system riddled from top to bottom with rampant nepotism and impropriety. Apparently this made getting anything done nearly impossible, as every business had to find room on the payroll for the boss's mistress, as well as his slow-witted nephews and cousins. One had to wait one's turn for 50-some years to get into any position of responsibility, and then once one got there, the primary method of relieving those decades of stress was browbeating subordinates. Attempting to promote a promising and energetic young employee over an older and mundane employee who had paid his dues by showing up for a quarter of a century was seen as phenomenally risky and a societal taboo.

    "It is holding them back in the modern economy," Cleese fumed. "They don't know what's in their self-interest. The Italians are stupid."

    "Aren't the Americans stupid, too?" the woman asked, having the audacity to nod her head in my direction. (Cheerio to you too, toots.)

    "Of course, but that's different," Cleese said, not willing to be distracted from his current fury at the Italians.

    I wouldn't want to base my entire opinion of the Italian economy on the irritation of one wine-sipping Brit, but I would cite it as anecdotal evidence that Old Europe hasn't quite worked out all the details of the opportunity society and the benefits of the free market. Just keep it in mind the next time you read that the EU is going to be the economic superpower of this century.

    Sitting in those cafés, eating the good food, it was easy to conclude that Europeans sure know how to live...because they don't know how to work.

    For example, all of the guidebooks say, Don't be in a rush when you sit down at a restaurant. Your waiter is used to his culture's leisurely pace. He'll bring you the menu within about five minutes of when you first sit down. He'll ask what you want to drink, and the drinks will come within ten minutes. You could probably knock off a chapter of a book or a section of the paper by the time he returns to take your order. The appetizer will come in about 15 minutes. First course, maybe twenty minutes later. Secondi course, within an hour. Dessert will come after his cigarette break and/or stroll to Florence. The check will come sometime in the spring. If you're paying by a credit card, he'll process it sometime before 2006.

    In short, you just have to budget one-and-a-half to three hours for lunch and dinner in these societies. Now, far be it from me to tell the Italians how to run their society, but do you think some of these restaurants might do better if they had more than one party per table per evening? I don't like being rushed out of my table at a restaurant, but American restaurants seem to seat two, three, even four parties at a table in one evening, and the waiters actually hurry, if not hover, over their customers.

    It's a different approach to work, and if the Italians prefer it that way, that's their right. But Europeans shouldn't be shocked when the American economy — with its exponentially higher priority on speed, efficiency, and productivity — somehow gallops ahead with much higher growth rates.

    Still, I liked the place a lot.

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    My favourite line was:

    "Sitting in those cafés, eating the good food, it was easy to conclude that Europeans sure know how to live...because they don't know how to work."

    And I think it ties in a lot to the whole capitalism vs socialism debate I keep having in this forum.

    I think a lot of it just comes down to personality. I read a similar thing in this book by Ben Stein a while ago that said that most Americans love to visit Europe, but few of them actually move there.

    I guess my personality is just one where I NEED to be busy, even when I'm on vacation I still want to be active, and have projects, and plans, and feel like I'm doing purposeful things. And that's probably why the American politics appeal to me so much more.

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    Well the guy has a point. The American market is more efficiency oriented. The Café I go to 3 or 4 times a week isn't exactly the quickest. (On average I get the menu in about 15-20 min, then I get what I order 5-10 min.) However, I think it is exponentially better to just sit and relax at a café than be rushed out. I think that creates a customer loyalty which is nice.

    I don't know, it does create the misconception that Americans are always in a hurry and don't know how to relax. Or that they are rude. When neither is really the case, they just aren't used to the culture.

    Although Italians are a little difference than the rest of us. I would imagine that a lot of Italian accounting involves over-usage of the Sundries account, to make a little Book-Keeping joke there. (Hinting to corruption.)

    This isn't as noticeable in England or in Sweden for example.

    The EU probably will be an economic super power. But not if I can help it.
    Quote Originally Posted by T-6005 View Post
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    That guy is completely brainwashed by the shallow American free market ideology that blind pursuit of success is the most important value. European don't know how to work? No, Europeans have more liberal social views and don't believe (at least, as much as the Americans do) that the mass accumulation of wealth for conglomerates is a good idea. The author is generaly critisizing Europe for having a more socialist economy. This compliments a culture in which people aren't always in a hurry. The general standards of living in western Europe are pretty much the same as in the United States, some are even wealthier. THe only difference is that in the US, the upper class is richer (much richer then anyone should have the ability to be) and the poor have less opportunities. I don't find the American consumer i'm in a hurry culture to make us superior. I actually find it quite depressing.

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    i agree with WCM when he says that you cant just
    take Italy as an example for Europe as a whole. Europe
    has so many countries, so many cultures, the people
    work and behave different from country to country.
    Now...about Europeans not knowing how to work..how
    can that possibly be the case? To be honest, i dont
    understand how he concludes that after sitting in an
    Italian cafe (now dont tell me "because he says that it
    takes longer for them to serve, therefore takes longer
    for the people to eat", and so on... that's pretty clear.
    but i dont happen to find that to be a proof at all).

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    Nina and WCM, I agree that there are obviously different cultures in different places in Europe... that is just an example.

    Also, earlier on he talks about people being rushy on the sidewalks, and I find that that somewhat counteracts his leisurely comment later on.

    But the point is not really that he concludes these things about Italian culture based on his time in the restaurant. I think it's something that he already knew, and this simply illustrated it and was interesting to comment on. OVERALL, Europeans live at a more leisurely pace than do Americans. You might not agree, then fine. It's not an insult though, it's just a difference between cultures.

    And when he says Europeans don't know how to work, it shouldn't be taken 100% literally. And he does say that they sure know how to LIVE, which is a tradeoff.

    I'm not an expert, but I can try and give some examples that I recall hearing. I think Europeans work less hours in a day, and also have more vacation time? Also, are there not European countries that are on, like, permanent vacation for certain months of the year? There are "siestas" in certain places, and emphasis on long meals with many courses. Also, in a socialist place, the whole working format is different. There is less emphasis on working hard to get jobs or promotions, less competition.

    But like I said, my realization in all this is that it's not necessarily a bad thing to prefer leisure to work. It simply means that you won't be able to get ahead as much, but you will have a damn fun time doing what you're doing at least.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Betty
    But like I said, my realization in all this is that it's not necessarily a bad thing to prefer leisure to work. It simply means that you won't be able to get ahead as much, but you will have a damn fun time doing what you're doing at least.
    [Jesus]
    I fail to see how one gets ahead with working 2 low wage manufacturing jobs a day for instance... certainly not cultural and intellectual for instance.

    Bah reminds me of those people who wanted shops to have longer opening hours (+ open 7 days a week) here. Like it'll do something good.
    Keeping them open a bit longer will mean more working hours and less pay (since people can only spend the same amount anyway). That's just logical, hell even the unions and shops agreed on that one.

    Ow yeah, eating slower is healthier than eating fast (too bad i do it too).
    [Jesus]
    #N/A

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    Ow yeah, eating slower is healthier than eating fast (too bad i do it too).
    well i'm screwed then. i eat fast as hell. i've never really understood why though.
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    Last edited by lousyskater; 09-11-2011 at 02:12 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Betty
    1. I'm not an expert, but I can try and give some examples that I recall hearing. I think Europeans work less hours in a day, and also have more vacation time?

    2. Also, are there not European countries that are on, like, permanent vacation for certain months of the year?

    3. But like I said, my realization in all this is that it's not necessarily a bad thing to prefer leisure to work. It simply means that you won't be able to get ahead as much, but you will have a damn fun time doing what you're doing at least.
    1. I know you don't like them, but this is an accomplishment of the Unions.

    2. I've never heard of that, can you be more specific? Do you mean entire industries and nations close down and produce nothing for months?

    3. Let me ask you a business related question Betty. Ignore the fact that I am a communist. What leadership methods generally work more efficiently? Authoritarian, Democratic or Laissez-faire? Although I believe Jesus did a more eloquent way of proving this point than I am.

    Also Betty, you may want to stop referring to European countries as Socialist, or Socialistic. It really does make you sound like an ignorant American. I am offering this advice as a friend and have patronizing intentions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheelchairman
    2. I've never heard of that, can you be more specific? Do you mean entire industries and nations close down and produce nothing for months?
    [Jesus]
    Well when it comes to industries; construction in Belgium stops for 3 weeks in july.
    #N/A

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    Quote Originally Posted by wheelchairman
    1. I know you don't like them, but this is an accomplishment of the Unions.

    2. I've never heard of that, can you be more specific? Do you mean entire industries and nations close down and produce nothing for months?

    3. Let me ask you a business related question Betty. Ignore the fact that I am a communist. What leadership methods generally work more efficiently? Authoritarian, Democratic or Laissez-faire? Although I believe Jesus did a more eloquent way of proving this point than I am.

    Also Betty, you may want to stop referring to European countries as Socialist, or Socialistic. It really does make you sound like an ignorant American. I am offering this advice as a friend and have patronizing intentions.
    1. If you consider it an accomplishment. (Being the devil's advocate. Not going to elaborate or say whether I do or don't, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a good thing).

    2. I don't think I could really elaborate since I'm very unclear on this. I've just heard something along the lines of that, I'm not sure if it's true, but Jesus did give an example.

    3. Umm...I guess I'm going to say democratic, although I could be much mor e specific than that. I feel dumb, but I think I'm lost on your point here...

    Regarding the last thing... I AM an ignorant Canadian. But I suppose I don't really want to sound like one. So, I would like to take your advice, although I would like to know what would be a better way to refer to the generalized political differences between many European countries and a country like the United States?

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