Europe vs USA

During our last trip to Europe I had a number of observations that really concerned me so I decided to write a separate post in a way of comparing some random European stuff vs how it is in USA. I’m mostly comparing vs Southern California but keeping in mind all other states that we’ve been to (39 out of 50 so far).

Restrooms
This may sound strange but this was the most frustrating experience. Almost everywhere in Europe they make you pay for using a public toilet. I’m against cash and I don’t carry it in the US at all. So imagine running through half of the city looking for that McDonald’s just to find out that even there you need to pay! And they accept only 50 cents coin but the only thing that you have is 2 euro. In a good scenario there will be a machine to give you change, in a bad scenario when you have coins less than 50 there is no way for you to use the restroom. I would much rather pay an extra cost for the meal than carry specific coins in case I have a need.
In USA there are multiple places where you can find free clean restrooms and even drinkable water.

Cash
Another frustrating experience was with cash – not all places accept credit cards yet. We had to have extra euros all the time. Czech Republic uses their local currency so we had to bother with money exchange as well. In USA I have 0 cash with me at all times, even parking can be paid with a credit card or using mobile app.

Tips
Out of all the places where we dined only one was able to include tips into the check, all other places asked us to leave cash. We had to remember to carry different amounts of cash depending on what places we visited. The good part of tipping is that percentage is much less than in the US. But in the US we include our tips in the final payment.

Shopping price
In Europe you see the final price that you’ll pay at the checkout, in the US there will be tax added to your bill so this is something that should be considered.

Safety
USA is huge and of course there are different places but in general I always felt much safer everywhere compared to certain areas of Paris and Brussels. We traveled by trains and usually walked from central stations to our hotels and that was not a pleasant experience. There were multiple streets with suspicious people checking us out. I always hugged my bag tightly worrying about it being stolen. There are military people patrolling crowded areas with machine guns which makes it look even scarier. Security people are checking your bags if you want to enter a shop/station/crowded area.
In Southern California we go to the beach, leave all our stuff (wallet, car keys etc) unattended for an hour, go surf, come back and find everything untouched. I wouldn’t do that in any other state but it was hard to adjust to European cities after current experiences.

Cleanliness
Some people complain that New York metro is dirty but it is nothing compared to the streets of Paris. First of all, they have their trash bins on the streets that creates a lot of smell. Secondly, many streets smell like pee and there were occasions when we had to step over some poop. There are many homeless people sleeping on the streets in the very city center. They have some serious issues there with all that dirt and I don’t know why the government is doing nothing.
For comparison, we live in a complex and pay monthly fees for services such as pool maintenance, common area cleaning, house maintenance etc. The complex is not big but there is at least a dozen people taking care of it daily.

Service
This happened in Prague only but reminded us of our home country 🙂 On our first night out waiter came back with our change and decided to take 30% tip on his own. Another situation was in a grocery store where cashier started screaming at us for no reason in her language and even pushed me away. This would never happen in the US, service people wouldn’t risk their career. In 4 years of living here I had no negative experience with services.

Public Transport
This is what we liked most of all about Europe – amazing transport infrastructure. In 2 weeks we traveled everywhere we wanted by trains or buses. We don’t like to drive and are looking forward to a massive takeover by self-driven cars. Unfortunately, in USA car is a necessity. There is no way to get anywhere near us by public transportation. There are some buses in the area but they are too slow (for example, 15 min by car can be done in 1.5 hr on a bus). All our big road trips in USA are also done by car.

Prices
In general, I find prices in Europe cheaper. We were able to find decent hotels in city centers for less than 100$ per night. Prague was especially cheap compared to all other cities. The fact that you don’t need to leave at least 15% tip in Europe is very appealing too.

Food / drinks
I think that they are comparable, I can’t say where it is better. There are restaurants for all tastes all over the world. I like European beer a lot but Americans got some good recipes and are making some Belgian style beer that tastes really good.

Tourism
We really missed European architecture and large historical city centers that was a reason for our trip. Of course, European architecture and museums are extraordinary, and I really like to be able to walk all day long exploring new areas of different cities. In USA there are amazing museums in New York, gorgeous architecture in Chicago, multiple European style cities on the East Coast. In California we have beaches and we spend our time there a lot. There are so many beautiful cities and mountains to explore in Europe. USA has much more diverse National Parks and unique landscapes. Both of them require a lot of time to explore and I shouldn’t be comparing them.

Conclusion
I know I wrote a lot of negative stuff about Europe but it was hard to adjust after being used to other things. Our conclusion after this trip is that we don’t think that living in a big city is necessarily a good thing. We reassessed what we have living in California and appreciate some things even more.