Under Beaker’s Microscope: an American in Europe

Beaker, my husband, starts a new monthly series called Under Beaker’s Microscope.  Not so long ago I asked him to write a post on how it feels for an American to visit Europe. He wrote. When I read it, I was not sure how to react. I leave it up to you! Enjoy and don’t take anything personally.

I was born and raised in the United States.  For most of my life I did not travel anywhere which is sad because

I have always wanted to travel and see the world. Reading about culture and history is fine. But, actually being there and taking in the sights and sounds is an experience that cannot be imagined.

I don’t want to bore you with the comparisons between Europe and the United States. It is impossible to compare many hundreds of years of history to just a couple of hundred of years of history. Honestly, when you think about it, the United States is a child compared to the old, mature European countries that are rich in architecture, art, literature, and culture.

Europe has had many hundreds of years head start, and that is very apparent when you visit. Where can you get your picture taken in front of a castle originally built during the medieval times that you can only read about in history books? But yet, the castle has been rebuilt exactly like it was before, and right where it was located before it was destroyed by the bombings of the Germans during World War II.

I don’t want to bore you with comparisons because you can’t compare apples to oranges. Can you compare the beauty of the churches in Europe to the churches here in the States? I live in Utah and, believe me, the Mormon churches that are here on almost every corner are dull, drab shacks compared to the churches I have seen in Europe. The churches in Europe take your breath away, and you stand awestruck not wanting to move because you don’t know if you should be in there looking around like some tourist. You feel like you are taking away it’s beauty or purpose by taking pictures or staring at the paintings.

I don’t want to bore you with these things because I know you have heard it all before. The beauty of the tiny cobble streets. The architecture of the old buildings and churches. The long history of Europe whether it is fascinating or gruesome.

I told myself I was not going to bore you with such things, instead I will tell you about the people there and how they made me feel. Everywhere I have visited so far everyone has been very gracious and nice, even though I don’t know the native language, and all I know is English. Everyone I have met and interacted with has tried to help me.

It amazes me how many people speak English. It makes me feel really dumb that all I know how to speak is one language. As far as I am concerned, everyone in Europe is a genius and I am glad they are not as lazy as I am and know only one language. That is one of the things that I did not like about visiting Europe. I feel stupid and lazy, and I should have studied more and learned another language or even two.

The other thing that stood out for me is that the people are skinny and in shape. You never see obese Europeans. I think this is because the portion sizes in their restaurants are small. If you have a big American appetite, you are going to be very disappointed because the food is wonderful and you don’t want to stop eating. It makes me wonder how they stay thin.

You can’t compare a seed to a full grown flower. When I am in Europe I feel:

  • awestruck,
  • stupid,
  • hungry,
  • and fat. 

20 thoughts on “Under Beaker’s Microscope: an American in Europe”

  1. I lived in Spain for a semester abroad in college and it really opened my eyes. When I returned I had reverse culture shock! I was so mad that people had to drive everywhere and left lights on and appliances plugged in. I slowly got back into my American habits but I’ve still got some European details as well.

    Here’s a joke that I heard while out there.

    What do you call a person that can speak two languages? Bilingual
    What do you call a person that can only speak one language? American ::ouch::

  2. we went to europe for our honeymoon this past year. A mediterranean cruise allowed us to visit spain, france, and italy. most of them did speak english so that was convenient. we also liked how the ATM’s had english as well (due to the British). everything was beautiful, but at the end of the day, I prefer to live in the good ole USA!

  3. I’ll guess that you guys did not visit Belgium or France. hahaha! 😀
    I love Europe and the old world feel. Everything feel more rooted and there are long history behind every corner.
    I would love to live in Italy or Greece for a year. Maybe I’ll put that on my bucket list.

    1. We actually did visit France and had a very good experience with people talking to us in English. However, about 14 years ago during my first visit to Paris I had a really bad experience. I guess the attitude towards English language has changed since then a little bit. At least I hope so. 🙂

  4. Yes, Europe is beautiful. It is mandatory to study at least two languages.

    Europeans love to communicate with people from other countries. English is mostly used. They like to travel and North American is one the most popular places.

    In general, Europeans are food conscious, although they love to eat well.
    In Italy, meal is fresh and light with lots of vegetables and fruits.

    Well, history and culture is everywhere. You can feel by just walking in the streets.

    Thank you for your post!

  5. I was in UK for a year. Entire Europe is quiet like my home country in terms of population density and cultural heritage. I liked been in UK and still miss that ambiance and the natural beauty of the famous British country. Your husband’s writing is not bad. Beaker we would love to get your ideas on personal finance. What are you doing to curb your wife’s spending habit?

    1. He is doing nothing! lol I did read him your comment out loud and this is his response: “I am doing all I can. She is doing much better but it is work-in-progress. She is trying… We will see.”

  6. Beaker, what you are describing I recognise; but it isn’t the UK. Churches are not very inteersting (protestantism you see; it gets you to conquer half the world but not frills); people speak only English (with few exceptions) and there are many obese people (still not as big as I have seen in the US but not far). As to the rest – they speak English out of necessity and pop culture.

    There was time in Bulgaria when people spoke German (for business) and French (for fun). Now everyone speaks English – I think it is hard to convince young people to read Hegel in original but they want to understand what Eminem is saying.

    1. Neither Beaker nor I ever been to the UK. It is definitely on our list. But not yet. However, we travelled quite a bit in the Eastern Europe. And it is very seldom that we can see someone obese there. Your point about Eminem is very true. Sadly. 🙂

  7. Funny that you mention the size of people.
    When I’m in the airport on the way home back the US, I know that I’m heading to the right boarding gate when I see herds of wide-loads going the same direction. My peeps!

    1. Haha! You comment about our people size just cracked me up. We just need to move more and eat less and we all blend in just fine.

  8. Interesting ending (“You can’t compare a seed to a full grown flower.”) I think the thin part has more to do with transportation options too. When I’m in any big city with real transit options (whether it’s New York or Paris) I always lose weight even though I eat way more than I ever would while at home. That’s because I walk a TON — to and from the subway/bus/combination of the two + other quick walks to pick up stuff that we need.

    1. I used to go everywhere when I lived in Europe. Now, I drive and barely move. Actually, it is not a good feeling at all. Now, I am taking public transportation to work and I love it. Forces me to walk and even jog a little if I am late. 🙂

  9. I’ve traveled to Europe a few times in my life, and I was struck by how some fellow American tourists were just clueless there.

    One woman, maybe college age, stormed off in anger at a train station because a cashier didn’t understand English very well. The woman said to herself, as she walked away, “Who in this world CAN’T even speak English??” Clearly, she was clueless

    Another group of tourists, in their 50’s and from the midwest (l’m from the midwest, I might add), wore golf shorts and shirts in Paris on the Metro. Uh, people there just don’t do that. Plus, they were wondering what was wrong with the “foreigners” for wearing pants in the middle of the summer.

    I’ve also noticed that there were fewer people there with weight problems.

    I wouldn’t ever trade being an American for anything in the world, don’t get me wrong. I just think we can learn a couple things from others, just the same as they can learn from us.

    1. Yeah, golf shorts in Paris don’t look very well. As far as English… Paris is known for its refusal to speak English (for historical reasons.) But French do speak English (if they choose to!) 🙂

  10. I had a friend come back from Europe. She hated it. She says that the people there are so lazy. 4 day workweeks. 3 hour lunches. And you wonder why they’re going broke.
    Anyways, that’s just her opinion.

    1. LOL I think she was just jealous as we are all overworked here, in the states. Europeans do know how to manage their time effeciently. I’ll leave it at that.

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