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Vive la Différence!

Brussels Belgium - Flickr

Most people in this country try are totally ignorant of how people outside of it live.  In fact according to this piece from a 2006 Denver Post, “Only about 23 percent of Americans own a passport, and only 10 percent of those actually leave the country.” That’s not very many and I am sure the figure now is much lower. It also does not even specify the destinations. This was not always the case. When the dollar was higher, there was significantly more travel and in the 1950s and 1960s when there was still a military draft, a lager number of service men and service women would be stationed in Germany or France of Greece or some other NATO country for their length in the military.

Also business travel was far greater then as well.

Here are a few thing I have gathered from those I know from overseas and off the internet that you might find interesting.

There are no Malls or Strip Malls or shopping centers in Europe.  Unlike here shops and stores are mostly in and around the larger metro areas. European cities are still the main centers of retail. There are some big box stores, but mostly near the biggest cities.

Single family houses are an exception in nearly all of Europe. Especially Holland (The Netherlands) and Denmark and Belgium where land is at a premium. Multi-family units they call Flats of Villas are pretty much the norm. What we call apartments or townhouses or condos or even duplexes.   Rent is also different and according to the sites I have seen more flexible as well. Most Germans and French also rent the homes. This is partly do to the banks being a lot more conservative about mortgages. But renting there is perfectly acceptable alternative. You generally do not find housing developments like we have here either.

They are also more energy conscious that we are. With recycling and the use of on demand hot water being common.

European cities tend to be more spread out that here so public transportation is a necessity since retail and housing and work are spread out as well.  The automobile built a good part of America where as Europe was already pretty much built before the auto arrived.  Public transport made more sense.

Living near one city and working in another, as well as commuting from France to Germany or Italy for holidays is common. Inter city rail makes more economic sense than flying for most Europeans. It was also the only way before aviation.

Supermarkets are rare and generally only in and around the bigger cities.  Unlike here where in some areas, like Florida, they seem to be everywhere. Shops for meat and bread and vegetables are more the norm.  Nothing like a Walgreens of CVS.   Drug stores are called apothecaries or chemists (in the UK) or pharmacies and that’s all they are.

In most of the European countries the “Safety Nets” so often cited were established just after WWII as part of the rebuilding process since nearly everything was in disarray. In Germany it goes back the the late 1800s.

We are far too isolated here in this country which would explain a lot of the parochial and antiquated attitudes.

 

Shopping malls are alive and well in Europe, as you can see from this list of Germany's (even though half the size of America's biggest, and thankfully strip malls seem to not have caught on):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_shopping_malls_in_Germany

Recycling as you note is much better in Europe - both from population density and EU regulations (such as paper, plastic, glass and multicontent bins within 4-5 blocks for major cities).

The Netherlands do have linked single family dwellings (rowhouses) outside the big cities, but they're much more modest and cozy than American suburbs, with lots of glass where they leave curtains open. Still narrower and higher, not a spread-out base, and of course with gardens.

Nevertheless, quite a bit of new housing in Europe is focused on expanded living space - not the size of Vienna Virginia, but large by Euro-standards as people want more room to store stuff and private rooms for kids, a garage, etc. Including cookie-cutter low-cost houses, some approaching "mini-Americas"

The size of Holland is tiny, with 10 million people, so advanced public transport especially along the Randstadt is economic. Some cities added metro relatively late - such as Prague around 1972 - while others like London had them much much earlier, with connections to local rail or "S-bahn" completing the commuting equation. Though you can see that it's only 8 metros in all France, 6 in Spain... and with eastern Europe, capitals only. Trams however have stayed popular in Europe and been expanded to light rail or elevated train.

This is likely because the city cores are *less* spread out than American cities - tram rides are convenient for up to 5 miles, a bit slow for distances larger. With parking in the inner city much more problematic (not many large parking garages ruining inner city architecture), there's incentive to use public.

Train times between cities can be very long, and train is relatively expensive, so cheap Airwings-like fares are often more attractive, though in countries with fast rail like France, the timing and hassle is much less for bullet train than going to the airport.

To me, this post seems to be describing the Europe of 1972 when I first went there.I beg to differ with much of what you say, as it has changed a great deal in the ensuing decades!

They have lots of supermarkets and lots of shopping malls and plenty of big box stores. Many are located off superhighways, like here, outside the city centers, like they are here.

In the city centers, which we call downtowns, just like here, there are often a few cheap supermarkets well hidden, but lots of fancy food purveyors.  If you're rich, and you have a city center apartment, you can shop for all of your food at those fancy boutique food shops, and play act just like it was in the olden days when you bought your bread at the baker and your meat at the butcher. But if you're not rich, you're going to want to find a supermarket, which when in the city center, is usually, hidden, like in Manhattan, but still there, a multi-storied affair or basement level affair with small frontage on the street, but a lot inside.

Just like here, their big box stores and shopping malls are not located in their downtowns They are located off the modern highways/expressways, like here. Unlike here, if you are a tourist, you might not see much of them, because you will be riding on the old highways "scenic" route that nobody who wants to get somewhere fast uses anymore.

Oh and yes they have also have drugstore chain stores now, like here, where you can buy all kinds of stuff, not just "chemist" goods, even in the city centers, like here, they come in handy if you are traveling and forget your stockings, cosmetics, electric converter, heating pad, hair dye, or want some pretzels, potato chips, candy or soda, nail clippers, paper plates or cups, etc.. Prescriptions (chemist) at the back, like here.

Here's France's supermarkets

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_supermarket_chains_in_France

Here's Germany's

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_supermarket_chains_in_Germany

Here's the UK's

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_supermarket_chains_in_the_United_Ki...

(In London, you can usually find a Tesco within walking distance of your hotel, they are allover the place, and if you hang with the locals for any length of time you will hear a Tesco-related joke or two. I'd definitely say it's a lot easier to find one there than it is to find a supermarket if you're staying in downtown Atlanta or Boston!)

Oh, and just to include the Netherlands, my supermarket chain in the Bronx, New York, Stop N' Shop (with a piddling 390 stores located around the Northeast,) is actually a tiny subsidiary of what is usually described as "Dutch food giant" Royal Ahold, which started as a grocery chain in the Netherlands in the early 20th century, and went public in 1948. It became the largest grocery chain in the Netherlands, expanded into liquor stores and health and beauty care stores in the 1970s. In 1973, the holding company changed its name to "Ahold." The company expanded internationally starting in the mid 1970s, eventually buying chains in Spain, the United States, and Portugal, and accelerating its acquisitions in the latter half of the 1990s in markets in Latin America, Central Europe, and Asia.

P.S. What we call a "big box store," or a superstore, nearly everyone else worldwide calls a Hypermarket. There's  a fairly extensive list of them at the link, worldwide. Learned something I didn't know from that wikipedia-entry-seems France, with its Carrefour hypermarts, was in advance of this trend, before the US, in the 60's

Another interesting thing is under the "Success" header, where it says in Japan (where I haven't visited,) they are often located in city centers because the government has encouraged that with subsidies.

There's also verification of what I and Peracles said above with this:

In France, hypermarkets are generally situated in shopping centers (French: centre commercial or centre d'achats) outside of cities, though some are present in the city center. They are surrounded by extensive parking lots, and generally by other specialized superstores that sell clothing, sports gear, automotive items, etc.

I did not say there were none, I said few. Not like here where they are nearly everywhere.  In Fl. where I used to live there were 3 Malls within 20 min drive of one another and 4 supermarkets within 4 blocks.

I had 3 Publix markets right close by.

And 5 strip malls in the same area.

For the Euro town I know best, I can think of 3 major malls in the center (3 floors), another 4 or 5 others spread out, several megastores (like Tesco), and then 3 shopping megacenters/supermalls on 3 spokes of town - all probably within a radius of 10-15 miles from city center.

For a much smaller US town, roughly 250,000, they had probably 3 decent size malls, plus numerous ugly strip malls, and then the early historical malls that were a bit rundown.

Regarding "drugstores", you do get Walgreen-type stores where you can buy everything from diapers to shampoo & deoderant to cosmetics to film development & some snacks - a few of them can handle prescriptions, but most of that is in apothecaries, only a few of which are 24-hours.

Chris,  if you don't mind,  I went to Europe in 74,  and I really was taken with the thing.

I was taken with all of it,  but that was where I wanted to be,  but I don't speak very good deuchce  or any other of them speaks,  I know that them can speeck good Enlish,  so well...  who do you think has the advantage pall...?

 All over the Earth today,  they all speak English...  but we don't speak a word of any of their many soon to be lost lanquages.  so in the mean time...  I guess oh..  I dunno,  maybe they who don't speecky the englishe,  maybe thems get to win some points.. yes?

I have to admit though that most of the malls I have been too both up here in Cleveland and in Fl. are pretty much dead. Resembling mausoleums more than shopping areas.

I know what your saying about the Europe scene,  it was way cool, when I went there in '74,  way more nice than here,  in some ways...  but  in other ways,  oh boy,  I was so happy to get back and drive on our wide roads...  in our full sized cars... and not all that hurly burly.  

I Loved Europe,  (and especially my beautiful girl freind,  who was prettier than any thing I could ever get in this place.  I was so happy to have the girl I wanted for a short time...  a real cute nordic. even if she was a fetter.

We are under some kind of bad ....   some bad...   We are not in the best of places as so far as what our folkes,  should be... no....  we are under pressure...  we as a people...

and ( no I don't subscribe to we as a "People" all that much mind you.. but what it is:  is that....  we as a people...  well just take a break and realize...  they ain't much left of what you could really call ... "We"  as a people...  and it will be getting more to the less as time moves on.

38% of Americans own passports, including 60% or more in Alaska, NY, Cal, NJersey, Massachusetts.

The number of Americans who have a passport, according to the most recent statistics issued by the State Department in January of 2012, is 117,014,020. Given the country’s population of 311,591,917, that means about 38% of the American population has a passport.

Reasons Americans might not own passports include they're $150 or so (so $600 for a family of 4), not needed for trips to Mexico and Canada and much of the Caribbean whereas costs in Europe much higher, and the US is quite a big place for travel (having done a number of cross-country trips, from canyonlands to snow peaks and off to the beach).

Many in Europe don't actually need passports as their I.D. cards are valid through the EU and Switzerland, possibly some non-EU Mediterranean holiday destinations.

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