By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville
Jun. 5, 2019: While I was doing research for my Memorial Day speech on what unites America as a nation, I also uncovered very fascinating facts about what makes us united in our difference from much of the rest of the developed world.
For good or for ill, we are indeed a breed apart, literally starting with the basics of date, time, and temperature.
Along with Belize, Cayman Islands, and Palau, we are the only nations left who register temperature on the Fahrenheit scale. We also promised that we would be on the metric system by 1980 but stayed with pints and quarts with Liberia and Myanmar, the other two holdouts.
Europeans write the date in the format day/month/year, unlike our month/day/year and we often consider a week commencing on Sunday while most of the world starts the new week on Monday. We also use a twelve-hour clock with needed AMs and PMs tacked on, while the rest of the world uses the International Standard 24-hour clock dating back to the Egyptians, which we only reserve for the military.
As to lifestyle differences, not surprisingly, Americans marry more and divorce more, and baby showers and bachelorette parties are considered odd customs around the world. When children arrive, Americans are truly perhaps the only people in the world who have taken the habit of using surnames as given names, and now even as first, not just middle, names.
As to education, schools and universities are free for the most part in Europe, with access to university considered a right. When they arrive at university, students have learned a foreign language – a compulsory requirement since elementary school. Most Europeans have a decent command of two to four languages.
In the job arena, Americans take the least amount of “time off” than any other country. As a result, and also taking into consideration that the EU is over twice as small as the U.S.A., Europeans travel considerably more than Americans inside or outside their own continent. Unlike Americans, they do not do it in their cars. Europeans tend to think that driving 100km is a long way, while, for us that’s an easy journey.
Compared to our European counterparts, we are more religious, and churchgoing is still popular here, while the practice in Europe has almost entirely disappeared, save for the elderly and special events such as Christmas.
Almost all Europeans have cars with manual gears, compared to our preference for automatic ones in cars that are larger and squarer, with an appreciation for limousines and pick-up trucks.
By contrast, Europeans like smaller, rounder cars, quite possibly because small cars are easier to park in tightly packed historical towns where parking garages are anathema. As to bumper stickers on their cars, they are considered an interesting American phenomenon. In Europe, usage is virtually limited to a discreet “baby on board” or a regional flag. In a similar vein, giant billboards on highways in Europe are not only absent but illegal in many countries as considered too distracting. When you get home after parking street side, most of the world leaves their shoes at the door. Clearly on a hygienic and even logical basis, they are way ahead of us. I can’t imagine nor want to think of what we bring home after a day in NYC!
As to politics, Europeans are more liberal regarding soft drugs, prostitution, alcohol, and abortion. In contrast, Americans grant greater freedom when it concerns gun possession and driving a car, vs the European norm, which is 18 for the earliest license. As a result, while the U.S. is home to less than five percent of the world’s population, we have between 40 and 50% of civilian-owned guns.
Patriotism as a concept is very American born. We are unique in playing the national anthem at virtually every sporting event and flying flags on front porches.
In a very curious departure, it is prohibited in most of Europe for military people or anyone with a professional military history to be a politician.
As to our eating habits, we could emulate most of the world, as they eat more varied and balanced meals, less fat, and more yogurt. We consume, as a country, sweeter food and more soft drinks than virtually any other nation. We are also drowning in an abundance of consumption of high fructose corn syrup vs cane sugar, a sweetener more common worldwide.
We eat all of this much earlier than the rest of the world, where on average others eat between 8:00 and 10:30 pm (not sure they are getting up making the 6:40 am express train?!).
In the world of head-scratchers, most of the world does not understand why we eat pizza via hand vs using a knife and fork. (Little did we know when Mayor DiBlasio was ridiculed at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, he was actually Continental.)
And in a humorous finale, Europeans just don’t get why our public toilets have inch-wide gaps around the door, and they are extremely uncomfortable watching others walking by while in a stall.
Again, just more reasons to celebrate our differences and our commonalities.
Pictured here: Mayor Mary Marvin
Photo by N. Bower
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