Interview With A First-Time Backpacker: The U.S. Vs Europe

My sister Jennifer decided she was ready to travel for more than a week at a time. This past July, she quit her job, subleased her apartment and put her car in storage to embark on four month backpacking trip. 

In her first month of travel, she, Kimberly and I visited Italy, Greece, Istanbul, and Basque Country together, and after we left she went on to see Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, England and Croatia. 

While we were with her, she pointed out differences between the U.S. And Europe that Kimberly and I had long forgotten. Things that we no longer took a second look at, Jennifer observed some interesting customs and brought them to our attention. 

She tells me, “the U.S. is so different depending where you travel” but that in general, based on her experience traveling in both places there are obvious differences between the two. 

Intrigued by her observations, i interviewed her. Her top four differences are listed below:

  • A More Relaxed Attitude 

Jennifer noticed that no one seemed to be in such a big rush or stressed out so much. In restaurants, Europe seemed to have slower service. She explains that at a casual sit-down dinner in Paris with her friends Kristen, Courtney and Kelly, “we weren’t greeted until 15 minutes after we got there and the food took twice as long as it would have in the U.S. The waiter didn’t check on us either.”

  • The Food Quality 

Compared to restaurant experiences in the U.S., she sees the food served in Europe as made with fresher ingredients, not as processed, and much smaller portions. Whereas in the U.S. “they give you a heaping mound of French fries” with each dish, European plates were smaller. The menus in Europe would indicate that they only serve local produce and locally caught seafood. She also notes that for salad dressings, restaurants “gave you olive oil, lemon and balsamic vinegar, and the sauces appeared to be prepared more simply. In the U.S., most food is cooked in heavy oils and sauces.”

  • A Greater World Knowledge 

When she was speaking to a group of backpackers from around the world in Budapest, she was shocked by how much people knew U.S. politics and social policies. This was an occurrence that was repeated throughout her trip. She says, “I don’t know anything about the candidates in elections in other countries.” Beyond political knowledge, she was impressed by people’s grip on the English language. In our hostel in Rome, people from all continents sat around the kitchen table and conversed in English on topics relating to the U.S. 

  • Family-Friendly Atmosphere

All over Europe, humans ranging from babies to grandparents were all together in public at all hours. This is a striking difference from the age segregation we experienced growing up in Indiana. In Massa Lubrense, Italy, the local outdoor concert playing traditional Napoli music was attended by all ages, as were the wild and heavily alcohol based day-long Bilbao fiestas in late August. 

Are you from a European country and recently traveled to the U.S., or are you from the U.S. and recently traveled to Europe? Do you agree with this list? What are some differences you noticed?

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