[Originally published on Jan. 17, 2012]
Lifestyles and attitudes vary from country to country. My travels have left me with many observations.
A little background: My father was Canadian military, (of German descent). He met my mother when first stationed in Germany. They married and I was born there. Over the next 14 years, we moved back and forth between the two countries and explored much of Europe. My parents retired to California, U.S.A. and I also spent some time there, especially recently.
One of the biggest cultural differences between Europe and North America is attitudes towards nudity and sexuality. Most Europeans educate their children from an early age that this is perfectly natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Nudity is fairly commonplace; on the beaches, in newspapers and magazines and on television. Nobody gives it a second thought.
The United States on the other hand, having been founded by Puritans way back when, seems to have a real problem with it. Not only is it considered “shocking” and “inappropriate”, but virginity is regarded as a “prize” by many, to only be given in marriage. I think it is because of these taboos that they have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world. Forbidden fruit tastes best. Canada falls somewhere in between. Where I live, it is legal for women to go topless in public, but, most don’t take advantage of the privilege. “Too sad”, say the men! Does anyone remember the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl a few years back?
The American press discussed this ad nauseum for weeks, (and some STILL talk about it, LOL), whereas we here in Canada were scratching our heads and wondering what the big deal was. This overreaction surely must have met with ridicule in Europe. Ironic, that showing someone getting bludgeoned or shot to death is no big deal, but, that’s another topic altogether……
These same attitudes apply to alcohol. Considered a normal part of European culture, but again, “forbidden fruit” to North Americans until they reach legal drinking age. This leads to overuse and abuse, in my opinion. Not to say that everyone in Europe drinks responsibly, of course, but, it certainly is more prevalent.
America IS the land of opportunity and when it comes to shopping, the selection is infinite! Stores are almost always open, including most holidays. Endless varieties of everything abound. They also have wonderful catalogues, especially for clothing.
This is something I really enjoy, because in Canada, we have less choice and our stores are on strict lock-down for holidays. We didn’t even have Sunday shopping until 1992!
Worse again in Europe! When I was living in Germany, stores all closed at noon on Wednesdays and Saturdays and were NEVER open on Sundays. In Italy, stores shut down for lunchtime and siesta, noon to 4 pm. Ahhh, the Italians know how to enjoy life!
Vive la difference!