What America is Lacking


To many places around the world, America has a reputation of being a diverse melting pot, a place with amazing opportunities, and being a country that embraces democracy and personal freedom. However, when it comes to foreigners’ perception of actual Americans, the tone shifts. Europeans specifically tend to think of Americans as loud, overly patriotic and proud, and generally falling behind in many different areas (these areas normally being the expenses of healthcare and college education). It may sound insignificant, but even something as trivial as a bidet can cause culture shock for foreigners.


If you live in America, you know that the cost of healthcare can be extremely expensive. Many injured people will try to avoid seeing a doctor for as long as they can, since they know it’ll make a significant dent in their bank account. The most popular solutions to this have been to change the tax system and to eliminate private insurance.


For most Europeans, this is hardly ever a topic that comes to mind. It’s not because they’re all rich and can pay for healthcare; it’s because healthcare is set at affordable prices that cater to the people, not big companies. Private insurance companies do still exist in these countries though, and most citizens are required to have private healthcare along with enrolling in public healthcare. For example in Switzerland, private insurance is compulsory for Swiss citizens. But, there are limits to how much the insurance company can charge, and the worry of doctors being in the network doesn’t exist. If there’s an emergency and they must see somebody out of network, it is still completely affordable, as most of it is covered by taxes. In other countries, it is 100% free as all of it is covered by (albeit expensive) taxes.


Another area where it seems like Americans are paying too much is college. Currently, student debt in the US is around $1.5 trillion. In Europe, student debt literally doesn’t exist. This is also because of their more advanced tax system. In places like Denmark, Germany, Estonia, and a few other EU countries, college is completely free to all EU citizens. I have a friend from Norway, who finds it ridiculous that we pay so much money to get an education. She considers her semester tuition on the higher side for Norwegians – a whopping $83 a semester. How could that ever be paid for?


Older generations in America literally do not believe that a college education is as expensive as current students say it is. They always suggest working and paying it off at the same time. This shows different things about the way Americans function and the way we think as a society. We love to appreciate the hustle. You work 3 jobs, are in college, are starting your own business on the side, have no time for yourself or others, all in the hopes to be a millionaire one day? Americans love that stuff. In Europe, not so much. They don’t believe that we are on this planet to work and get richer and richer and richer. Their mindset leans more towards living your life while it happens – they work less hours, get more required vacation time, get more maternal and paternal leave, and love to do what seems to us like nothing.


But really, what are Americans to do with so much vacation time? You could take a six hour flight and still be in the same country. In Europe, the proximity of other cultures, languages, and landscapes makes their vacation time worth it. Europe has low cost air carriers where you can fly to a whole different country and immerse yourself in a completely different cultural environment for well under $50. You live in Finland and have a three day weekend? Take a cheap trip to Spain! Not feeling Spain’s hot weather? Try Germany instead!


European countries are all close together, and this closeness isn’t limited to just the countries – European people don’t mind being closer as well. In America, everything is spread out. I used to live in Tennessee, and my backyard was nearly half an acre, which was standard for homes in the city. It’s not like I lived in the middle of nowhere, it’s just that American suburbs are built with the idea that more space must be better. But, this means that you’ll need a car to get around anywhere. This has lead to public transportation being underfunded and underdeveloped in most American cities. In Europe, public transportation is the opposite. People don’t mind having to take the subway or a bus to get to work or school and back home. Most people in Europe use and value the public transportation provided to them. They also try to walk as much as they can before having to use some other mode of transportation. In America, we drive. In Europe, they walk.


This walking being a part of their daily commute typically makes them healthier than us. And it’s not just their exercise – food in Europe is completely different than the food that’s served here. When you go to a restaurant in Europe, it may feel like they’ve barely put anything on your plate. That’s because they serve portion sizes that are only meant to satisfy our hunger, not make us full to the point where you feel like you need to unbutton your pants. Food quality is much different there as well, as it’s much fresher and more organic than in America. In fact, GMOs are nearly completely banned in many EU countries, including France and Germany. Just like our healthcare system, this is because the system is made to work for the people, not against them.


One of the main drawbacks when it comes to Americans’ perception of Europe is how costly it can be. Taxes are usually higher for people living in European countries, and this is one of the main things Americans point out when compared to Europe. For people living in those countries though, they hardly see taxes as an issue. They’ll take the high taxes in exchange for low cost healthcare and low cost college. Europe is also generally more expensive when it comes to food as well, but this is because almost everything is organic and served in real portion sizes. Another thing that’s usually much more expensive is gas and the upkeep of cars. Gas prices in Europe reach an average of $7 a gallon. But, distances are usually shorter and most people drive smaller cars that use less gas. It really just depends on your lifestyle and how much you’re willing to spend to fulfill it.


When it comes down to it, America does seem to be the country that’s really lacking when compared to EU countries. It all really depends on what you care about though – if you like your space, don’t really mind the rising prices of healthcare and college, and prefer the bigger portion sizes, America seems like the place for you. But if your health is your main concern, you want to live in a place where the tax system adequately gives back to you, and are interested in other cultures, then somewhere in the EU seems like a better fit.