Many of the founders of the United States came from a European background. As such, it isn’t surprising that there are many cultural similarities that the U.S. has with its European history. However, despite the many similarities between Europe and United States, America is not a country that is only European-centric. The U.S. has been a melting pot of various cultures, and has developed its own national identity that is uniquely suited to its cultural diversity and sprawling landscapes.
Even within the United States, there are countless cultural differences based on where you are within its borders. However, there are some core cultural differences between the United States and Europe that are worth noting if you plan to travel between the two…
Work to live or live to work?
There is a saying that Europeans work to live, whereas Americans live to work. The labor structures between the two areas highlights this fact. Americans routinely work 40 hours per week, which is much less common in Europe. On top of that, Europeans usually have an entire month of vacation time to use every year, which would be considered a ton of vacation time in the United States.
However, based on the size of the country, the United States has a remarkably high GDP per hour worked, at $68.3 compared to other countries. The four countries with higher GDP per hours have a combined employed population of less than 9 million, while the United States’ employed population is over 151 million. Whether the increased productivity of the American workforce is worth the tradeoff of personal time is up to your personal values, but it is a notable cultural difference between these regions.
A personal vehicle is a major puzzle piece in the idealist vision of the American Dream. More so than a white picket fence or a slice of apple pie, the freedom allotted by personal transportation is an American ideal. However, this ideal simply isn’t practical in most of Europe, where there is far less open space and towns run into each other without land in between. Because of this, public transportation is a lot more comprehensive in Europe, where it is a lot more feasible to get by without a car.
When it comes to the cars themselves, there is a notable difference, as well. American-built vehicles tend to favor more of a muscle build that depend on torque to dig in and drive, whereas European vehicles favor a sports build.
There’s a bit of truth to the stereotype that Americans consume more. In the United States, portion sizes are considerably larger than they are in Europe. While your money can go a bit further in the United States, since you get more, this aspect has a considerable impact on public health. Do you know where you can buy a 64 oz. soda pop in Europe? Nowhere! That’s where! Because they don’t use ounces, dummy. They’re on the metric system. Does anything else need to be said about this?
In 2010, 51% of citizens in the European Union said that they believe there is a God. Even less of those are actively religious. Europe is quickly becoming one of the most secularized regions on the planet, aside from portions of eastern Asia. In the United States, on the other hand, roughly 80% of Americans believed in a God, as of 2012. To get an idea of how religion permeates each society, look at the politicians. In America, name dropping the Lord Almighty is part of an essential checklist, if you want to be politically successful in certain regions of the country. In Europe, however, it is very frowned upon to mix politics with religion.
While there are a lot of similar moral ideals that are shared between America and Europe, there are quite a few different subjects that each place puts a different value on. One major example of this is with sex and violence in media. In the United States, sexual content is considered the apex of impropriety in media. However, in Europe they are far less tolerant of onscreen violence. Socially, Europe tends to be a lot more liberal, as well. In the United States, there is definitely a stronger sense of traditionalism and moralism placed on issues like crime and addiction, whereas Europe tends to be more pragmatic about social issues.