why I can’t live in Europe

This is a repost from 2009. Having travelled Europe extensively in 2018 and 2019, my opinion is unchanged. 

Too much second hand smoke, too few toilets. 

I should live in Europe.

The trains are fantastic. There are dedicated bike trails everywhere. It’s easy to live without a car.

But I can’t live in Europe. 

  • It’s OLD
  • It’s EXPENSIVE
  • Banker’s Hours
  • People aren’t friendly
  • Smokers

=== It’s OLD

No need to visit the potentially gorgeous Sagrada Família in Barcelona. There are no plans to remove the scaffolding until at least 2026.

308565295_452c4ee086_b

I’m not sure how they ever made postcards of the great monuments of Europe. Photoshop?

Most are under construction. Constantly.

=== It’s EXPENSIVE

broke-guyA sample of prices from December 2007:

Gallon of unleaded gas: $8.08
Gallon of bio diesel: $6.06
Wireless Internet: $6 for 30 minutes, $32 for 24 hours
Vienna public transport, 24-hours: $8.40
Berlin public transport, 24-hours: $8.97
Seat reservation, Brussels-Frankfurt train: $4.41
Overnight parking, Hotel Helvetia, Lindau, Germany: $14.40
Leopold Museum, Vienna: $10.30

see more

I recently heard that a basic hotel room in urban Finland costs US$400 / night.

There are very few pressures to bring prices down in Western and Northern European countries. You need a HUGE salary to afford to live there.

=== Banker’s Hours

Recall when the only reason we hated bankers was that they worked only 10:15AM-11:45AM. And 2:15AM- 3:45PM ??

Most businesses in Southern Europe still close in the middle of the day. Many are required to close by government legislation.

Shop keeps sometimes seem disappointed if you find their store open.

sorry-we-are-open

I’m surpised any commerce happens at all.

The tradition of siesta may have worked well in the small village decades past (when wives were stay at home chattel) but it’s bloody inconvenient in 2009. Especially for a tourist.

In the Dolomites of Northern Italy they have incredibly helpful tourist information kiosks. But they close from Noon Saturday until Monday morning. … The majority of tourists arrive by train from big cities further south, about Noon on Saturday.

In Andorra la Vella, the only city in the country of Andorra, none of the internet cafes were open on a Saturday morning. Not even 24 Hour Internet. (I did them the service of removing their “OPEN” sign. But my Swiss Army knife did not have the power tools required to remove the 24 Hour Internet sign.)

=== People aren’t friendly

Picture an arrogant, rude European.

disdainful

That’s my preconception.

But when I finally found, in the summer of 2009, an arrogant French bus driver, I couldn’t stop laughing.

As he chastised me, the ignorant, smelly American tourist, I couldn’t help chuckling at his stereotype manner and accent. He seemed to me a Hollywood comic actor spoofing the role with a phoney accent.

Ever since I saw the wonderful 1967 Sidney Portier film, To Sir, with Love, I’ve had another bias … A disgust with the British class system.

Even today I picture a subculture of profane skin head soccer louts. And uncouth, unwed teen mothers. Spending their meager dole at the pub rather than at the dentist.

I did see them in Scottish pubs. But sucking fags outside the door of the pub. Smoking in restaurants and bars was banned in the United Kingdom July 2007. Thank God.

Infants and children are allowed in pubs, however. Drunks care for them while Mom and/or Dad step out for another smoke.

… To be fair, I was very surprised how friendly the Scots were to me, another dumb tourist. Far more friendly than any of the other 5 Western European countries I visited.

=== Smokers

The single biggest reason I could not live in Europe.

They are shameless. Unrepentant. Totally oblivious to others.

The phrase “second hand smoke” has never yet been translated into Italian.

They smoke indoors and out. I could not enter any cafe or restaurant. In fact, a guy lit up in the airport restaurant in Bilbao, Spain. There were no signs saying he couldn’t.

Worst of all, it was clear to me that smoking is still cool, in Europe.

smoker-cafe

I can’t live in Europe.

It’s uncivilized.

Apple should reinvent Higher Education

Apple has tons of cash on hand. Is looking to revolutionize future products and services.

Professor Scott Galloway:

I teach 120 kids on Tuesday nights in my Brand Strategy course. That’s $720K, or $60K per class, in tuition payments, a lot of it financed with debt. I’m good at what I do, but walking in each night I remind myself we (NYU) are charging kids $500/minute for me and a projector. This. Is. Fucking. Ridiculous. …

Apple could change this. With a brand rooted in education, and a cash hoard to purchase Khan Academy’s and physical campuses (the future of education will be a mix of off- and on-line), Apple could break the cartel that masquerades as a social good but is really a caste system.

The focus should be creativity — design, humanities, art, journalism, etc. As the world rushes to STEM, the future belongs to the creative class, who can envision form, function, and people as something more — beautiful and inspiring. …

No Mercy. No Malice. (2017)

The Four by Scott Galloway

Four American companies have totally changed our lives.

Apple
Amazon
Google
Facebook

I use all four non-stop. Fantastic innovation.

Needless to say, there are downsides. Google no longer uses the mantra “don’t be evil”. They dropped it in 2018.

Scott Galloway has replaced Leo Laporte as my main tech guru. I just finished his book …

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (2017)

It’s great, but you can get a good summary by reading Galloway’s article in Esquire:

Silicon Valley’s Tax-Avoiding, Job-Killing, Soul-Sucking Machine (2018)

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

Needless to say, I was attracted to this book because of my own philosophy of Voluntary Simplicity.

Less is more.

Cait was quite a normal person. In debt, like normal people. Her life cluttered with possessions she never used, like normal people.

How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store

When Cait Flanders was in her early 20s, she found herself $23,000 in consumer debt. In order to turn her life around — and get out of debt — she set out on a mission to address some of the root causes of her over-consumption.

Flanders’ memoir, The Year of Less, documents how through a self-imposed shopping ban, cutting back on eating out and drinking and de-cluttering her life, she rediscovered happiness, health and financial security.

In her own words, Flanders explains how she changed her life and wrote The Year of Less. …

CBC

Amazon

Are you buying meatless meat?

Cows belch methane. They are a bigger environmental problem than pigs or chicken for that reason.

Personally I’m trying to eat less beef.  When the meatless meat came along, I rushed to try as many of those products as possible. There are two main companies out of the USA, so far.

      1. Beyond Meat
      2. Impossible Foods

So far I’m not buying their products in preference to meat. The meatless meats I’ve tried are equally good or worse, are more expensive, and are not much more healthy.

I’ll keep trying. Both companies are still changing their products to better compete. Both are now very well funded. I’d love to switch to plant-based alternatives if it was worth it for me.

If you want to know more, the best source I’ve found is the Freakonomics podcast:

The Future of Meat (Ep. 367)

Global demand for beef, chicken, and pork continues to rise. So do concerns about environmental and other costs …

The average American consumes roughly 200 pounds of meat a year. …

The meat industry is massive and complicated — and often heavily subsidized. …

The agricultural historian James McWilliams, in a book called Just Food, argues that “every environmental problem related to contemporary agriculture … ends up having its deepest roots in meat production: monocropping, excessive applications of nitrogen fertilizer, addiction to insecticides, rain-forest depletion, land degradation, topsoil runoff, declining water supplies, even global warming — all these problems would be considerably less severe” if people ate meat “rarely, if ever.” …

The United States Cattlemen’s Association welcomes the competition. More food choices are good for consumers. But they want to be sure that labeling is accurate; that  “beef” or “meat” means the product came from a walking, belching cow.

They note that Almond milk is not milk. It should be called Almond beverage.

 

The Rooster Bar by Grisham

Rooster Bar (2017) is the 25th legal thriller novel by John Grisham.

Grisham was inspired to create the story after reading an article entitled “The Law-School Scam” that appeared in The Atlantic magazine in 2014. …

I continue to be impressed with Grisham. He’s getting better as an author.

This entertaining and unpredictable plot touches on many current topics including:

  • Law School diploma mills
  • American student debt
  • Medical malpractice
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Corruption in Sengal

In the novel the fictional law school is based on REAL for profits like the Florida Coastal School of Law, part of the InfiLaw System of law schools owned by Sterling Partners.

Florida Coastal is ranked in the bottom 25% of U.S. law schools. About 35% of graduates — most with student debt of about $200k — found full-time long-term jobs practicing law within nine months of graduation.

Students should be very wary of signing on with InfiLaw.

Amazon

related – “The Law-School Scam,” by Paul Campos