1. Ice Cubes – If nothing refreshes Europeans more on a humid, 85-degree day than a flat, lukewarm glass of Coke, by all means, they should drink it. We differ on many things, and I don’t begrudge them Peugeots, why would I take issue with their soft drink temperature? But I feel that it is simple human decency to, when I respectfully ask for a few more cubes than the two you put in (that pitifully melt within the first fifteen seconds) not look at me as though I just took a swing at your daughter and yelled, “If it wasn’t for us, you’d all be speaking German!” I know it makes me tragically American to like my drinks slightly below room temperature, but I don’t think it makes me a bad person. And I know it is certainly not a moral opposition, as I have seen your nightclubs and more popular bars, and I have never seen so much crushed ice packed into a glass as you do with your more expensive cocktails. You have no problems with ice cubes, you just don’t like the American tourists getting their Orangina cold. Maybe we should just start ordering every drink with a shot of vodka, then we’ll be assured that our glasses will all be filled to the brim with cold, refreshing ice.
2. Air Conditioning – I know that Americans have an overly sanitary, counter-intuitive, often health-compromising relationship with maintaining an interior temperature of a constant 55 degrees. It spreads colds like a game of telephone, it uses up a ton of energy, and it weakens our immune systems. I know that we could all stand, Stateside, to just crack a window every now and then. However, there is a time and a place to employ the human achievement of being able to manipulate the climate within a building, and that place and time is bars. I’m sorry, but whether it’s a pulsating, expansive nightclub or a seedy dive on a nondescript corner, any place that is full of sweaty, aggressive, drunk, dry-humping strangers should be at least slightly chilled. If nothing else, some serious ventilation should be employed to keep the room from filling with the sticky, unpleasant fog of perspiration and pheromones. If your building predates democracy and climate control is not an option, perhaps you should consider re-purposing it. A tea salon is much more bearable at 82 degrees than a place where people are tearfully vomiting in the bathrooms.
3. Humane Public Restrooms – Speaking of bathrooms, this may be the issue on which Europe needs most desperately to get its proverbial stuff together. How many of you travelers out there have encountered this scene: Politely asking the waiter where the bathroom is located, being met with a grunt and a vague gesture towards daunting, incredibly steep circular stairs, going down to explore and returning to say, still politely if a bit more urgently, “I’m sorry, you seem to have directed me to a door-less cave room with a tiled hole in the floor.” Well, of course, you’d never say that (it would take courage of the most improbable order to actually complain to a European waiter about the building layout), but you have probably seen what the Europeans so delicately refer to as a “Turkish Toilet.” (If that is not the most euphemistic phrasing I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is). Or perhaps, if you have been lucky enough to avoid those, you have, as a woman, walked into a public bathroom to be greeted by a group of drunk, chatty men relieving themselves simultaneously in a trough-style urinal, like some vulgar Greek chorus of watersports. No door, no warning, no “Ladies, you might want to head in this direction —>.” Nothing. Just a waiting area that happens to be two feet away from men taking the most loud, copious group pee they’ve ever taken. Whether it’s these two aforementioned affronts to civilization or simply the seat-less, lid-less, back-less toilet bowl in a nondescript room that looks as though it’s suffered two rather aggressive military occupations since last being cleaned, Europe clearly does not take its bathrooms universally seriously. There are exceptions to this rule of course, but what there isn’t (which is sorely needed) is a sign on the doors of certain bars and restaurants that one can “Enter, drink to your heart’s content, just remember–the second you have to go to the bathroom, it will be a test of your limberness, savvy, and dignity.”
4. McDonald’s and Starbucks – I’m not going to pretend that I’m necessarily proud of the fact that we as a country have a tendency to spread these kinds of establishments around the world like fattening STDs, but I’m also not going to apologize for them on principle as Europeans seem to want me to do. There is no way they can assert that it is just tourists making these places wickedly popular; Europeans like Double Cheeseburgers and Frappucinos as much as the next person, and they should, because they were terrifyingly genetically engineered to be delicious. Just stop pretending to be so cool and above these kinds of things and acting like America personally stabbed you in the chest when a McD’s opened up on the Champs-Elysees – you people are keeping them in business as much as anyone else is. Perhaps if it wasn’t the only place in most major European cities you can get a glass of Coke in a restaurant for under 5 Euro, there would be more of a sense of friendly competition. You love your chicken nuggets and chai tea lattes. Own it.
5. Occasionally Covering Up Chest Hair – I’m not going to claim any kind of high ground on fashion, I have no real concept of what is “cool” when it comes to how we dress, I can only speak on aesthetic grounds. And one thing that I cannot comprehend when it comes to men’s clothing is the deep V neck. The deep V, whether in T-shirt, sweater (that seems counter-productive), or button-down form, is the male equivalent of extreme cleavage but without the eye-catching breasts. Especially when paired with an open jacket, skinny jeans, shiny loafers and a necklace (an outfit they no doubt issue to every European man at puberty), it just seems so incredibly… vulgar. It just oozes, “Hello, ladies,” in the most unsettling way possible. Put some reflective Ray-Ban aviators on and you have every man you’ve ever avoided in a club. If you are facing away diagonally and I can see directly under your shirt and count your ribs, that just seems to be defeating the ostensible purpose of wearing one in the first place. While they’re all more or less guilty of this, it is without a doubt the Italians who have taken it to a mind-blowing new level. When I first got here, one of my friends taught me a game that she promised I would never be able to win: “Gay or Italian?” Try it the next time you’re here, you never will either.