7 Things America Should Borrow From Europe

There are so many wonderful things about moving to a new part of the world, so much to learn from and make your own. And though the immigration process is a constant uphill battle pushing a 10-ton stone made of paperwork, it’s worth it (for me, at least) to live on such an undeniably wonderful continent. I love it so much, in fact, that I would love to one day be a diplomat between my home and adoptive lands — if such a profession didn’t require all kinds of college and not saying “f-ck” all the time. For now, I’ll just have to convince everyone of a few things we could take from the continent that, if viewed from the side, is shaped like Zoidberg.

1. Kinder products

So basically, there is this company called Ferrero SpA, and they make Nutella and Ferrero Rochers, which already clearly makes them a shoe-in for the Nobel Peace Prize. However, they are not the kind of company that rests on their laurels, so they also produce a line of all different kinds of chocolate confections that pretty much just laugh in the face of all other candy bars. Remember the Wonder Ball? The lame little orbs of mediocre chocolate filled with some lackluster Tarzan stickers? Yeah, the Kinder Surprise sees that candy at dinner parties and laughs derisively in its face. It’s an egg of creamy chocolate filled with consistently kooky objects you get to build yourself and then play with all afternoon. And I would consider investing in some international shipping if you have not yet seen the face of God in chocolate form, also known as the Kinder Bueno. They are little pillows made of crisp vanilla wafer, filled with hazelnut cream, and covered in light milk chocolate. It’s basically tiny clouds of joy exploding in your mouth. Frankly, the more I think about generations of children growing up in America without Kinder products, the more sad I get for our collective future. We owe this to ourselves.

2. Super snazzily dressed old men

Is there anything more girlish-giggle inducing than seeing a distinguished older gentleman with his coiffed grey hair, trim physique, and perfectly tailored suit biking around in the afternoon to do some errands? Maybe when his bright purple socks match his paisley pocket square, and his tortoise-shell glasses perfectly frame his face. Everything about zestily put-together old men is awesome, mostly because it still seems a bit whimsical to me. There is something so nostalgic about it, despite me never having lived in a time or geographic location where retirees dressing like that was the norm. And if you ever catch them gathered together in a park on a sunny day, playing bocce ball and smoking pipes, your heart will literally explode from the twee. It’s like seeing a unicorn.

3. Crusty bread

Trust me, I am more than aware that extremely awesome bread can be found in America. With a little snooping around, and maybe a few extra bucks, you’re sure to find an artisan baker who really puts his all into his craft. Sadly, though, it’s far from being the norm — and the idea of a bakery on every corner that make an array of exquisite, exquisite carb products is unheard of. But despite my love for all things pastry (and it is a deep love), I think what is most sorely missed in the States is the appreciation for some crusty-ass bread with your meals. Bread should emit nothing less than a symphony of crackle crackle crackle when you squeeze it, and when you break it open, it should be nothing but chewy dough and big, swiss-cheesy holes. There should be a dusting of flour on the bottom, and you should be able to see the person who baked it for you just a few hours before. Think of the wonders it could do for any sandwich, any bowl of soup, any leftover sauce at the end of the meal. It essentially serves to level-up any food it goes with, or just be torn off and eaten by itself. Either way, life is just so much lamer without it.

4. Nude/topless beaches

Let me tell you that whatever image you may have of the nude Mediterranean beaches in your mind is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. You might think it’s filled with buxom twenty-something girls oiling themselves up and laying out to brown like rotisserie chickens, uninhibited by the constraints of the thong bikini they’d have to put on at the prude beach down the street. This is not the case. It is filled with potbellied, disconcertingly hairy men wearing nothing but a necklace, and women whose breasts — after 50 years in direct sunlight — start to resemble leather wind socks on a still, quiet day. It’s not sexy. But you know what it is? It’s refreshing. It’s cool. It’s nice to see that people are comfortable with each others’ naked bodies, and there’s no need to get freaked out just because someone wants their nipples as tan as their stomachs. Though most of the people are definitely not there to be ogled or shot by paparazzi lurking in the bushes, they’re there to be themselves and enjoy a hot summer day the way they want to. I think we could all use a little bit more of that in our lives.

5. Long lunches

30 minutes for lunch seems like the stuff of torture now. If your work lunch isn’t between 1 and 2 hours, and enjoyed with a good meal and a glass or two of nice wine, you are missing the hell out. Sure, you might have to stay at work a little longer in the evenings, but you get to be out and about in the middle of the afternoon to enjoy the weather, stretch your legs, and focus on something other than work for a decent chunk of time. When you go back, it’s like you’re a new person (unless you overindulged on the drink, and then you just want to find a sunny spot on the floor and take a two-hour nap). There are few things more satisfying, or refreshing, than being able to meet someone who works in a completely different office in another part of the city for a nice meal somewhere in the middle, get to enjoy each others’ company, and not have to stress about getting back in 45 minutes. Sure, you can’t do it every single day, but especially when the weather is nice, it’s a nothing short of a phenomenon. You go outside between 12 and 2 and every cafe and restaurant has a terrace full of people in business casual who look like they just got shot with a tranquilizer dart, smiling and sipping their drink as they talk about something unimportant. I think they should use that image on all EU passports from now on.

6. More bloop-bloop five-note electronic music

Just kidding. David Guetta, Bob Sinclair, Martin Solveig — and all others like them — should move to a remote island and make music for themselves. Just drop them off and tell them they’re doing another Flo Rida remix or something and then leave them there. (By the way, is it some kind of unwritten law that all Eurotrash producers have to be nerdy-looking 40-year-old white dudes with stringy hair who just awkwardly bob to their music at concerts? They all kind of look like middle school math teachers.)

7. Butchers, cheese shops, fishmongers, and other kinds of markets

I’m not the biggest fan of shopping for clothes, home furnishings, or even jewelry. It’s nice, sure, and aesthetically pleasing — but can I take a bite of it to see if I like it as I make my decisions? Not to my knowledge. No, I prefer the kind of shopping where you are enticed on all sides by incredible smells and men in bloody aprons yelling at you to come and check out their products. How is it not so much more satisfying to do your shopping in little bits and pieces (when you have the time, of course), getting the best of everything and going through someone who is passionate about what they do? Until you’ve had someone slice off a piece of tear-inducingly pungent cheese and insist you taste it before you continue browsing, only to fall so in love with the cheese you wonder how many other vaguely poop-scented food products will turn out to be incredible, you haven’t fully lived. You’ll never want any other kind of chicken, once you have an old lady take one off a hot spit over an open flame and package it up with a little container of all the juices and spices that dripped off of it as it cooked. Any other kind of shopping will seem like a sick joke compared to the kind where everything can be stuffed in your face when you get home. You just probably shouldn’t do it high, it would be terrifying. TC mark

image – Rock Cohen

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • http://twitter.com/emilcDC Emil Caillaux

    Preempting all the “if you don’t like American stuff, you should move to Europe!” by warning you she already is over there, folks.

    I like that all odd-numbered points are food related.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tim.turnquist Tim Turnquist

      Just how many of these responses do you think you’ll see here?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=825630453 Lauren Doster Magruder

    I second the Kinder sentiment… I lived on Happy Hippos in Germany. 

  • Charlene

    Have you ever had kinder surprise? It’s the best thing ever. I don’t know if they have it there though, I live in Canada.

  • Guest

    You might like to know that Kinder products (both the egg and Kinder Bueno) are available in Canada. So if you have any Canuck friends, get them to send you a care package! Around holidays like Christmas and Easter there are super sized ones, a bit larger than a soft ball, that come with super sized toys inside them. 

    • CanadaEh

      We have those in Canada, too. Awwwwwwwwyeaaaaaaaah.

      • LoveChina

        Lol thought you said Europe I’M HUNGOVER WEEEE

  • anon

    the Kinder Egg is illegal in the United States.
    after finding that out I knew freedom in this country is a lie.

    • Kirstie

       And you can get arrested for smuggling one into the U.S.

  • http://twitter.com/spoustaj Josef

    How is Eurovision not on this list? Everyone knows it’s the perfect amount of schtick we need in America. 

  • bee

    trademark fagan article
    i live in paris! woo! amazing!

  • Eleanor Ro

    Boxing Day!

  • Anonymous

    You haven’t visited England have you?

    • http://twitter.com/iamthe0nly Jordana Bevan

      1. kinder AND aero
      2. beer bellied giggly men
      3. fry up
      4. nude/topless beaches while on holiday
      5. brief lunches with heavy drinking
      6. rizzle kicks
      7. pubs pubs pubs

      • Anonymous

        Novelty wears off. (Except for the Aero)

  • Hyperwink

    Yes Yes Yes.  To all of it!  But you forgot to mention that the little old ladies are just as sharply dressed as the little old men.  There is nothing like seeing a 90 year Spanish lady shuffling down the street in a perfectly cut coat, beautiful heels, a perfect hat and fishnet stockings.

  • guest

    Working for a coeliac Swiss family was a serious drag bread wise. The village boulangerie was so inviting. 

  • Dani

    ^^I was going to get all offended and tell you to get out of my country for fun, but my game was ruined. Instead I’ll just high-five you for the long lunches part , and then cry a little that you didn’t just list “men” in general. -Dani

  • Nishant

    About the electronic music, if you’re really looking to strike gold, head up to Belgium this July for Tomorrowland 2012. Your mind will be blown.

  • Josh Gondelman

    I like your food points. But why you gotta be making fun of math-teacher looking guys, Chelsea?

    • Anonymous

      The day you grow out near-chin-length stringy, sparse hair and try to coiffe all six of them to one side so as to not appear 45 like they do, we will have words. You look more English-teacher-y, anyway.

  • Meera Shah

    god, i miss france.

  • http://twitter.com/geology_rocks Haley F

    You can get Bueno in America. Most of the delis in NYC have them. But I agree that chocolate overall is far superior in Europe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/t.jason.ham Jason Ham

    I miss prices with the tax already added… but that’s more of a ‘random countries abroad’ thing rather than a Europe thing.

    Someone needs to make dark chocolate kinders. I hate the regular kind. Way too sweet. A considerable portion of people over 21 around here will open a kinder, take the toy and give the chocolate to a 4 year old who can actually consume that much sugar.

    I’ve slowly given up on them though. The toys are not as cool as they were when I was a lad.

  • Oliver Miller

    Kinder Eggs; best thing ever.  For some reason, you can get everything around where I live that’s Kinder EXCEPT the Eggs with the toys, arrgh.

  • Canadialand

    There’s Kinder Surprise and Bueno in every corner store in Canada.

    • True!

      Actually, all these things are just describing regular occurrences in large cities in Canada. Plus we have health care.

      • Andrew Rowland

        I’ve been to Canada for extended stays probably a dozen times. It has far more in common with small town America than it will ever have with Europe. Plus you have a native nation of drunks living off the Government there. Maybe they have that in Paris, i dunno.

      • Canadialand

        Spoken like a true American 

      • Theamazingmissbrendadeane

        You lot are similar to Aussies in my experience, we know how to eat drink and be merry!

      • http://www.facebook.com/t.jason.ham Jason Ham

        The suburban wasteland that I live in does not have a fishmonger or a “cheese shop” and if it weren’t for the overwhelming amount of Italians here, there wouldn’t be crusty bread, either. The Canada of today is anything but ideal; we’re just used to comparing ourselves to a country that (understandably) has a different idea of what a great country should be.

        @google-0aefac419e48b7cb2f89503db6c6407a:disqus  that’s quite a disappointing description of our First Nations people. Are the people you hang out with in Canada all conservative racist oilsands people or something?

      • Canadialand

        As I said “in large cities in Canada.” I totally agree more rural or suburban areas of Canada are lacking, and much more Americanized. 

  • Anonymous

    Last week I discovered that they sell Kinder Bueno Bars (God’s gift to Nutella lovers) at World Market. Although I’m not sure if World Market is solely a west coast operation but I’m sure there are equivalents nation wide. 

  • Anonymous

    Should be renamed 7 things america should borrow from FRANCE, not europe…
    It’s like thinking that all of the United States of America is like New York City.

  • Aaron

    what an un-vegan ‘thought’

  • Guest

    You’re on a roll with some thoughtless kinda crappy articles recently. I hope you’re saving up your good stuff for sometime soon.

  • Marcygh

    I agree completely. But not only for the “America” who everybody knows, but also for the entire continent (Middle and South)… I think men (northeuropean, mostly) can also be part of this list: they´re (most of them) nice, quite simple, direct and honest…

  • http://twitter.com/viki_rah viki edwards

    its true, americans can put a man on the moon but your bread is really poor

    • Guestropod

      OR DID WE?  

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