…except theirs is very different. As much as I loved Pulp Fiction, it is imminently clear that John Travolta’s unenlightened character was wrong about Europe, at least the parts I’ve been to. While I’m not exactly a jet-setting multimillionaire playboy, I’ve been in central europe for nine days several years ago and spent five days in London and another five in Iceland back in Octember (plus ten days in India last winter). And they got wholly different shit than what we got here.
- Well-built small cars. For the longest time, all you could get in the US as far as small cars were shitboxes like Ford Tempos (which had a nasty habit of catching on fire). Over there? Hell, they can get all manner of amazingly well-built small cars. Things are getting better on this side of the Atlantic but they’re nowhere near the amazing selection and variety they’ve got. I’m on the prowl for a different, more fuel-efficient vehicle. They’re barely meeting my demands over here.
- Anti-climb paint. It looks like black, tarry oatmeal that you paint on stuff you don’t want getting climbed. Brilliantly simple. Never heard of it until we were in the hotel, sucking back cans of lager and watching too much BBC 4. Apparently it contains a bunch of slippery shit (banana peels, goose shit, vaseline) that is also very tacky, so it sticks to the surface you paint it on and to the would-be climber, but doesn’t allow them to get a good grip.
- Bizarre drinking laws. I’ve been told it is recently no longer the case, but while we were there, pubs closed at 2300. Being used to Chicago-style drinking, where one doesn’t even venture out until 2200 but can remain out as late as 0500, just won’t cut it there. We befriended some punters in a Highgate pub (a nice change from central London) and apparently the way they do things is to hit the pub straight from work, eat there (or get a curry takeaway) for dinner and stay there until last call. You still get in five hard hours of drinking but can still get home by midnight. How… sensible.
I could probably go on for hours about other shit (widely available and inexpensive GSM cell service, crazy savory breakfasts standard, indian takeaways on every corner, drinking in public or on the tube) but you really gotta experience it first hand. Is it any better? In some ways yes, in some ways no. What really matters is that it is different and perhaps helps you get a different perspective on things.