WanderingJustin.com

True or False: Europhobia in America

europhobia

Americans are reluctant to go abroad, but many of them are happy to overspend on a sanitized, ersatz facsimile of the world. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a really interesting thread on the Quora website right now. Someone asked “Is it true that Americans don’t travel to Europe because there is Europhobia in America?

The answers all add up to a definite “no.” There’s a great synopsis at the top of the thread that brings up the main points of why it might seem that way:

*Europe is far away, and expensive to take a family to

* America is huge, with many sites to see within driving distance

* Europeans speak many languages which may deter many Americans from visiting.

* Some Americans are afraid to fly long distances

* Americans get less vacation than Europeans, and given the travel time, a trip to Europe would be effectively  “too short” to reap the benefits of taking a holiday at all.

Let’s take a look at these reasons and their effect on the perception of Europhobia.

Europhobia

I don’t have much art for this post, so you get this ludicrous dog I saw at a cafe in Vietnam.

*Europe is far away, and expensive to take a family to.

This isn’t a reason. It’s an excuse. Compare nine days in Europe next to nine days in Orlando drifting from theme park to theme park. It costs more to get to Europe because of airfare. But factor in daily park admissions and jacked-up meal prices, and I think you’ll be in for surprise: This site quotes a Disney vacation, for example, at about $3,485 (four people, 7 nights) not including the cost to get there. If you’re a good shopper, it is possible to get to Europe for nearly the same price – possibly even less if you head to Eastern Europe.

Another thought: Americans find it in their budget to throw down for all sorts of meaningless, forgettable extravagances – smartphones that will be obsolete before they’re out of warranty, needlessly luxurious cars, enormous cable and satellite television packages, just to name a few. These suck money out of our budgets that could just as easily go toward enriching, memorable trips abroad.

Where do Americans go instead of Europe? Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, to family reunions and to theme parks I mentioned earlier. Those who venture abroad go to England. It’s the top destination.

* America is huge, with many sites to see within driving distance

So, let’s see if I have this straight: Driving eight hours is fine, but flying eight hours is just too far. Eight hours is eight hours, regardless of the vehicle. Yet there’s a perception that eight hours in the air is somehow more exhausting and stressful.

Let’s keep in mind, the point of travel isn’t just to see things. It’s also to learn and to add to your perspective of the world.

I am adamant that, to be a truly educated person, you have to see how people in other cultures live. You have to see it first-hand, not through the media. So while you can drive to all sorts of interesting places in the U.S., you’re missing a chance to see other cultures and people.

Europhobia

The VR train is a nice way to get around Finland. And it’s not even the country’s fastest.

Many people in the U.S., especially those who do not travel, have an illusion that they have a degree of freedom and standard of living unparalleled in the world. I suppose this depends on how we define freedom. For some, I guess owning whatever sort of firearms they please and being able to drive enormous gas-guzzlers equals freedom to some. But can you really consider yourself free if you’re one medical problem away from bankruptcy, and you’re too afraid to go on vacation because you’re worried you might not have a job when you come back?

So travel isn’t just about seeing things. It’s about figuring out where you and what you believe fit among the world.

* Europeans speak many languages which may deter many Americans from visiting.

This is a point of insecurity with Americans. I’m miserable at foreign languages. But I pick up at least a few phrases everywhere I travel (and can sometimes pass myself off as a local for a few sentences anywhere outside of Asia).

best passenger planes

Get onboard one of these and go abroad.

But Americans may be forgetting about this place called England. Where they speak English. That’s really close to continental Europe. Which is part of the reason so many Europeans speak … English.
It’s completely possible – even easy – to get around in Europe if you only speak English. On another note, the U.S. seems to have a huge problem effectively teaching foreign languages. This is a problem schools in continental Europe don’t have. And another missed opportunity to look to other nations, learn from them and better ourselves through their example.

* Some Americans are afraid to fly long distances

This misses the mark somewhat. Americans know that flying is safer than driving. Their fear isn’t in the flying – it’s in being uncomfortable. Somehow, we morphed from people that headed west in Conestoga wagons into people who can’t fathom the notion of being less-than perfectly comfortable on a 14-hour flight to Australia.

Europhobia

And I’m out of relevant art, so you get a horse in Iceland. I assure you the horse does not have Europhobia.

That’s a weak, pathetic state of affairs. I’m a 6’2, 205-pound guy whose flown hundreds of thousands of coach-class miles. I’ve emerged physically and emotionally unscathed. I turn on my Kindle or use the on-demand in-seat entertainment and let the miles roll 38,000 feet below me as I enjoy being able to take a safe, affordable journey that spans timezones, cultures, ethnicities, languages, cuisines and landscapes.

* Americans get less vacation than Europeans, and given the travel time, a trip to Europe would be effectively  “too short” to reap the benefits of taking a holiday at all.

This is somewhat legit. The U.S. is far behind the industrialized world in vacation time. As a society, we’ve allowed modern-day robber barons to convince us that we live to work instead of work to live … yet that our country is somehow also the forefront of personal freedom while we watch our personal time shrink.

Left to their own choices, employers will never change this. They will never voluntarily bring the U.S. level with the other industrialized nations of the world. It will be down to a next generation of lawmakers who choose to represent their electorate and say “this will not stand.” The recent increases in minimum wage and healthcare coverage at least give me some hope that the U.S. could be on the way toward a turning point.

Also, discouraging travel abroad is a great way to preserve the venomous notion of American exceptionalism. Just imagine the impact on the status quo if Americans head abroad en masse, witness first-hand European quality of life and start asking uncomfortable questions like “Where’s our work-life balance? Tell me again what’s so much better about U.S. healthcare? Why is high-speed rail so bad? Hey, what’s your beef with free childcare and guaranteed vacation time and a higher minimum wage?” If we collectively start asking questions like this, things change. And there is a tiny, tiny minority of deep-pocketed people who simply don’t want that.

“But wait!” you might say, “What about all the countries out there with a lower standard of living?” Well, maybe those countries should make us appreciate what we do have. But is being simply better than some what you want the U.S. to be for future generations?.

So, my European friends, Americans as a whole aren’t plagued by Europhobia. They have some barriers that prevent them from visiting you in your own countries. Some of the barriers are real, but most are imagined or self-imposed through their own poor choices.

 

Mentioned in this post
  1. Mexico
    Country

    Mexico
  2. Canada
    Country

    Canada
  3. England
    Country

    United Kingdom

Leave a Reply