The Cool Old Continent

OK everybody, redirect your gaze from the outlandish NYC Met-gala outfits to Cannes Film Festival. French Riviera is where it’s at. That’s where people wear chic outfits instead of teetering around wrapped in crucifixes, while at the same time trying to balance Barbie’s confession booth on their head.

I love getting carried away by American pop culture because it’s so – American. The brashness and boldness, the marketing, the buzz. The fact that almost any crazy idea can (and will) be monetised and turned into a profitable business. 

The Ol’Europe is in many ways fundamentally different. First, you cannot raise millions of euros with your news-app that you edit daily with your pals and then gazillions of people subscribe to it, because in Europe the public broadcasters take care of that. Even after feeding the royal mouths, we still have leftovers to pay for universal healthcare and public broadcasting service (also, don’t try to monetise the idea for a nifty app for teaching people how to fill their tax returns. The bureaucracies already have it all sussed on their websites – for free). 

While things often happen excruciatingly slow over here, there is still a certain cool-factor to the Old Continent. 

No stigma on cigarettes and alcohol. 

While smoking is admittedly not necessarily cool in this time and age, it’s still nice to have the opportunity to chill on a terrace with some rosé and a cigarette. And just chill, and chill, because…

​…you’re not kicked out of European restaurants halfway your Dame Blanche.

There’s none of the slotting of tables for 1,5 hours for each party and then literally pushing them out of the door. Oh no, you keep ordering more wine when you feel like it, you linger on, have a grappa, nip for a cigarette, order another espresso and a Tarte Tatin and eventually finish off with two fingers of proper whiskey. 

Apero or aperitivo.

One of the most genius things ever invented in Italy (or anywhere). It’s drinks before dinner, and it’s none of the mundane Happy Hour of discounted cocktails, but a thing with drinks and savoury nibbles. And no, we’re not talking about stale salted peanuts that cost an extra 5 euros. Think more of a negroni with some salami/ham, cheeses, olives, possibly bruschetta and marinated vegetables.

Style.

Europeans have distinct styles, obviously, because we are a diverse bunch of people. We do bold, brave and eccentric with bravado rather than go for American preppy en masse. Corporate dress codes over here are more relaxed and while many American fashion labels clearly opt rather for marketability, many European labels go for originality. Also, carrot-shaped jeans paired with a university jersey and white trainers is not a look over here, unless it is done to achieve a camp impression.

Public transport.

Amen to that. Works well or less well, but it’s available everywhere and you don’t necessarily need a car at all if you live in European cities. I have existed over 40 years without owning one. 

Food.

I have to exempt junk food from this category, as it is absolutely supreme over in America. As far as other food is concerned, it’s a thing in Europe and people have primitive feelings for it. Europeans talk about food (the French pretty much exclusively about food) in a non-orthorexic way, and it’s such a cultural feature it’s almost endearing. Cheeses, curious pastries and pies as well as different ham get political-level protection not because of trade, but because it’s so important to the people of the regions.

Work-life balance.

Long, paid annual holidays. What’s not to like?

Waiters are the Kings. And Queens.

Customer and/or cash is never the King or the Queen in a European restaurant/shop/customer service desk. You never solve anything here by throwing some money on the problem. No. You are lucky if you get to choose what you want to eat from the menu. It’s kind of cool. Not when it happens to you, sure, but you still have to respect the attitude.

Pop music.

This is an area where Europe does not excel. We are in fact so shit at producing decent pop that ABBA had to be unearthed this year to record some tunes before they turn 100 and physically cannot anymore. 

If you don’t believe me, please check out something called the Eurovision Song Contest on youtube, it’s ongoing at the moment in Lisbon, Portugal.

Yes. That shit.

Europeans celebrate the Europe Day today, to mark over half a century of sticking together for better and for worse. Mainly for worse. But here we are, in all our kookiness, not going anywhere for any foreseeable future. As the universe watches the reality-show called the “World Unraveling Around Us” again today, I’m quite happy to have my sub-standard hamburger and shit pop right where I am – in the heart of the Old Continent. 

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