Cultural Differences - My Family Travels

 Unlike North America, Europe does not labor under the constraints of polite society.  The European approach to life is simple, straightforward, and natural.  This summer, the American Music Abroad took young musicians to play in different countries.  While on the trip through various parts of Western Europe, I couldn’t help but notice how clear and uncomplicated daily life in Europe presented itself to be.  Business was business, and it was conducted out in the open: no walls, formal chairs, or closed doors required. 

Children growing up in Europe are less fearful of the world because they are taught not to be bothered by the dangers of every day life.  In Vienna, the tour bus rattled on past a small pod of youngsters on a trip around town.  Each adorable child was clad with a bright yellow, ducky-looking hat, holding hands with the next nearest friend.  And off they went, marching hand in hand in a small cluster of wide eyes and vivid headwear amidst hasty vehicles and other dangers. 

That same day, my friends and I witnessed the exchanges of a hooker during her business hours.  The tour bus pulled up to Vienna’s Central Cemetery and right next to the gates stood a woman in lavishly high heels, a stylish fedora, netted stockings, and a revealing coat.  Her dazzling, scarlet red hair stood out from her all-black outfit like a Star Trek fan at a ballet recital for Swan Lake.  A taller, older businessman slunk up to her, trying to hide behind thinning hair and glasses.  And they made a deal.  Just like that, right in the middle of everything, young adults from America and all.  Where I come from, negotiations like these happen in private, NOT during the middle of the day when the whole world is bustling about and enjoying their daily dose of Vitamin D.  The other students from my group didn’t know what to do with themselves, whether or not to avert their eyes, snicker, or jest at the lowly pair.  It was incredible; my entire ensemble of rowdy American teenagers was completely at a loss for what to do.  Neither participant was concerned about their arrangements being public, nor was there any distress from passersby.  Just another day.

Guided tours are completely different from back home, too.  Born and raised in the suburbs surrounding Philadelphia, I always got stuck on school trips to Philadelphia where my classmates and I would mutter and yawn at the famous Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross house.  Stories about past American heroes have been altered by historians to sugar-coat and hide blunders and moments of weakness.  In Europe, however, revisionist history is not practiced.  In fact, the tour guides of Vienna spoke the absolute truth, no matter how incredibly terrible or wonderful the past may be.  It was fascinating to learn about Schönbrunn, an enormous palace, and how real the figures of the past were.  Facts do not sully the images of leaders for Europeans because it is understood that to be human is to be able to make mistakes.

The way Europeans live continued to fascinate me throughout the rest of the trip.  Young children completely exposed to the outside world and down-to-earth tour guides are very different from the polite society that follows Americans on a daily basis.  I find it extremely interesting how life across the Atlantic has evolved into a very easy going society, where life is traditional and uncomplicated.  Europeans have nearly perfected their way of living by concerning themselves with only the essentials and necessities.  Life in Europe is extremely easy and natural.

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