When I was a small child, I went to Norway with my parents to visit my dad’s mom. I actually have some faint memories other than what I’ve seen in pictures. I was way to young at that point to think about social and political differences between countries.
When I was a teenager, I travelled to Finland, with the intent of living there for a year. I found out that–get this–my hick town American high school wouldn’t accept classes from the very advanced Finnish school. I went back home, but I was back the next summer.
When I was 20, I went to Germany in an abortive attempt to study abroad. I hadn’t been back since, until this summer.
The start of these trips always cause me to marvel at the things that are so much better here. Education, health care, public transportation. Towards the end, I focus on the worse things: bureacracy, arrogance, and, desepite common perception, the hideous fashion of the average European.
By comparison to years ago, I’m amazed by the replacement in Finland of Ladas and other Eastern bloc cars with Lexuses, German cars and other luxuries. The era of the EU and the WTO has made so much the same everywhere. Actual Italians running Italian restaurants in London, with Polish waitresses. But that’s not what strikes me most this time.
What strikes me most is that despite the annoyances, Europe appears to have kept its sanity, even Spain and England, even after terrorism. The US, on the other hand, is locked in a downward spiral of self-destruction that I’m not so sure it will pull out of intact.