General Question

dalepetrie's avatar

Americans who have travelled abroad...what do they do that makes more sense than how we do it?

Asked by dalepetrie (18024points) January 14th, 2009

I have made one trip abroad (not counting a few days spent in either Mexico or Canada…I’m talking Europe)...I spent one week in London and one week in Italy. When I arrived in London, one of the first things my wife noticed was that they are far more direct in their speech than we are…in other words, they call things what they are. Like the parking ramp is a car park (because you park your car there), the elevator is a lift (because it lifts people), the bathroom is a toilet (because very few public bathrooms have baths in them, and the reason you use them is you need a toilet)...stuff like that.

But the things that really stood out for me were when we got to Italy and rented a vehicle. First of all, the rearview mirror was kind of curved, and had 2 small extra areas to the left and right of the part that we have in America and you could see pretty much a panoramic view behind you and to the sides, even in your so called “blind spot”. It made me wonder why we don’t do that here, I mean, those can’t be that expensive, can they? Wouldn’t that help reduce accidents?

Then I went to fill with gas, and I grabbed the nozzle and it wouldn’t fit. I was trying to figure it out and someone showed me that I was trying to put the wrong kind of gas in the tank (I think the problem may have been that everyone pretty much uses diesel over there, but I happened to get a rental car that took unleaded and because nothing was out of the ordinary to me, I just assumed the main pumps would pump what my vehicle took). Aparently, they design the nozzles on the gas pumps and the holes in the gas tanks so that if you try to put the wrong kind of gas in your tank the pump won’t work. Everything here is pretty much standard sized, and I thought, OK, it might not be a HUGE deal, I’ve only known one person who actually filled his tank with the wrong kind of gas (when I was a teenager, my dad’s boss filled his tank with Kerosene..and lived to tell about it). Maybe less of an issue here, but why don’t we do it that way?

So, I’m wondering what you’ve seen on your travels that you thought…hey…that’s just common sense, why don’t Americans do that?

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38 Answers

robmandu's avatar

Heated slate floors in the kitchens and bathrooms in Canada.

Windows that can crack open at the top – or – swing open like a door in Europe.

Power strips that can accommodate nearly any plug configuration in China.

Micro-breweries in every McDonald’s in Germany.

robmandu's avatar

btw… I do think that the diesel nozzles, here in the U.S. are indeed larger than the gasoline receptacle for your car.

(Of course, that wouldn’t stop someone from putting gasoline into a diesel vehicle. And considering that diesel is hard to find and often times at a separate pump, I can’t help but wonder if they should’ve done the sizing vice versa.)

Harp's avatar

Once you get used to them, the British system of controlling road intersection with roundabouts instead of traffic lights makes a lot of sense (no waiting at empty intersection for the light to change and no power failures).

I also like the European system of posting the actual price you’ll pay for an item, including taxes.

And don’t get me started on health care and public transportation

janbb's avatar

Smaller cars with better mileage!!

Great public transportation in most of Europe.

Universal health care and doctors that make house calls – in France.

Cooking and eating seasonally and locally.

Less uptightness about bodily functions and things like small children being changed on the beach.

Less eating as a constant activity and more focus on enjoyment at mealtimes.

Walking more as part pf daily life.

Seemingly, less stress in daily life but that is hard to judge when one is “on holiday” oneself.

Judi's avatar

DRIVING! The passing lane is for PASSING people!!

robmandu's avatar

Lanes? In Germany, they don’t need lanes.

Picture, if you will, a two-lane highway in the countryside of Bavaria. Now imagine you’re traveling around 120kph and approach a slightly slower vehicle ahead. You’re driving a gas-sipping four-banger that can’t hardly accelerate at these speeds… but you want to pass.

With just the two lanes and hilly roadways, you might be feel a bit trepidation attempting to pass if you were in the U.S. It’s gonna take too long and you can’t see far enough.

But in Germany, the land of the ultimate driving machine, where everyone is serious about driving well, this sort of scenario isn’t a problem.

You pull out to pass. But lo, there’s an oncoming vehicle. No matter, the driver of the car you’re passing maintains speed but sidles over to the shoulder. And so does the driver of the oncoming car.

In this way, you quite literally can “thread the needle” with three cars abreast the two-lane highway, yours straddling the middle lane as you execute what has now become a somewhat exciting passing maneuver.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Harp – I hate roundabouts with a passion. I’m sure I’ll get used to them someday…they confounded me out east and they’ve come here…I’ve already witnessed an accident at one. I think they require people to take turns, something Americans aren’t that good at. In our culture, I’m afraid you need to enforce it and put concrete rules behend when you can stop and when you can go. But maybe I’ll like them someday.

Judi's avatar

I LOVED driving in Germany!! They also (in Europe) know how to “zipper.” If everyone just lets one car in the traffic keeps moving. Such civility!

asmonet's avatar

In France when I was there, to remove a shopping cart you use a small coin that costs something like ten bucks, it goes into the handle and the cart is released from the rest of the stack. You do your shopping, with cloth bags and when you’re done you replace the cart or forfeit your coin, you will then have to purchase another coin in order to shop at the store next time. And the parking lots were empty of trash, no flying bags, no litter stuck in trees. I never saw anything other than a cloth tote bag for groceries while there.

I also visited a bank while there and the door was awesome. It was essentially a hamster tube, you entered, it closed behind you, you were then checked for explosives and guns and then the other side opened in front of you. In the event of an item setting off the alarm, you would be kept in the tube-y room door thing while the police arrived. Instant detention! Apparently, according to that bank’s employees no one had been robbed since they installed those doors, not in years.

Oh! And they had concrete mini pillars in the cities and towns that could drop down to the street to allow access to service and emergency vehicles or to allow access only during business hours, etc. :)

blondie411's avatar

Now living in a place that has multiple round-abouts, I get it more. I actually can spot a car that is not used to driving in one but I swear Boston drivers just “gun it and go” through that round-about.

I think many of the little perks that you talk about overseas come from years of city planning and sophistication that America has to catch up on.

Harp's avatar

@dalepetrie Yes, until they become intuitive they’re confusing as hell. But then there’s a Eureka! moment when it all makes sense.

They cause chaos here because we haven’t been accustomed to them from the get-go, and because they’re being shoe-horned into intersections that weren’t constructed for them, so there’s no room to accommodate merging traffic. The American instinct is still to try to turn left by cutting clockwise, which brings them headlong into traffic.

robmandu's avatar

Really cheap, single coin (~ $1 CAN) mandatory coat check in Canada. So nice not to hafta lug a jacket around a club meaning you don’t need to leave all your stuff at a table that you’re never at.

Harp's avatar

Real vacation

Grisson's avatar

@robmandu If one of those drivers is American, you’re screwed!

Harp's avatar

Gun control

robmandu's avatar

@Grisson, touché.

Note to self: look for rental car markings.

robmandu's avatar

Bike paths! In Germany (sorry, spent more time there than anywhere else), you can literally bike from town to town and usually on dedicated greenway paths… no sharing the roadway.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I know this might upset people who live outside of, but work in, Manhattan, but I like how London has a toll to drive in The City. I’ve seen enough emergency vehicles become stuck in traffic while on a call. Also, there’s just too many private cars in Manhattan! Granted, I’m being a bit judgy, but I think people need to get over their cocoon habit and either carpool or ride public transport. The implications of the “one person per car” behavior around these parts is staggering.

And there needs to be more bike lanes. To ride a bicycle is to risk one’s life at a higher percentage than in other places because there are so many cars. Witnessing a messenger or two flip over his handlebars because of people opening car doors on the avenue side is. NOT. Pretty.

Grisson's avatar

@robmandu The link won’t let me log in… I take it this is something you might not find on the pavement. Perhaps a garment?

Mtl_zack's avatar

In Italy, wine at McDonald’s. In Holland, the ability to leave your bike outside without a lock and no one will steal it. In France, doctors visit you.

rooeytoo's avatar

Goes both ways though, I can tell you what you have in USA that is not here in Australia and I really really miss…..Peanut Butter Tandycakes and Butterscotch Krimpets! But we do have Lamingtons and Kababs, that helps to ease the pain. But truly Australia has a system of ordinary houses in ordinary neighborhoods that cater to providing a normal living situation for people with Muscular Dystrophy, etc. They have carers on a frequently one on one basis who live in and keep the household running. Might have 6 to 8 disabled people in the house. Seems a better idea than institutionalization.

augustlan's avatar

@asmonet The downtown branch of my bank here in Martinsburg, West by God Virginia has that same set up! Not a tube, but a bullet-proof glass vestibule with two sets of doors. You can’t enter the bank itself until the outer doors lock behind you, you are scanned, and the inner doors unlock with a buzz and a green light. If they were to be robbed, the exit doors are also designed to lock the robber in the vestibule until the police come.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@rooeytoo – But we don’t have Tim Tams! :(

America needs Tim Tams on every store shelf!

francescadellacruz's avatar

Walking a lot in town, riding trains and old trolly cars everywhere else, providing decent health care, eating lots of fresh foods, and repairing instead of replacing things.

nebule's avatar

whats a tim tam????

aprilsimnel's avatar

The world’s most delicious choco bickies!

asmonet's avatar

@aug: What bank is that?
@rob: I’m so freaking jealous of Japan’s streets now. That’s so beautiful compared to our monstrosities.

nebule's avatar

mmmm…they sound a bit like “penguins” in britain… oh and I’ve just found this…hee hee… penguin

augustlan's avatar

First United Bank & Trust (aka ‘My Bank’), downtown Martinsburg, WV.

robmandu's avatar

@Grisson and anyone else having problems accessing Flickr, try this.

Grisson's avatar

@robmandu Wow. That’s pretty cool. Any idea what the numbers in the colored octagons mean?

robmandu's avatar

Hrrrrmmmmm…. no idea. If only there was a place online where one could ask questions of real people of things that a google search would not work well for.


Grisson's avatar

@robmandu Yeah, I guess I’ll just have to wait until somebody thinks to create one of those. ;o)
(You wanna ask it at the top level? or shall I?)

robmandu's avatar

I’m curious, too. I can ask… but don’t want to appear as self-promoting my blog by using it as the reference. :-\

So, if you don’t mind asking, that’d be great! Thx!

augustlan's avatar

@robmandu Beautiful! Thanks for posting the second link :)

maggiemaye's avatar

NO tipping (Singapore and others)
Dedicated business zones…you pay extra and have to have a sticker on your car to drive into say mid-town Manhattan or Center City, Wherever during designated “rush” hours. Much less congestion.

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