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10 Things Americans Waste Money On That I Can’t Understand

food

I was born in Modena, Italy to an Italian father and a British mother. I lived in Italy for four years, England for 10 years, Spain for three years, Italy again for three years, and have been in Germany for the last five years. (I will do the math for you, I’m 25, going to be 26 very soon thankyouverymuch.) I’m probably someone who most people would consider “European” in the best and worst senses of the word. It’s true that I am a die-hard lover of Europe and everything it offers: even England wasn’t for me. But that elitism itself is part of the problem, I know. When people mock Europeans for being pretentious, snobby, and judgmental, especially when it comes to those Americans, I could also be found guilty. I do often think that I am a little too harsh on the Yanks, especially since I have only spent a few months there at a time at most, but I also think some of my criticisms are valid.

Because, you see, most of what makes me such a Eurolitist has nothing to do with how we dress or how thin we are or how much we can afford. It’s all about lifestyle, and lifestyle choices, and the simple pleasures that define so many European lives, which seem to escape many Americans. And I have spent time in both suburban “middle” America, and big cities (namely New York and Washington, DC). So I have seen that while some spending vices are definitely more pronounced the less urban the area, there are some American mentalities that lead to an overcomplicated, overly-expensive budget, that most Europeans are simply incapable of understanding.

Ask many Europeans, and the simple pleasures of good, fresh food, simple surroundings, long walks or bikes as exercise, and hosting friends at one another’s homes are staples of life. For many Americans, these things are rare, or considered luxuries. Let me explain, from the Euro perspective, the wasteful spending Americans commit that we simply cannot understand.

1. Takeout, takeout, takeout. I should probably say first and foremost that it’s not that takeout/delivery doesn’t exist in Europe. It definitely does, and I’ve gotten a hungover kebab delivered just like any other proud citizen. But there is a difference between treating restaurant delivery as a once-in-a-while treat and a staple of home eating. At that point, with the delivery charges, tips, and fees, why not just take a book and go sit at the actual restaurant? The food would be better and you’d be getting an “experience” along with it for your money. But I know the point is convenience, even if I don’t understand it.

2. Pre-packaged foods. On the same lines, there is a real oddity for me in the idea of buying pre-made foods to bring home and just heat up for dinner on a regular basis. Again, I can see the appeal of frozen pizzas for a casual party at your house when you’re a broke student, but regularly buying your food prepared? I’m not even judging this on a culinary level (well, okay, I kind of am), I’m judging it on a financial level. Having several meals a week be pre-packaged foods kind of defeats the purpose of eating at home. You could save dozens of dollars a week (if not more) if you made a few big meals from scratch and froze portions for yourself.

3. Fast fashion. Yes, Europeans do fast fashion, too. But we at least have a more prevalent cultural idea of “buying things to last.” It’s still considered the epitome of chic in places like France, Italy, etc, to have a few items that are of quality, versatile, and foundational. The simple-chic, if you will. If you don’t have a few of these items, it’s considered very strange, and having these understated quality pieces (not with labels thrown all over them) is highly aspiratonal. This idea doesn’t seem to exist as much in America, where it’s all about following the latest trends on Instagram.

4. Extreme air conditioning/heat. Americans cannot be hot or cold. Or, well, they can be, but only if it’s the opposite temperature of whatever is going on outside. In the summer, they want to be wrapping up in a sweater in their freezing offices. In the winter, they want to be broiling under their bedsheets. It’s all about controlling the air around you in a very unnatural way, and it’s represented every time an American comes to most European cities for the first time in the summer and won’t stop repeating “Oh my god, how do you LIVE without air conditioning?!?” Well, I’m hot sometimes, but I turn on fans and drink cold drinks and take the occasional cold shower. I don’t know, I just live with it, because that’s what humans do in the summer? Because keeping things constantly at insane temperatures costs the individual, and the planet, enormously?

5. Big homes. Yes, okay, the McMansion cliché. But having spent some time in the affluent suburban U.S., I can confirm that the cliché exists for a reason. Americans still, in many cases, aspire to have square footage, bigger kitchens, bigger bedrooms, California King Beds (that still sounds so funny to me). It’s all about big for the sake of big: three different types of coffee machines, refrigerators bursting with individually-bottled water, big pantries stocked with endless amounts of grab-and-go food. Poor building materials to make the biggest house for cheap, settled on a minuscule plot of land. It’s so hard for most Euros to wrap their minds around — who would want that? Why? For whom? It’s all a mystery to us.

6. Bulk grocery. The first time I went to a Costco I nearly fell on my face. Yes, I get some of the appeal, and there are certain things, like toiletries and cleaning products, that I might buy in bulk. But to see so many people buy such ludicrous quantities of (mostly pre-packaged) food blew my mind. I can see how bulk can be used to offset cost, but from what I’ve seen in the States, it most often seems to be used to justify having way more than anyone would need, therefore erasing the cost benefit.

7. Constantly-new electronics. One thing that you’ll see a lot of in a lot of European cities, that Americans will almost always find totally shocking, is people using older electronics. Yes, even “wealthy” people. We don’t run out to replace our phones, laptops, tablets, whatever, the second the new model is out, if the old one works just fine. And yet, in America, regardless of how much disposable income one might have, not having the latest whatever-thing Apple put out is just not an option. But us having an old Android doesn’t mean we’re “poor,” it means we don’t have a culture of “use it until you’re bored.” We have a culture of “use it as long as it works.”

8. Cars, cars, cars. Americans love to drive. And that makes me sad, because public transportation is one of the best things ever: you don’t have to watch the road, you can talk with your friends, you get to walk more to and from your stops (free exercise!), and you don’t have all the costs associated with driving. (Plus, you can do it drunk!) But Americans have very little infrastructure for public transport in many parts of the country, and for some reason, it’s not a rallying cry. It seems like many Americans don’t want to drive every single place. And that, I can’t understand.

9. Gym memberships. It’s rare in a lot of Europe to know people with gym memberships. Most of our exercise comes from basic things like walking places, biking, having outdoor activities on weekends, and doing all of our errands by hand. (Market groceries are heavy!) Spending tons of money on a place to drive to and then sit on a stationery bike is simply considered a luxury, and often a ridiculous one at that.

10. Restaurants and pubs for everything. Americans are always meeting up somewhere, instead of having people over, or going over to people’s houses. In all the time I’ve been in America, and all the people I’ve known, I’ve never once been to a proper dinner party with people my age. Why is that? Dinner parties are the best, and the most cost-effective if you get everyone to bring something. The culture of entertaining in the home seems to be disappearing in the States, a long with a lot of other simple life pleasures, and that’s sad.

Gia is an Italian-British student currently living in Germany, but dreaming of Spain. She has two cats, Martin and Luther, who hate each other.

Image via Pexels

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  • disqus_XIxHJslPUz

    I would add the credit card! I am French, living in the UK for seven years now and for many of people my age (27) having a credit card is just something that we don’t really do or want to do, because the idea of spending money we don’t have YET just seems wrong… I get that you can be reasonable with a credit card and pay it off regularly and never have a problem but why would you do that when you can just… not buy something you can’t afford, save for something you really want, and save for an emergency fund in case you need to replace something expensive you can’t afford but need urgently??
    But I agree with most of the article. That’s why I would love more British/Europe oriented money/finance blogs, or posts here of TFD, because when someone says they managed to save tons of money by… cancelling their gym membership, stopping to order takeaways (I never noticed Americans call it takeout!), buying a smaller car or not eating out more than x time a week, I’m like “Great, but I already do that” – the thing about eating out kind of baffles me because my friends and I all earn a good salary, not crazy but definitely not entry-level either, and we would not think of eating out more than once a week. And if we eat out once a week several weeks in a row, it’s probably exceptional – I don’t know many people who would eat out more than twice a month.
    That’s funny – I guess it depends where you want your money to go and what matters to you.

    Violaine

    • Scissors

      Wow only eating out twice per month! I have a weekly lunch date out with friends and maybe a monthly happy hour and dinner out but that’s still a lot more than twice per month.

      • disqus_XIxHJslPUz

        I would if it was cheaper maybe it’s cheaper in the US? I don’t know – but usually, I meet friends for a meal maybe once a month, then have a dinner out with my boyfriend maybe a month too. I don’t include drinks but may I should! In the UK a lot of people would go to the pub after work on Friday with colleagues and I do that maybe once-twice a month. On weekends I might go for a drink with friends. The rest of the time I’ll have friends coming over or I’ll go to theirs ad we have dinner at home.
        Maybe in the end we spend as much money – except you spend yours on dinners and I tend to spend mine on drinks! I guess that’s a cultural thing. My friends would never agree to go to the restaurant two or three times in the same month, but going for drinks the same amount of times would be totally fine and we might spend the same amount of money in the end.

        • Stephanie

          Great point! I think it would be more productive to talk about the % of monthly income spent rather than the number of times. 1 night out for Person A might cost the same/be the same % spent as 5 nights out for Person B.

          • disqus_XIxHJslPUz

            Yep, or the other things we have to spend money on that are different. In London, my transport card costs me £125, which is $179 a month… Rent is $1010 monthly and that doesn’t include any bills. But then I cook most of my meals and I spend about $140 a month on food (for two!!) because supermarkets are rather cheap and I don’t buy any meat. It all depends on where you live I guess.
            V

      • disqus_lkdChzmzjm

        I’m the same, I eat out maximum twice a months, but often less than that. It’s just not a part of everyday culture here

    • Tara

      Credit is necessary in the US to secure apartment rentals, home ownership, car purchases, etc. You need a credit card to establish credit. Furthermore, it makes so much more sense to have a credit card than a debit card. With a credit card, if your identity gets stolen or you get a false charge, you have only to dispute it with your credit card company and they’ll sort it out. No real money is lost. With a debit card, if it gets stolen and purchases are made on it — or even worse, your account gets drained — that money is gone. It’s possible to get it back, but much more difficult, and you may have to live for some time without any money at all.

      I have an emergency fund in my bank. I don’t buy what I can’t afford. I pay my bill in full each month. Gee whiz, I managed all that even with credit cards! I wonder if your only exposure to how people use credit cards is from confessionals on this site about using them inappropriately.

      • disqus_XIxHJslPUz

        Tara, if you read my first mention of the credit cards, you will see I said I can see how you can be reasonable with them and not have any problems – I didn’t say it was all bad! I just said it’s not something we usually have in Europe. It obviously works quite differently here and in many European countries a credit card is associated with spending money you don’t have and therefore with debt. I did acknowledge in my first message that I understood this was not always the case.

        Here if your debit card is stolen, the bank cancels the last purchases for you – they usually ask you some security questions and you need to tell them the date and amount of money spent the last time YOU used the card, and they cancel the purchases made when the card was stolen. It’s easy and quite straightforward. Plus, usually here the credit card is from the same company you got the debit card from as you need to be in a bank for a while before being able to apply for a credit card.

        • Tara

          I beg to disagree. This is what you said: “I get that you can be reasonable with a credit card and pay it off regularly and never have a problem but why would you do that when you can just… not buy something you can’t afford, save for something you really want, and save for an emergency fund in case you need to replace something expensive you can’t afford but need urgently??”

          Boiled down, you say, “sure, it’s possible to be reasonable with a credit card, but why would you want to do that?!”

          And I answered that question: because of the necessities and benefits of having one.

          • disqus_XIxHJslPUz

            I wasn’t clear enough then and I apologise. I mean, yes, I can see how it’s beneficial; it’s probably hard for us Europeans to get it because our system works differently and for example getting a mortgage would be based on “credit history” which does not mean just credit card, but things like paying bills, rent, student loans, etc, so you can have a good credit score without having a credit card (if that makes sense). I think I hadn’t realised how much more it’s needed in the US compared to the UK.
            V

          • Stephanie

            I read that comment in the same way, hence my remarks.

            I like the comments better than this article because of the conversation on the true, rather than perceived, differences in financial matters in the US and Europe.

          • disqus_XIxHJslPUz

            I agree!

            In Rue89, a French news website, they regularly do an interview of a random, non-famous person, about what they earn and spend. We should have a similar section here, like the spendings of a student, of a CEO, of a model, of a teacher, of a policeman, of someone living in the UK, in Korea or in the US!

        • joeaverage21

          My American credit union does the same thing – they cancel the charges I did not spend.

    • Stephanie

      American here:
      1) Credit cards: The overwhelming perception is that they are used to buy things you don’t have money for. Not everyone uses them in this way!! I’m 28 and got my first credit card last year for the reasons Tara outlined: build good credit and protection against identity theft. I also use it for the travel/cash back rewards — make your money work for you, right? I live on last month’s paychecks, so all of my credit card purchases are backed up by cash that’s currently in the bank. I do exactly as you suggest: buy things I can afford, save up for big purchases, and have an six month emergency fund. The only difference is I use a credit card (points! protection! build credit!) instead of a debit card. Credit cards are valuable tools that are wildly misunderstood. Apparently the misunderstanding isn’t limited to this side of the pond.

      2) PF blogs: First, let’s recognize that PF blogs operate from extremes. They either have an “I’ve seen the light and you can too!” or a “Spend nothing and retire at 35!” mentality. I, like you, read articles about cutting costs and saving money and think, “I already do that!” So I don’t believe the issue is a British/European vs American attitude towards money. TFD and other blogs that operate from the first mentality are written by people who didn’t handle their finances the best way, have learned from their mistakes, and share their experiences with others. Very valuable for people in similar situations. I can tell you, as someone who has lost 60 pounds to become healthy, I’d rather read articles written by people who have gone on similar journeys than written by people who have never struggled with weight loss and unhealthy habits. Likewise, I’m sure no one wants to read about my financial journey: no student loans, no credit card debt, and always living within my (sometime meager) means. It doesn’t make for good or inspirational personal financial content for those who are fighting their way to financial responsibility. I think this is why you don’t see more articles that are more “British/European-oriented” — to use your description.

      • disqus_XIxHJslPUz

        I get what you mean.
        I think there are still things that are too different to be compared. For example one big thing on American finance blogs is student debt. That’s not such a big thing for us because unis in Europe are a lot cheaper. I find UK unis super expensive and they’re about $12,000 a year. In France where I first studied it’s (are you ready for this??) $350 a year approximately. Yes, three hundred and fifty dollars, about 300 euros.
        So we do have debt because of course if you are in the UK, it’s 12000 dollars a year to pay, plus the cost of living, but it’s usually not as much as the US and also there’s government loan – zero or very low interest, and it’s taken out of your salary automatically if you earn over x amount. It’s just easier to manage for us so it’s an issue we don’t have too much. In big European cities it’s probably more about the cost of living, etc, than about student debt.
        V

  • em

    I thought TFD was a place to own your own financial mistakes, instead of passing judgment on other people’s decisions? This article is definitely the latter. I mean, I rarely feel the need to defend my fellow Americans (especially on the internet), but damn if this post didn’t make me want to do just that.

    • meep

      agreed 100%. it’s not even that it’s incorrect that we spend a lot of money on the things mentioned here, but this whole post is pretty devoid of cultural context and that made it come off really judge-y rather than “oh here are some observations” which seems like it was the author’s initial intent.

      • Right, like she admits that the US doesn’t have a great public transit infrastructure, and says it’s sad that we drive cars? It’s now a moral failing to go from point A to point B?

    • Ashley

      I completely agree with @disqus_uxJbif7tPf:disqus. It actually made me want to add a statement which was in another article on this website:
      “TFD, as a place where people can confess their mistakes freely and admit to being imperfect in the way they approach money, has become something of a lightning rod for people who find deep satisfaction in talking down to people…”

      While I agree with most of Gia’s points in this article (I also do not understand why most folks spend money on 90% of the things she mentions), the voice this post was written in imo doesn’t further TFD’s mission and that makes me sad because I genuinely enjoy this community of owning mistakes & moving forward.

      • Mary Harman

        The voice of this article read similarly to the “10 fashion trends men don’t like.” I don’t really want to read a list of things Europe doesn’t like about my choices with money.

        Although it’s interesting to consider things in our budgets that aren’t necessary (and maybe using another demographic/strategy as contrast), this feels less like ‘confessing my mistakes’ and more like ‘rubbing someone’s nose in my perception of their mistakes.’

  • Mary Harman

    I have lived in America my whole life (except for a couple summers traveling in Europe that we all know doesn’t count, but I’d still like it on the record). I recently married an English man, so the differences in culture is often a topic of conversation in our home.

    I, too, have found that credit cards is a big difference. My husband has never had one, and it doesn’t seem like he was the odd one out back in the UK. I’ve had a credit card since I was 17. I’m sure my solid credit score will help when we buy a home, but for now, his lack of a credit card hasn’t harmed him.

    I agree that it seems like Americans eat out and order in far more than anywhere else in the world, but I think I’ve pretty much chalked it up to different work-life balances. I think it’s a side effect of living in a country where the work-ethic is extreme and time at home is far more limited. Forty hour work weeks are pretty much the bare minimum in the US and 2 weeks of vacation is the max for a large portion of the young work force. If I wasn’t at/en route to my job for literally half of every work day, I think it would seriously cut down the amount that we eat out or order in. A lot of the time, out-of-home meals (and you can probably rope in the prepared food purchased from the grocery store here) appeal because of the time and energy it saves, rather than the experience of it.

    Some of these are pretty generalized (I wouldn’t be able to get to work without a car, so I don’t know what to say about that) and a little judge-y (the phones), but others a pretty valid as well (my parents’ home could easily house 10, but there’s four people living there).

    • disqus_lkdChzmzjm

      Exactly, I work in Norway where everything is subsided through taxes and family is very much priorities. Sometimes my work-week is 20 hours and I get two months vacation on top of on year paid maternity leave an my partner would get the same as well. This naturally leads to a completely different way of life than someone working 40 hours a week.

      • Erin Williams

        And 40 hours a week is only for those ‘non-exempt’ employees who bill every hour. For white-collar office jobs, most people hit a point by probably age 30 where they are now ‘non-exempt’ meaning they are expected to get a certain amount of work done, in however many hours it takes. Once that happens 40 hours is the bare minimum.

  • Bridget

    Some of these points are just… not even attempting to understand a different culture / also inaccurate, and others are simply classist. Honey, visiting a few American cities and meeting some people who have never had dinner parties doesn’t apply to a country of 300 million.

    • joeaverage21

      And some Americans just won’t walk 7 miles to work b/c there just isn’t any mass transit. I’d ride my bike but b/c of the ways the roads are constructed and the volume of traffic (and its speeds) – riding a bike just isn’t safe. That leaves motorcycles, cars, scooters and SUVs. So we drive a car although I’m restoring a Vespa to ride around town – and incidentally – that antique Vespa won’t keep up with the traffic on the main roads so I can only ride a carefully chosen route that winds through the neighborhoods. It’ll do 45 mph eventually but eventually is not fast enough to be safe.

      I lived for several years in Italy. While some of the things you mentioned were true there – I saw alot of similarities to their life in the Italian south and my life here in the American south. People make do with the money and the environment they live in. Some of it is related to a person’s education level or how much they value education. A co-worker here puts his religious ideas first and does not see the value in education beyond high school b/c the ideas presented in higher education (literature, sociology, psychology, history) makes him uncomfortable and conflicts with his religious ideals. They aren’t going to seek facts about how to manage their diet scientifically or make the best financial choices (beyond make more, spend less) or give too much credence to “Global Warming” or Alt.Lifestyles b/c it has been so politicized that to accept it as fact might mean a person’s politics are shifting to the left and oh dear, we can’t have that…

      And before I paint too much with a brush too wide – I have many more American friends who are educated, do minimize their energy consumption, do eat well, do live in modest homes below what they can afford, and do travel around the globe when they can afford to.

  • meep

    i mean, okay there are a few things here that are valid but also:
    1. re takeout, i cook for myself a lot, but if i had reasonable work hours instead of getting home at 8-9 each night, i’d likely be more motivated to cook for myself each night rather than rely on frozen foods or seamless. you can’t negate that there’s a huge difference in work culture that influences why people would rather have a quick dinner of takeout or frozen pizza at home rather than the 2-3 hours a restaurant meal takes.
    2. public transport– in cities like NYC and DC, most people use public transit. america is also like…much larger than most european countries so yes i do see why people in like, the suburbs are not rallying for public transit. outside urban sprawl, it doesn’t make sense to invest in huge public transit systems when driving is so much easier.
    3. dinner parties– i’d love to, if my apartment fit more than 5 people at a stretch. unfortunately student loans and an entry level salary without my parents/SO paying my bills in manhattan do not leave the budget for the sort of apartment that can accommodate a dining table.

    i agree there’s a lot wrong with american societies and how we prioritize money etc but also a lot of this comes off as pretty classist and otherwise ignorant of the v. real concerns people have when making these financial choices.

    yes i would love to shop for healthful foods and never rely on seamless and go for leisurely walks and host friends, but unfortunately it’s not a “choice” that i do otherwise– it’s a reality of being a young, relatively less privileged person in one of the most expensive cities in america.

    • Hell No

      It’s also worth pointing out just how lousy our public transportation systems are. Unreliable, unsafe, and some even die on PT.

      • Bridget

        People die in car accidents all the time…?

  • Amy

    I’m trying to keep an open mind while reading this, but I do feel like this is just passing judgement a little. Sure, Americans do plenty of things that make little to no sense. But heat and air conditioning? Heat is literally a necessity where I live, in the Northern Midwest. You absolutely need to have heat to get through a winter. Same thing with AC in the South in the summer.
    Basically I feel like this is an article full of gross generalizations that doesn’t have a lot of purpose. Disappointing, because I usually love almost all the content on this site.

    • disqus_XIxHJslPUz

      I agree with the heating of course, but AC, still no – I mean, even in Spain where it gets really really hot, people don’t have AC. They just drink cold drinks and have cold showers, keep the shutters closed to make the house cooler and sleep with the windows open but that’s it. I am not saying AC is bad either, I just think it’s expensive and it’s something most Europeans wouldn’t think of as a necessity. It’s a cultural difference.
      V

      • Mj D’Arco

        this whole article cold be described as things are different because of cultural differences… yet it didn’t stop the writer from judging

        • disqus_XIxHJslPUz

          🙂
          But it’s good to get a different perspective. When I was in the US for a little bit, never long enough to notice too much, I still noticed the fact many young people I knew who lived in flats (not houses) didn’t have a washing machine. I would basically never rent a place if it doesn’t have a washing machine provided because to me it’s more of a necessity than AC. But they seemed to manage just well without it and didn’t seem to mind too much going to the launderette. I think maybe the article was clumsy but the whole point was probably that your needs and necessities are relative depending where you live. I never thought of getting AC but I would never manage without a washing machine and a dryer at home, even when I was a broke student.
          I think it’s interesting to read what other cultures find essential. Like some of my students are from Korea and Japan and they all bought a rice cooker when they moved to the UK because that’s “essential” to them. It would never cross my mind to buy one! But I am French and I own a bread-machine to make my own bread, which are fairly common in France in the past few years.
          V

          • Mj D’Arco

            i completely agree!!! it just puts you a bit on the defensive when you read an article so judgmental about your country! xox

          • disqus_XIxHJslPUz

            Well (I think someone else mentioned it), a similar article about money European people waste would probably include cigarettes if that makes you feel better 😉 I’m definitely guilty of that, I spend more on smoking than on many things and I know it is basically money wasted on something horribly unhealthy and wrong, so whatever people spend their money on I don’t exactly feel I am in a good place to judge either, haha! 😉
            V

      • joeaverage21

        AC in the south could be used less but it is a fact of life. We open up the house and cool with window fans to create a draft through the house. Still in late July and August there it is hard to stay cool enough even with cool drinks, cold showers, etc. Its the humidity. When I was living in southern Italy we didn’t need A/C b/c the humidity was low enough that sweat would evaporate and the big concrete houses were still reasonably cool.

        In the summer I can’t go to work and leave my house open. Frequent summer rains or thieves prevent that from happening. So – at some point – we close up the house and turn the a/c on so that the house is cool when we return home from work/school for the night. Its well insulated and our HVAC is very efficient so it does not cost much to heat or cool.

        Yes, might be easier to change our home construction and furniture styles (to wooden furniture or wicker vs upholstered) but we also get winter here so its 25F and less at night for weeks and suddenly a home built for summer heat and no a/c would be difficult to enjoy. Some friends with a very old home used to only heat a couple of rooms in the winter. The house would be 50F while those few rooms were comfortably heated. That’s another approach. Due to inefficiencies in their house and HVAC I doubt they saved much money compared to us.

  • Scissors

    The work-life balance is totally off in America which leads to the prepackaged foods and the takeout. Also, the sky high cost of housing leads to fewer dinner parties, mcmansions as a way of justifying living out in the sticks, nice cars to get to said house, gym memberships because we drive everywhere and nice phones because those are the only nice things people can afford. Americans are tremendously bad at dealing with being uncomfortable (I read two articles about buying one’s way out of the heat rather than just being hot) and I am currently freezing in my office. Also Costco is awesome particularly for people who cook for families and my fast fashion lasts forever.

    • Anni

      I do think there is a American trend of not cooking as much as other cultures though which could have to do with work/life balance but also the fact that instant food was a American invention so it has somewhat misplaced the traditional cooking from scratch system. I’ve noticed that often that immigrants and children of the immigrants or people that hold strongly to their heritage will typically do a little better regarding a general ability to cook just from the fact that their families may have spent more time home cooking (I am one of those). Lots of other cultures (look anywhere in East Asia) have even worse work/life balances and I would say on average that many people from those cultures would cook for themselves more bc instant meals just haven’t become as much part of society.

      • Scissors

        That’s probably true. My parents are immigrants and I never order takeout or eat prepackaged foods (except for occasional ramen).

      • Court E. Thompson

        Agreed with the instant food thought. My grandmother was a first generation Italian and was taught to cook, but almost seemed to take pride that she didn’t have to and could afford prepackaged food. As a result, she didn’t teach my mother to cook and that became the norm.

      • Ishani

        With respect to the point about people in other countries cooking more at home despite worse work/life balance: one of the reasons can be availability of cheap domestic labour (eg. India) or a significantly higher proportion of stay-at-home moms (eg. Korea) who then taken on the burden of providing home cooked meals.

        • Anni

          Completely agree – but I’ve noticed that in the US (in particular), the trend of not home-cooking as much is just as apparent with stay-at-home moms as with working moms which I think is a thing of habit (a.k.a stuff being available). Growing up, my mum worked on/off and she home cooked lunch everyday despite the circumstances as did many of my friends mother’s (all immigrants from different places) and that’s a habit I put down to the fact that take-out and instant dinner’s (aside from the occasional frozen pizza) were just not considered part of their life so that never felt like a option.

          I still maintain that immigrants will cook more just because their food is less likely to be packaged in a ready-to-heat way. Not to mention that certain taste palettes are just not easily adapted to american/american-italian tastes – plenty of cultures that don’t consume as much dairy have a lot of lactose intolerancy issues with many staples of the american instant-food industry. I’m ethnically chinese and if we take out orange chicken/lemon chicken (which while delicious is not a traditional dish), I think I could probably get about four different dinners at a supermarket like chicken with brocoli, frozen dumplings, sweet and sour chicken and a generic lo mein. Chinese-american food is one of the most notable “ethnic” foods in the US, so I could atleast find four, but that’s not enough new dishes to really put in a week. I think it would be much more difficult to find even a week’s worth of instant dishes that are different for korean food, or indo-chinese food, or filipino food.

        • joeaverage21

          Or multiple generations living under one roof in the Mediterranean region so grandma can slow cook dinner b/c she is at home most of the day.

    • Melissa Klotz

      Somehow my fast fashion has been lasting me forever too, so I’m still having a hard time justifying $100 on a sweater that will last me 5 years vs $20 on a sweater that will last me 5 years. I should feel worse about shitty working conditions, but I have student loans to pay, so…

  • Ludo

    Well wasn’t this article judgemental. I’m Italian, I live in Portugal and I’ve volunteered and studied in Croatia, Slovenia and Poland – between that and cheap Ryanair flights, I consider myself European. Reading this article and comparing your points to the impression I get of the American lifestyle by the countless blogs, websites, news outlets and international friends I met along the way, I do find myself nodding VIGOROUSLY to most of them – and yet, I wonder if there really wasn’t a less stuck up, closed-minded way to express them!? We should really work more on our cultural intelligence, is all I’m saying.

  • Mj D’Arco

    Italian here, how about wasted money on things like cigarettes in Europe? Also what’ the unemployment rate for millennials in Europe? P.S. Forza Juve

    • I have been refused tap water at a restaurant in Florence (during lunch, it wasn’t a fancy dinner or anything). I never got used to the bottled water obsession while living in Europe.

  • nicolacash

    Based on this, it seems like mentally I’m more European than American (I love walking & hate driving, I only buy new electronics when my old ones start to fail, I prefer a small apartment instead of a big house, etc.) I think it all comes down to personal preferences instead of making generalizations about ALL Americans. If given the choice, I’d still choose living in my preferred American city over Europe any day (except if Trump becomes president, obvi)

    • Stephanie

      My mentality and habits are much inline with yours.

      However, the question is: Can these these attitudes toward money and spending be accurately described as American and European? I strongly don’t believe this to be the case.

  • Sindhoo

    Came here prepared to be offended, but yeah, no, I am in agreement with so much of this. And it’s not really that we spend money on one of these things, it’s that we spend money on ALL of these things.

  • Hell No

    Here for the comments!

  • nell

    The only place in Europe I have much experience with is Spain, and I feel like #10 doesn’t hold true at all there. The people I knew seemed to be going out all the time, often on weeknights and often with kids in tow. (Often eating dinner at home but then going out for a walk and drink afterwards). I think this is more of a cities vs. suburbs thing than a Europe vs. America thing… in cities people live in apartments with small kitchens and maybe not a ton of space to entertain, in the burbs there’s more space and fewer options for going out, so people are more likely to host.

    Also if you’ve ever been inside a Picard you know #2 is just a lie.

  • Anon

    I think the problem is less that you’re a snob – though you are – than the fact that you’re uneducated and don’t seem interested in using your critical thinking skills to try to better understand the traits you sneer at.

    A lot of the answers are in the comments. America is geographically much, much larger. Much of its infrastructure was built as cars were being invented. Of course now we see the costs of that reality but at the time the suburbs were seen as a way of giving even middle class people their own little country estates. Who wouldn’t want that? Cities were historically sites of incredible disease, crime and poverty. There was also a powerful car lobby that beat out trains. Yes, I agree the current car culture is unsustainable but it’s not a simple thing to create a mass public transit system, particularly when so very much of the country is rural.

    Again, people are right to point out that you’re speaking from a position of immense privilege and ignorance when you complain about takeout and prepackaged food. We work more than you. It’s just true. We’re also often have to commute long distances as well because housing near cities is prohibitively expensive. We have food deserts where you can’t find produce and stagnating wages. We buy packaged food and fast fashion because it’s cheap and most of this country is struggling to get by.

    I guess that’s what irritates me about this piece. Most of these problems are due to stagnating wages, rising fixed costs, the decline of the middle class and decisions made decades ago. And we know this! They have been subject to intense political debate. Our first lady has spent eight years addressing the obesity epidemic. We have political candidates running on a platform of protesting income inequality. And you think these are *lifestyle choices*? You think we live this way because we don’t understand that fresh food tastes good and long walks with friends are fun? There are people starving and kids getting diagnosed with diabetes at age 10 because all the food they can get is loaded with corn syrup and you think that somehow it’s appropriate to write some cute little piece about how the big sophisticated Europeans don’t understand those bumpkin, materialistic Americans? People are suffering. It’s disgusting that you think that is an occasion to bask in your cultural superiority, rather than trying to read a book and learn something about history or economics, so you can view these traits with compassion.

    • meep

      preach. yday’s article was the perfect explanation for why so many of these things are the case.

    • Chic Noir

      Wow sis, you made good points. At the start of your comment you made me angry but by the end, I totally agree with you.

  • HK4

    Re: The AC/heating complaint. Europe generally has mild temperatures/humidity compared to a lot of the US. Have you ever been to the southeast US in August? Or the Midwest in winter? That’s why AC and heating exist, sweetheart. I don’t enjoy when people keep their homes/offices at 60F in the summer and 80F in the winter, but when it’s 100F with 90% humidity or a -20F windchill, you need more than a fucking fan or a space heater.

    • Kari Compton

      This one got me too. Is there anywhere in Europe where they spend 3-5 months at 100+ degrees? Does it get hot enough for a long enough spread of time that their government has legally forbid electric companies from shutting off power because losing AC will literally kill the occupant? Come on and spend a summer in Texas, Gia. Let me show you why a cold shower just ain’t gonna cut it when it’s 120 in the shade.

  • Anon

    Also, the gym is fun. I go to kickboxing and it’s awesome. And yoga is really relaxing. I don’t know why American gym/ sports culture gets so much hate.

    • Summer

      Probably because despite the apparent obsession with gyms, we’re still an obese society. The US is a land of hypocrisies, no doubt.

  • ritamaria

    I am 34, have lived in four different European countries and have been around a lot and this article just sound like ut wss copied out of one of those “how to dress like the french” in American magazines.

    Most rural areas in Europe have little public transportation, if you don’t live in a big city, then you cannot function mostly with public transportation.
    The wealthiest countries in Europe all heat, as well as the coldest ones, what she says is true for air conditioning but not for central heating, except in countries like Portugal, where being comfortable at home temperaturewise is considered an extravagance (I can say this, I am Portuguese).
    And yes, most people do cook and most of them do not buy in bulk, as cooking and eating together as a family is part if the culture of most European countries and buying in bulk does not exist as an option in most places. Still, just the other day I bought five countainers of laundry detergent because it was half price and most people I know will take advantage of offers like that if they can.
    But the most outrageous for me is the allegedly different attitudes to fast fashion. Does she have data on that? How would the Ortega empire be so huge in Europe if fast fashion was not huge here? Or Primark be growing so fast, even in wealthy central-european countries? Also, her contempt for it makes the author sound really classist.
    I teach an undergrad class and last year my students did a video on Zara’s reputation, asking kids on campus how they felt about the brand. Words like class, style and refinement kept popping up because Zara was aspirational for them as mostly lower middle class kids. The kind of bon chic bon genre mentality the author speaks about is something they cannot even relate to.

    I have lived in Germany, England, the Czech Republic and Portugal and have yet to encounter the superior high class paradise she talks about. I suppose she also believes all Europeans read fancy novels, watch superior cinema and are naturally thin from all the natural exercise obtained when biking to the nearest bio gourmet supermarket?

    • Stephanie

      Agreed — Fast fashion was born in Europe! Zara (world’s largest retailer) and H&M are European companies.

    • Anna Yugova

      Not all Europeans are tiny and slim, but you can’t argue the statistics. There is nowhere near as many obese people in Europe as in the US, even though huge differences exist within Europe (and within US too!) England and Hungary are a lot worse than Italy, France or Poland, just like Oregon is much better than Tennessee. And it’s just silly to deny the huge lifestyle differences that exist between US and Europe. The author captured them all well, I agree with each point. Her tone is judgmental because she prefers one lifestyle over the other, and expresses her opinion. What’s the problem? I personally think that a lot of elements of American lifestyle are wasteful, such as obsession with really large everything. It’s just wasteful. It wouldn’t be a problem if people who go for huge houses and cars could really afford them, but they often can’t, and then they complain about how they can get out of debt. One solution would be to live in a smaller house and drive a smaller car, but the society dictates that you are a failure if you do. So there’s a vicious circle.

      • ritamaria

        For me the problem with her tone is that I think she is being judgemental out of a feeling of superiority, which for me is very different from just preferring red apples to green apples. But what really bothers me is that I don’t agree with her characterisation of the European lifestyle and that I think her portrayal is highly flawed and based uniquely on her immediate circumstances. Which I partly share, and therefore feel that I can judge.

        Like her, I also only know the US from visiting and from having American friends – and yet I know all kinds of people with all kinds of attitude to money, from very different backgrounds and very different attitudes to issues like going out and fast fashion.

        And, like her, I am a European myself and have lived in four different European countries, with Czech, Polish, Russian, French and German roommates and friends from all over.

        And so I had friends with whom I went out for dinner at least once a week and friends who preferred to entertain at home. Friends who had grown up in rural areas who (in all these countries!) depended on a car to have a semi-autonomous life and urban friends who, like myself, only got a driver’s license in their late twenties or not at all. And I knew people from affluent backgrounds who sneered at fast fashion, more middle class people who had mixed wardrobes but still bought a big majority of their clothes from swedish H&M, spanish Zara and irish H&M and even lower middle class students who regarded Zara as aspirational. I know people who go to the gym and people who have never been. And I have worked for different companies under bosses from different nationalities in different countries, mostly in the media and public relations areas, and I swear they all needed the last iPhone that came out – in fact, I organised a conference for top PR executives in Europe and I would bet that the last 2 iPhone models would make up for at least 60% of the over 700 phones at that conference every year.

        There are some preferences she states that I also have and some that I am privileged enough to be able to choose for myself – like not owning a car and being able to entertain at home when I feel like it. Some that she has and I don’t share – I think the cost of a heated or cooled house is definitely worth every penny and I go out for dinner with my boyfriend once a week, almost without fail. And some things that I think Americans spend money on and Europeans don’t as much and that she doesn’t mention – like the omnipresence of soda.

        But above all, I really don’t know how any of this makes Europeans superior to Americans, financially or otherwise. Or why the question of superiority should even matter or be asked in the first place.

  • Alexander Hamilton

    Here is my response: 10 Things Europeans Spend Money On That I Can’t Understand
    1. Soccer – it’s boring! They just run back and forth for 90 minutes (why do I know that?)
    2. Cheese – why so many types of cheese? Why not spend some time on your side hustle, instead of wasting it on 12 types of cheese? One or two is just fine, thank you.
    3. Coca Cola – why is it more expensive than wine?!? Are you trying to turn people into alcoholics?
    4. Suppressing immigrants from war-torn middle eastern nations – enough said
    5. Gas – just have the government subsidize it for pete’s sake
    6. Acid wash jeans – #protip: it costs less to just buy normal jeans without all the crazy fading, with the added bonus of not making your thighs look gigantic
    7. Cigarettes – vaping is more cost effective, and is 100% more swag
    8. The VAT – hell to the no
    9. Salads – you just can’t seem to get this right! Come to LA or NYC to find out how a real salad is made, one that’s worth your hard-earned money.
    10. Hooliganism – either you’re getting drunk at the soccer game and throwing a burning trash can through a car window, or chilling in your squat collecting money from the wellfare state while creating a “ground breaking sound art installation” (ok) (no)

    • Alexandra Plesa

      Yes, this article is kinda judgmental, but your response is mean just for the sake of being mean. This is what’s wrong with the Internet. Plus, cheese is marvelous in any shape and form.

      Anyways, concerning the piece, I don’t believe the things listed above are necessarily specific to Americans. I live in Romania, in Eastern Europe, and plenty of my fellow Romanians are “guilty” of wanting big houses, signing up for gym classes, buying fast cars, or longing for the latest iPhone. This despite the fact that salaries are obvious much lower here. As for the hanging out in pubs/restaurants, I always thought this has more to do with your current relationship status than with where you’re from. When you and most of your friends are single, it’s more natural to meet somewhere in town. When you’re in a couple, have friend couples or have a family, dinner parties become more convenient, yes.

      And no, I’m 28 and I don’t have a credit card either, and never got why Americans always use them until I did a little research on the subject. The same with dryers. I’ve never owned or used a dryer in my entire life, but that’s just because most apartments to rent here come with a washing machine and you can easily air dry your clothes in your apartment. When you have to use a laundry room, things get trickier. My point: it’s easy to be ignorant and we should all make an effort to understand each other better before passing judgement.

      • Stephanie

        “My point: it’s easy to be ignorant and we should all make an effort to understand each other better before passing judgement.”

        (insert all the positive emojis)

        Also for this: “Yes, this article is kinda judgmental, but your response is mean just for the sake of being mean. This is what’s wrong with the Internet. Plus, cheese is marvelous in any shape and form.”

    • jake

      I thought the article was spot on! But I like your list too! haha!

  • Oui In France

    Agree with a lot of the comments below. To each her own, but I feel like this assessment of American culture is really short-sighted. If people can afford to live the way they want, then awesome. As an American in France, I miss the takeout culture and Costco. I think we all make our own choices and if it works and makes us happy, cool. We’re all different. And live once.

  • Nora Feichtmeir

    Way to write an entire post based on conjecture and a shallow understanding of both the vastness of this nation and the varying levels of privilege, poverty, education, opportunity, etc. that Americans have. I know the trope goes Europeans=enlightened and Americans=ignorant, but you are pretty damn ignorant yourself, bb. Praying for you! 😉

  • I agree with most of your points, Gia. As an American, I find your perspective refreshing, and I’m not sure why so many commenters are taking offense to your observations. Of course, financial privilege is a huge factor, but I think a lot of these issues have to do with the choices we make as a culture: constantly buying new electronics, eating out, wanting an updated wardrobe without investing in quality, etc. We are extremely wasteful, and instant gratification is usually the motivating factor for our purchases.

    I don’t think “classicism” is as big of a deal in this issue that most people are making it out to be. It mostly has to do with lifestyle. And yeah, there are some aspects of European life that aren’t realistic for America due to limitations like geography, but there are some trade-offs that would be plenty realistic. Gym memberships are definitely not necessary, especially for a person like me who prefers to just go for a walk or do what I can at home. We absolutely do not need to be replacing our electronics every 1-2 years. And there’s no good reason to go out and buy five cheap H&M tops that will have holes in them within in the next six months. These things add up quickly, and if we tried to cut back and be a little more purposeful in our spending, we’d likely be able to do things like cook nice meals at home and host more get-togethers.

    • Kaci

      This article offers valid criticism of our spend more, instant gratification American culture. I’m surprised that this many commentators are reacting like this.

      • Maggie

        I agree. Sure maybe the author says some of these things because she doesn’t understand the reasons behind them, but that’s literally the title of the article! It’s one person’s perspective and I’ve always thought that seeing my lifestyle or my habits from the perspective of an outsider can be really helpful and make me realize that maybe some of the things I do are ridiculous or nonsensical, and that’s a good thing. Instead most commenters seem to be having a knee-jerk reaction and whining as if they’re being personally attacked.

      • Sunjay Chandiramani

        Kaci, as an American who has spent the past 10 years in Europe, I can tell you with assurance that the exact same spend more, instant gratification culture exists here. The only difference is A) higher cost of living B) smaller salaries and C) higher taxes, which make many things we take for granted in America out of reach for the average European. Give a European a shot at an American lifestyle and you’d be surprised how many reach out and grab it with two hands. And similarly, there are plenty of Americans disgusted by how we are “encouraged” by advertising and the media to spend our hard earned Dollars. I think it works both ways.

  • Rachel York

    While most things in this article are valid the reasoning that the author uses afterwards is not in a helpful, how to save money light, but more of a “this is yet another thing i think Europeans do better than Americans”. My problem with this article is also that the author never actually lived the US – she has only travelled. Living and traveling are completely different experiences, and you can tell she doesn’t really understand the US just based on the fact that this article is mostly stereotypes. As an American living in France (and not even Paris mind you) these are stereotypes that I have to deal with people assuming about me all the time.

    Might I remind you that Europeans commit many of their own sins as well? Chain smoking, alcohol at every meal? Also, pretty sure fast fashion is JUST as big in Europe as in America, considering how most people wear exclusively Primark and H&M. Also, as other commenters mentioned, the author failed to look into the structural causes of many of the issues in the US that make it so people cant always eat beautifully cooked food at home, or walk everywhere, etc. Not saying that I don’t appreciate life in Europe but honestly I’m disappointed to see and article fully based on stereotypes on this website.

    • Bagel

      I totally agree. I wish she had framed it in a “European habits Americans can adopt to save money” way.

  • Julia St Louis

    This article is just straight bratty

  • Deva Jasheway

    The largest portion of American people I know (including me) do not adhere to most of these rules. I find it disheartening when people think that all Americans act a certain way, or value certain things.

    I tend to get cold so I’ll sit in front of a space heater. I can’t STAND air conditioners being cranked up so high all summer and having to carry at least one sweater with me everywhere I go.

    There are a lot of things I like about European culture, but one of the things I don’t like is the assumption that Americans refuse to cook fresh food or walk places or that we all buy fast fashion constantly. I have so many issues with the fast fashion industry…

    I think this should open up a conversation, instead of everyone pouncing on the author of the piece about her attitude.

  • Ishani

    This article does point out the major differences in the general spending patterns between Americans and Europeans. What it fails to do however, is examine that these differences are caused by systemic differences in the government structure of these two places. America’s heavily capitalist structure means that industry influences like the motor and banking lobby have played a significant role in the way that the infrastructure and financial structures are constructed. On the other hand, the socialist pattern of governance in Europe forces the government to provide amenities such as a public transport system and cheaper credit facilities for housing.
    Also, the primary reason why houses are larger in America is because more land is available for building, unlike Europe which has a much smaller countries.
    Given that America and Europe are both considered first world countries, sharing largely similar racial identities, language groups, clothing styles, and food, there is a tendency to make broad generalisations and competitive comparisons between them. However, the cultural differences and the context in which they have developed must be kept in mind while making such comparisons.

  • Sara J.

    Haha this sounds like it was written by a 20 year old from Iowa who just spend a semester abroad in Florence with 100 other Americans and came back super “enlightened” about the European way of life.

    • Ainsley Jey

      “I was born in Modena, Italy to an Italian father and a British mother. I lived in Italy for four years, England for 10 years, Spain for three years, Italy again for three years, and have been in Germany for the last five years.”

      • Sara J.

        I know, still sounds like a 20 year American student coming back from study abroad. I’ve heard this stuff a million times.

  • AN

    There are a lot of great comments here so I’m not going to repeat anything anyone else has said, but a note about electronics:

    Iphones and other premium electronics are much cheaper in the United States because our government doesn’t tax them as heavily as European governments do.

    A lot of people have talked about the author’s assumed class privilege, and those criticisms seem valid based on what she wrote. It wouldn’t be unfair to assume that any of her friends from the United States must have a good deal of class privilege to have some degree of connections to Europe (and live in a big enough space to host friends for long stays). I can assure you plenty of Americans use their electronics until they’re dead in our hands.

    I hope the author reads these comments. Hopefully they will help explain some of the lifestyle choices she couldn’t wrap her head around.

  • Erin Williams

    The point others have made about work/life balance is a huge one. Additionally, the cities are planned differently. When I studied abroad in Rome, we cooked in our apartment almost every night, visiting the grocery store probably every other day. Why did it seem so easy to do this? For one, we went home when it was still light out! Then there were grocery stores every couple of blocks that sold fresh veggies, fresh pasta, 2euro bottles of wine, etc. Back home in LA, the only thing on most corners is a taco stand or a gas station convenience store (hmmmm, where do all of those prepared foods and takeout come from, I wonder?). Oh and we walked home, because the city was built for it and we could live blocks from where we were taking classes, unlike in LA where I drive half an hour each way, so popping into the store on the way home was nothing.

    If the layout of my city and the use of my time looked European, then my meals and other habits might look more european too. The idea of “oh I can’t understand why these stupid americans don’t just do things right!” is so short-sighted and ignores the layers of larger scale issues that shape people’s decision-making. Maybe the reason this article rubs people the wrong way is because it’s taking everything out of context, when the context is actually very, very important.

  • Lexie

    I definitely agree with you on the air conditioning and heat thing! Though none of my apartments in the midwest had air conditioning. I finally broke down and bought a window air unit my last year though.

  • jake

    I am a born & bred suburban US Citizen… This author is absolutely, 100 percent, hit the nail on its head, correct! The fact that so many people are defending our culture on here proves he/she hit a nerve! All of the things pointed to in this article are the exact reasons why middle class America feels like it’s having a hard time “just getting by”. With exception of the cars (this has been part of our culture since they were invented) most of these perceived needs are new in the last two generations. Even car ownership has gotten worse! Now we need 4 for 3 household drivers because “I need a truck to haul my boat”. The whole situation is a horrible positive feedback loop! More driving = less walking= overweight= no energy to cook= more prepackaged food= less energy and more fat= need to turn up airconditioning in summer because I’m overweight and hot…. Or how about work more for money to buy new electronics= less time to have friends/neighbors/family over= less happy= need to splurge at bar to meet friends= need to work more and have less time= more depressed so buy more toys, ect. I wish I could give the author the credit of opening my eyes, but I was confronted with this years go. At first I was defensive and angry like most of the commenters, but after letting it digest, I realized it was time for some personal change. hopefully this article will motivate one more person to do the same, stop and think, realize what is truely valuable to you. I promise, you’ll be happier for it in a years time.

    • Sunjay Chandiramani

      Jake I would say the criticism with American culture on show here is justified. However I would argue that Europe is not the utopia the author makes it out to be. Have you ever seen the traffic in cities like London, Paris, hell, even Geneva? Can’t get around anywhere. And rather than try and balance out the need for infrastructure to deliver goods via truck, European cities pretend like sofas and mattresses and inventory can all be delivered by bike, and refuse to build more roads to keep the economy churning.

      • joeaverage21

        But if a person is walking or riding the train or a scooter for that matter – traffic isn’t nearly the problem it first appears to be. Who cares how long the delivery truck spends in traffic – if you aren’t in that truck does it matter whether it takes half an hour or two hours?

        Yeah traffic was terrible when I lived in Italy but the average traffic jam took no more of my time than it did last weekend in Nashville after a concert.

  • Another Chick

    I find it really odd how defensive a lot of commenters (Americans) are being about this article. Take a step back and take a really good look at American society, especially middle America. What she says is extremely true. There have even been consumer studies in the last few years confirming all of the statements about takeouts, restaurants, etc and Americans not cooking.

    About credit cards: talk to anyone above the age of 17. They all most likely got a credit card in college when they didn’t even understand the ramifications of credit card debt. There have also been lots of studies on the affect of America’s over-reliance on credit to do anything within society. This is also intersects with the rise of pay day loan companies lending to people who don’t have enough credit, therefore putting folks into heavier debt.

    A/C and heating overuse: that is extremely true as well. I grew up in Florida and we always had to take sweaters into the malls with us or classrooms because of overuse of A/C. It’s crazy. Then moving back to NYC, that’s another example of overheating people’s homes. The radiators are constantly going during winter without you being able to turn it off at times. I literally had to open my windows in the dead of winter in order to cool down my apartment from too much heat. It’s a complete waste of resources and money.

    Just because she doesn’t understand the American way of life it doesn’t mean she’s being judgmental OR that she’s wrong. Believe it or not, American way of life isn’t the end all be all.

    • Modesta Acosta

      Defensive? Really? It’s not that what she’s saying isn’t true, no one’s debating that. It’s just that she paints the way Americans live as lifestyle choices and they just aren’t. So it’s annoying. America is more rural than Europe, The middle class has more disposable income. We have children younger and we have larger families and our society is built to accommodate that. We buy in bulk because we have larger families. We use cars because we live in rural areas with poor public transit systems. I cook at home every day so that one’s bullshit. I just feel like Europeans have little brother syndrome and are jealous. Eating out is cheaper here compared to incomes. Air-conditioning is a necessity because of our weather. Europe has mild summers and mild winters for the most part. We don’t. Since when is not affording air conditioning a badge of honor?

  • California_Daze

    Ugh – all these whiny comments. Wake up. Challenge yourselves. We’re American, damn-it. Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps and get ‘er done instead of lamenting about these “mean Europeans.” For pete’s sake… We’re better than that.

  • Modesta Acosta

    If you lived here, you would buy a car and takout too. I love how everyone assumes cultural differences are at play, but I think its environmental. When my European friends studied at my university, they became dependent on cars, went to restaurants regularly(its much cheaper here than in Europe compared to salaries), shopped at Wal-Mart at 8pm when they needed something, and never complained about it. When I was in Europe, I walked everywhere because I could.

  • George Town

    The author only appears to be stating her observations. There’s nothing haughty or arrogant in her language at all.

    https://twentysomethinglawyer.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/the-millenial-urban-poor/

  • Sunjay Chandiramani

    I love it how you, Gia, feel the authority to speak for “ALL” Europeans. That’s hilarious. Super cars are built in Italy and Germany. Formula 1 is huge all across the continent. Hypermarkets like Champion and Carrefour dominate the landscape in France. Gym memberships are a thing everywhere, and Crossfit is gaining popularity. Some of the biggest fast fashion brands are European – ASOS, Zara, H&M and new players are entering every day. There’s an Apple store in every major retail center of every major city, and it’s quite busy if you’ve ever been inside. Finally, I know you’ve gone ahead and unilaterally redrawn the map of Europe by excluding the UK, but I gotta tell you that over here we have 20 Costcos across the country…and it’s a brilliant place to not get ripped off on household goods. In short, just because YOU think a certain way, don’t be ignorant and feel like you can make general comparisons. Your anti-consumerist views would fit in perfectly in Austin, TX for example, or you could feel alienated mixing it among the rich and famous in Milan. How about you try and take people as individuals?

  • Ainsley Jey

    Wow, the Americans in these comments are really touchy. Loved the article!

    • joeaverage21

      We’re just trying to make ourselves feel better about our choices…. 😉

      I see some of what the original author wrote about but some of it is out of context and living here more would help that. Even Americans don’t understand how or why other Americans live the way they do b/c this country is so big and the climate and lifestyles can be so diverse.

      I look at the rest of the world and use their good ideas when these ideas work for my family. Frugality is one of those things. Seems obvious but when many (most?) of your family and peers are in debt up to their noses, frugality is not easily learned by example. Some of our choices get looked down upon b/c to others it appears we are poor. We have all the same stuff – but it’s older though in good condition. We save money. Others around us spend their time planning their next big purchase and telling everyone about it before and after they’ve laid down the money.

  • nubwaxer

    as odd as it may seem but i’ve found my ideal room temperature is 78 F. i know, right? even then i’m in a t-shirt, boxers, and socks with cold feet. i’ve been places like england and new zealand where room temperature is about 65 F but i have never been comfortable wearing a coat, sweater, or hoodie indoors. i’m a california native so that may explain it.

  • nat

    The air conditioning thing. As an American who lives without air conditioning, people don’t know how I do it. But I’ve lived that way my whole life and don’t know any different. People always wonder “how do you survive?” I just laugh.

  • Ari

    I totally agree in some aspects with Anon. However, coming from a family
    of a different culture (Central America) that lives similarly to EU,and
    being born in the US has allowed me to look at American culture from
    the outside and inside.
    In terms of eating out, American culture is
    more fast paced and so it’s easy to rely on per-packaged/pre-made food.
    But I think we sometimes rely on it too much.You can still cook ahead of
    time, it’s still not an excuse. I agree with Gia, you could be saving a
    lot more if you cooked at home even if pre-packaged food is more
    convenient. The idea of take out I think is just a preference,( if you
    don’t want to cook or eat at a restaurant). Or sometimes it’s just being
    lazy. Perhaps Europeans are less inclined to do take out b/c since they
    cook more at home they’d rather have the restaurant experience?

    I’m
    completely guilty of fast-fashion. I spend so much money on cheap
    clothes that I will get rid off/ or wont last in a year or two. I think
    it’s because we’re consumers, the US is a consumer culture so the idea
    to buy and buy gets shoved down our throats and it’s hard not too fall
    into it. I think this can apply to new electronics too.However I do
    think fast fashion is big in EU too.

    The ac and heat I do agree
    with. We’re spoiled to be able to have it set to 69F when it’s 90F
    outside. It’s so easy to just turn the ac or heater on. I grew up in an
    old house with no heater or ac so I learned to just deal with it. Now
    that I’m older I’ve grown costumed to use ac or heater. Although not
    everyone is like this,some do conserve b/c it gets expensive! When I go
    to my parent’s home country, they don’t rely on it, partially b/c it’s a
    privilege to have it and you just deal with it.

    How we interpret
    space can also be cultural. We are probably of the few in the world
    that always look to have a home with a lot of space. We complain if the
    bedrooms are too small and the kitchen isn’t big enough (I watch too
    much HGTV). And just like how you can’t wrap your head around why we
    want so much space, we may not be able to wrap our heads as to why you
    wouldn’t want more space.But I do think sometimes we may be spoiled in
    this aspect. Do we really need that spare bedroom? Do we really need a
    big kitchen too cook the few meals we make from home? You justify these
    things sometimes even if they’re not absolutely needed. When you go to
    EU or Latin America they have the sq footage that they use, not want,
    it’s efficient. Of course this is all generally speaking.

    I
    don’t really have an opinion on bulk grocery. But cars could be
    justified by saying our landscape makes us dependent on cars and for
    commuting. BUT Europe also has rural towns and countrysides so I would
    assume they need them too. And just like housing in the cities are a lot
    more expensive here, I’m sure they are too in EU. Although our
    transportation system could be a lot better we’re still very dependent
    on cars. (My boss’ live 3/4 blocks from work and still pay monthly
    parking to drive to work.) So our dependency on cars may come from
    convenience. It’s easier to drive than to depend on transportation and
    work around its time. Even if we live in the cities (with the exception
    of NY) we drive everywhere. Maybe because we like to be in control of
    when we’re getting to a certain place, maybe because we’re just lazy.
    But it is a problem.

    As for gym memberships I too think it’s
    ridiculous to drive to then sit on a bike or use the treadmill when you
    can go outside and run. BUT I have one because equipment like weights,
    cables, squat racks are expensive and so I use them at the gym. Also,
    the obese problem we have probably pushes consumers to get a membership
    even if you don’t use it.

    I think dinner parties or gatherings
    do still happen, we have BBQs! And birthday parties! But yeah I think
    we’ve also become dependent on restaurants to have these gatherings at.
    I’m not sure why, but I do agree that for my age (23) they typically
    happen at restaurants or bars.

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