Across the Pond
By Jason Ruckman
October 28, 2013
This summer I broadened my horizons by flying into one.
I spent a month in Sweden living with a former international student whom I roomed with here in the dorms, a couple semesters ago. It was a journey of enlightenment.
No one has a clue what American Football is. They know it exists and they know we enjoy it, but beyond that mostly everyone I was acquainted with didn’t have any idea what America’s real favorite past-time is.
The unfortunate part is their unwarranted hatred towards it.
I guess it still holds true that we reject what we don’t understand. Almost all of them denounced our football with little more understanding of it than the name, which we stole from them.
I’m a selfish person. I never wanted American football to spread across the globe. The NFL plays at least one game in England a year, which is one game too many. I always feared that world wide American football was inevitable and in the very near future. I fear no more. Europeans are engulfed too heavily in soccer to care much about our football.
So, for now, it’s all ours.
Another little difference I noticed is that they charge money to use a lot of their public restrooms. Sure it’s not a lot of money, but still. When I walked up to my first public restroom I was outraged. The idea of paying to use something public struck a nerve with me. But, after paying, I went inside and saw the nicest public restroom I have ever seen. Instantly I was a fan. Somehow it smelled decent. Things like “Jeff’s a fag” weren’t carved into the walls. There wasn’t a random pile of soaking wet toilet paper on the floor or a hobo urinating in the sink. It simply looked like a group of civilized people got together and decided that they no longer would stand for such disgust. I was so impressed I tossed them an extra Krona on the way out.
I was mostly just in Sweden except for a short time in Denmark and Germany, but all throughout I got the great sense that their transportation system is like a wonder of the world. For a monthly fee, which compared to gas prices is nothing, you can go anywhere in the area and for a little extra money you can travel anywhere in Europe. I never waited more than ten minutes for a train.
Because of the great transportation system the gas prices are far higher than ours. The misconception I think a lot of Europeans have is that Americans complain about gas prices too much seeing as ours is so much cheaper. This is true, our gas is cheaper. But, we drive far more than most Europeans. So if we drive more our gas is less. If they drive less their gas is more. It all balances out.
Not only do they have way more trains than we do, but riding bicycles as a means of transportation and not just exercise or entertainment is far more popular there. I saw more bikes in the first two hours I was in Europe than I’ve seen in my entire life. Not only is this a cheap and quick way to get around, I think it also keeps them in better shape. For instance, I walk fifteen feet to my car to get where I want to go and from there I walk probably less than 100 yards to get from my car to my destination. They walk or ride a bike quite far just for a train ride and then from that point walk even more. Its cheaper, healthy and overall a good idea.
Though Europe outdoes America in several ways, there are some things that are untouchable. Food in America cannot be beaten. America, namely Hollywood, outdoes most of the entire world in entertainment.
And most of all: patriotism. In the countries I was in I never got the feeling of that true patriotism that I do in America.
The world is a big place. America only makes up a small part of it, and Missouri is even smaller. Get up and go see what’s out there. You will be surprised at how different we all are, and even more surprised at how similar.