I found this article recently and there are a few comments that pretty much confirm that the best places there are much more entertaining, less stressful, and healthier than the best places in the US. I realize no place is a utopia but the lifestyle I want just isn't possible here, which is why I plan on moving there pretty soon. What are the positives of staying in the US? Because I don't see any.
You may be focusing too much on what a habituated American would find inconvenient about Europe, but not what would be comparably a more happy place to live for someone truly neutral. A biased sample perhaps, but nearly everyone I know, including myself, who has lived on both continents prefers Europe over the United States. And most of these friends, like myself, were graduate students, meaning that we were on stipends or grants, ie. quite poor. Just speaking on an anecdotal level, being a poor graduate student in Europe was a lot easier, and a lot more enjoyable, and a lot more convenient, than being a poor graduate student in the United States. The items you cite you as a comparable inconvenience are actually, to my experience, great benefits: yes, in Europe, I rode a bike to the grocery store, like nearly all my friends, and did not own a car, but it's hard to find an apartment in a city like Berlin or Rotterdam or Cologne that is more than five blocks from a supermarket. And since they are so close, there is no need to stock up on a weeks supply of food, so one goes often, and with fewer grocries, riding a bike home with groceries is not a problem. And if you're used to riding a bike, a brief trek through the rain or cold is not such a big deal, and only seems so to an American habituated to driving. Additionally, although no doubt because of inefficient state interference, produce and cheeses and milk are much cheaper (a kilo of tomatoes, if I remember correctly, was .75 eurocents in Berlin in 2005, when a pound was roughly $4 in New York in 2005)--affording fruits and vegetables was always cheaper in Europe. And yes, you have to be rich to live on St. Germain or in a swank area of Charlottenburg, but you overstate the case by implying that the benefits of a European city only accrue to those who do live in such areas. Just a little bit out in most of the major cities you'll find pretty affordable housing with the same basic environmental amenities, only you'll be going to local brasserie and not La Rotund--but really, same difference. Finally, I think you're neglecting the costs of American abundance. The price of our large houses and large cars are longer commute times and longer hours worked. (I'm assuming--is this true? What is the data?). And allow me one final anecdotal observation: the highest price Americans pay for our lifestyle is in friendship. Comparing my friends in the United States who have wed and started families with similar cohorts I associated with in Europe, Americans sacrifice friendship and fun to a much, much larger degree. This puts a lot of strain on couples, because each spouse then has a much greater degree of responsibility for the entertainment and companion-needs of the other, because very often, the spouse ends up being the only friend you really spend time with (not me; i'm not married, i just mean in general). My friends in Europe with children would often meet up at parks, in bars, at each others houses, for drinks or meals or fun, with the kids, and this was in large part because a) they didn't feel guilty doing that, b) they weren't running their kids around to a billion afterschool activities, c) they didn't have to deal with the hassle of strapping kids into carseats, and d) they actually had friends around who wanted to do the same thing. I know American couples who get out with friends maybe three or four times a year, and even then it is like a scheduled activity, not something that's just part of normal routine. I knew no one like that in Europe.
what a load of crap!
I have lived in New York, Boston, and Washington D.C. and now live in Amsterdam. It's many times better here than in any of those cities, and all the "tourist errors" are flat wrong.
I live in one of the nicest, old-center parts of Amsterdam, the kind of place full of lovely old buildings where tourists gawk all day long. My rent is HALF of what is was in the Village in New York, a comparable neighborhood (except by comparison, hideously ugly, loud and annoying).
Public transport here is just as good as in NY, better than D.C. by a long shot and better than Boston.
And yes, bikes are nice for tourists - and ALSO the preferred mode of transport for people who actually live here. I shop for groceries on my bike, as does everyone else. People pick up their kids on bikes, carry furniture home on bikes, etc. If you have regular shlepping needs, you get a bike with a big bucket in front ("bakfiets.")
Food here is fresher, healthier, and full of variety. We have markets (you know, outdoor markets like in the old days) for food, clothes, and everything else on every day of the week. The air is cleaner, there is hardly any traffic noise (all those bikes), social services work better, you get HEALTH CARE, crime is practically nonexistent, and on and on.
as for the suburbs, I've never liked living out in an isolated fake non-neighborhood non-community, dependent on a car. I don't know why Americans like that kind of idiocy. BUt even if you do, news flash, the suburbs here are LOVELY. Quiet, green, peaceful, surrounded by actual farmland and trees and nature rather than endless highways and garbage dumps and strip malls. And you can get to the city with public transport from them - we have TRAINS here, among other things (trams, busses, etc.). You can live without a car in the suburbs here just fine, and many people do. The middle-class suburbs in Holland would make most Americans who like that sort of life green with envy.
I think Americans really like to convince themselves that their country is the best, their idiotic political system is the best, their heartless, wasteful pro-private-profit-above-everything ideology is the best, and will make up whatever nonsense they can do keep that illusion going
I just got back from Finland and Estonia, and it's depressing to be back in the US. I found a lot to like about both countries -- and speaking to locals didn't give me any second thoughts.
I come at this from the perspective of a young (late 20s) single male with a lot of disposable income. I live by myself in a 625 sq ft apartment in a highrise in downtown Austin, TX. I fully grant that other people with other backgrounds (especially married with children, or with less money) might have very different preferences.
First of all, I find it just so odd that we've had so many comments on this thread and the word "obesity" has not been mentioned once! Obesity is a large negative externality as far as I'm concerned because fat people are ugly. I don't like to look at them. I would prefer to look at skinny beautiful people. There are a lot more of them where I was visiting.
Also, in addition to being substantially better-looking, the young women were much friendlier and smarter, and have a wonderfully sexy demeanor. American women are often incredibly rude and, often, talking to them makes you want to shoot yourself.
You can drink alcohol openly in the park, on the street, or on the beach without getting arrested. Even out of a glass container. No fascist open container laws, or at least no enforcement of them.
The taxes and cost of living are high in Finland, sure, but not so much in Estonia (I would save a boatload on taxes alone if I lived there). And even then, I'm fairly wealthy. Trading money for a higher quality of life would be a good tradeoff.
If I could give up my car and walk/bike most everywhere, that would be a plus, not a minus. I dislike driving. It's a pain to drive, and it's socially isolating. Walking/biking does double duty as exercise. Now don't get the wrong idea, I recognize the many obnoxious limitations of public transit or of having to walk/bike outside in the heat/cold/rain/snow. But if there was a practical way for me to live carless in the US, I'd sell my car in an instant.
I don't want a bigger house/apartment. 625 sq ft is plenty of space for everything I need. More space would just mean I was lugging more useless junk along with me. Even now I feel like I have too much stuff.
I would hate to give up my American supermarket. I like having such a great quantity and variety of food available to me to eat and cook with. But that's one of the few things I feel like I would miss a lot.
And for someone like me, the American suburbs are just AWFUL. You can live very comfortably and conveniently on a tiny amount of money there, but the quality of life is bad. The moment you get out of your car you're surrounded by obese suburban housewifes dragging their kids and husbands around.
Apparently I'm becoming that rarest of birds: an America-hating conservative.