My 19 year old sister is exactly like me, she LOVES to travel. In May 2011 she studied abroad in Ireland for 2 weeks. She visited Dublin, Connemara, Galway and Lisdoonvarna and enjoyed each one of the unique cities.
This weekend (Sept 16-18) there was an Irish festival in Muskegon, Michigan and my sister, cousin and I decided to attend. It was so much fun! There was live Irish music, rich Irish food, strong Irish beer and Irish musicians speaking in their Irish accents. Being there got me thinking about my life in Spain and Europe. It got me thinking about the differences between the United States and countries in Europe and how even though we’re only an ocean away, our cultures and way of life are completely different.
Let’s start with the easiest and biggest difference: the beer. I have visited Poland and have tasted the difference between Zywiec and Bud Light. I live in Spain and taste the difference between Mahou and Budweiser. Kristin, my sister, has been to Ireland and has tasted the difference between Guinness and Miller Light. Let’s face it, Americans are sissies. We may claim to be “The United States of Beer” and our American men may brag and boast about their “drinking abilities” but the truth is, put an American up against a Spaniard, Irish, Polish, German, Scottish…etc. in a drinking contest and the American will be passed out on the floor in no time; especially if they’re drinking their contender’s home-country beer. Not only is European beer stronger than American beer, but Americans simply can’t hold their liquor as well as those alcoholic Europeans. I mean come on, some countries in Europe drink before work, during work, after work and well into the next day. As much as we Americans like to think we could handle that lifestyle, we’re not fooling anyone.
Listening to the Irish music at the festival was amazing. The bands not only sang but get this…played their own music! In a society where all we hear is synchronized vocals and beats that are composed on the computer, listening to live music is a breath of fresh air. And while they played the typical band instruments like the guitar, bass and keyboard, the violin and even the accordion were also incorporated, and they not only played them but they rocked out on them. One violinist was going all out, jumping all over the stage and hopping up and down. It was incredible. It really made the heart race and goose bumps form on the arms. And while you looked around at the audience, whom most were seated on metal fold out chairs, you noticed that the bands were more into their own music than the spectators were. Of course, everyone enjoyed the live show, however, compared to the Irish band and a few Irish audience members, the Americans seemed stiff. The Irish were dancing around not caring if they made fools of themselves while the Americans sat in their seats, occasionally clapping their hands to the beat, and worried too much if they were making fools of themselves. We Americans are a proud bunch and letting loose and maybe showing a vulnerable side is too embarrassing for us. That is a huge difference between the United States and other countries. While other countries pride themselves and their culture with original music, food and dance, Americans are the last ones to claim those three things as an aspect of our culture. However, Americans do like to party and it’s true that once we get going, we won’t stop – even though we need a little alcohol in our system first to get us going.
There’s a saying that Americans “live to work” and other countries “work to live”. If you think about it, it really is true. Ever since we are children, we are asked what we want to be when we get older. We spend our elementary school days drawing pictures of our dream jobs; our middle school days focusing on studies; our high school days slacking off just a little bit but realizing by our junior/senior year that we need to start cracking down if we want to get into the best college; our college days stressing out and working toward that future career; and our career days where the rest of our days are comprised of working and trying to raise a family. We hold off our adventures and dreams until after we retire and by that time, if we’re lucky, we’re either too old or our health is slowly decreasing. Americans seemed stuck in a trap of “born, school, work, raise a family, die.” As an American living abroad, I can tell you first-hand how much I really do realize this specific culture difference. When I come back to the United States, I can’t stay for more than 2 months without feeling overwhelmed by a stressed society. Back in Spain, things feel more relaxed and calm. Of course, they stress and worry about their jobs however, after their shift ends, their job is pushed to the back of their minds and they take a load off by having a beer at the bar or spending time with their family. It’s not all work 24/7; there is time for nonsense. Americans need to change their “live to work” habit to the better and less stressful “work to live”.
The list of differences could go on and on and as I’m proud and blessed to be born in the United States, I do feel that we need to loosen up as a country and people. We need to sit back, relax and enjoy life just a little more. We need to yearn for adventure and we need to want to experience other cultures and countries. We need to stop being so “proud to be an American” and instead be “proud to be a human of the world”. While this goes for other countries as well, the United States often sets the examples for other nations and this is one example we need to start setting. We are all people, no matter our color, heritage or belief. We are all people of this world and all live, breathe and die. We all share worries, happiness, sorrow and fear and we all need to realize that we are in this world and life together, not separate.
I guess this article that I’m writing can be translated into a “bigger picture” than just the differences between the United States and Europe; it’s my fault since I did start out the article with beer differences and ended it with a world problem – two totally different topics. But I hope everyone gets the point. We need to all just chill out, take a breather and space ourselves from what society expects of us and what we expect for ourselves. My personal dream and goal is to become a travelling journalist, photographer and story writer. I know and understand that I will have to take jobs that help me get the money I need in order to achieve this goal, but I also understand that I am strong enough to turn down jobs or opportunities that I don’t feel is right for me. NOTHING will compromise my dream and I hope that everyone will strive to achieve their dreams too and not be stuck in a situation that isn’t right for them because they need to “take care of their family” or “make a living”. Don’t worry about how you’ll be known after you die, worry about how you’ll be known while you’re alive. And always think about yourself first, that’s what many countries in Europe do. Even though that may sound selfish, remember, you are YOU, not your country. You live with YOUR actions, not your country. You live YOUR life, not your country’s life.
*Note: This ramble is not meant to offend anyone. I’m just stating what’s on my mind and what I have witnessed and believe. You can agree with it or not. Either way, these are my words and thoughts. © Kalie Lyn, 2011*