I had meant to write more economics pieces during and post my European trip. Then Asshole Consulting took off, I had to winterize my house in anticipation of the Minnesota winter, and now it's the holiday season. It wasn't through anything but sheer luck I have a glimpse of time at this moment and I fully intend on using it to write about my most important observation about Europe - that it's standards of living are overstated, and especially so for bachelors.
Admittedly, I did not travel all of Europe. I visited Switzerland, Italy and a bit of France. But in sampling those three countries (not to mention practically scouring all of Switzerland and Italy) I can say with reasonable confidence in at least those three countries standards of living are overstated. Of course in the Eastern European Empire of Roosh things may be different, and northern Europe I left untouched, but I believe even the regional differences aside there are some European wide structural differences that not only puts it at a disadvantage compared to the US, but costs its people a lower standard of living.
The first and most painfully obvious reason was the cost of food. I know food does not account for anywhere near a significant percentage of GDP, but since it stimulates one of the five senses and is kind of a "necessity," I was shocked how expensive the food was.
In Switzerland a Big Mac (just the burger, not the meal) on average cost $12. If it cost cheaper somewhere else, I was unaware of it, but I was HONORED to pay "only" $8.50 for a Burger King Big Whopper. Even that was a "deal" because twice I paid over $120 for dinner for four. Admittedly once was in Montreaux (and expensive resort town on Lake Geneva), but it was certainly overpriced.
Second, and related, was the quality of food.
I don't know what idiotic 16 year old suburbanite American girl came up with the lie to make her trip to Europe more exotic than it was, but the food absolutely sucks. The two times I paid $120+ for dinner the food was on par with gas station food, and not even good gas station food. Mac and Cheese, a panini sandwich so toasted you'd lose a filling, and with a stingy thin slice of "prosciutto" (which I believe is Italian for "one atom-thick slick of pork"). And I think my girlfriend had the leaf sandwhich with three-eye-droplets of Diet Coke. If you factor in the quality and quantity of food, Europe probably costs quadruple what it does in the US.
Yes, I know gas is more expensive in Europe. Yes, I am also aware "well, but tuition and health care are free there!" That does me no good. Unless you're old or in college, these offsetting social programs don't benefit the majority of people who have to endure it. But it is not the mere nominal costs of gas that lowers the standards of living as much as it is when you combine it with the fact 1960's highways were built on the towns' 500AD European infrastructure. So not only do you get to pay more in gas, you get to use more as you meander through indirect highways and clogged city streets that were designed for cattle.
Unless new construction, the vast majority of housing in Europe is inferior to the US. This is not an insult to the European peoples or their carpenters as much as it is a result of the majority of their housing being before the US even existed. A "nice house" is jammed right next to others with roof spines sagging and shared yards. Every castle I saw looked like a home-owner's fixit nightmare. And the prices are so high you never own your home as much as just pay the interest on the mortgage. Simply because the US is/was less densely populated and the majority of its housing stock built with updated technologies, the quality of housing (and thus your living/dwelling experience) is much nicer.
Finally, the hotels.
I was very much looking forward to finding a quiet, hidden Italian village where I promised myself and girlfriend we would "sit and do nothing." I just wanted to find a nice hotel next to the ocean and get drunk on vino.
Not just because to drive from one town to another in Italy will make you so stressed out and weary you can't enjoy a wine, but because the hotels are really not that nice and neither is the wine. We stayed at great, high end hotels in Stresa, Bellagio, and Florence and NONE OF THEM beat something as average as the Crowne Plaza in Billings, Montana. Again, some of this has to do with the outdated technologies these "premier" hotels were built with, but the furniture and fixings are literally no better than a Hotel 8. In short, even their most luxurious hotel in Bellagio (on Lake Como) comes nowhere near the quality and caliber of the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
There were many other things, but the point is whether it's something basic as food or luxurious as a hotel on Lake Como, the costs are twice that of the US for goods and services that are a fraction of the quality and quantity.
However, shocking and appalling as the costs and economic lower standards of living were, there was one thing that was even more cumbersome and "standards-of-life-dropping."
Not that Europe is "uncultured." It certainly is, and in many regards, more so than the US. But the European culture is absolutely antithetical to the freedom-loving, American bachelor.
Understand that the American bachelor is arguably the freest person in the entire world. We can get up when we want. Do what we want. Eat when we want. Go when we want. And go wherever we want. This isn't to say that in Europe there are Nazi guards at the borders checking your papers, preventing you from enjoying these freedoms, there isn't. But it is to say the European culture is not conducive to providing the support structure for this level of freedom.
And it's maddening.
Most obvious is that you do not have the "Freedom to Eat Whenever You Want."
Because every freaking store closes down at siesta for 1-2 hours and then permanently for the day around 7PM. Yes, there probably is one or two places on the continent that might be open till 10PM, but I didn't see them. The problem this presents, however, to the American bachelor is that he no longer has the luxury of not worrying about when to eat. After three days without a host the PRIMARY determinant of where we went, what time we left, and what town we'd get a hotel in, was not determined by our traveling desires, but at what time we could get food, specifically diner.
You may be laughing, but consider the drop in standard of living this presents to a bachelor. Time and freedom are the only things that matter. And if you can get food 24-7, a vital and key necessity is taken care of, allowing you to travel wherever, whenever you want. However, without 24-7 access to food, you are no longer entitled to 100% of your free time. Some of it, now needs to be dedicated and thus restricted based on the operating hours of food providers.
Closely related to this culture of "close when grandpa goes to bed," is the highway system. Bachelors like to travel, especially American ones. And key to this travel is the US interstate system COMBINED WITH gas stations that are not just open, but serving food and other staples of life (toiletries, oil, aspirin, etc.) 24-7. But without this amazing infrastructure, the concept of taking a midnight road trip on a whim across the country/continent just isn't possible in Europe. There were times that (despite a much higher density population than Wyoming) I was more worried about running out of gas in Europe than in Wyoming. Not that there weren't gas stations, but they weren't open.
This meant we had to travel knowing full when and where we'd get gas if we were traveling at night. It also meant buying food before hitting their "highway" system, but having to wait till it was open...but not too late or we'd hit "siesta." This may sound "whinny" and "complainy," and it is. But it is still a dramatic drop in the freedom-go-now-don't-worry standard American bachelors are accustomed to.
Finally, there are no Wal-Marts, Perkins, or any other large 24-7 facilities where you can buy other wares or food.
I remember traveling across the American southwest many years ago and pulling into Alamogordo, New Mexico, where in BRILLIANT and ILLUMINATED glory was a Wal-Mart open and operational at 3AM. Not only could I buy the food and camping equipment I needed, but
a bottle of Jack Daniels
and everything else that can be found in a Wal-Mart.
Not only does Europe suffer a dramatically lower standard of living because they have no such thing, but the bachelor particularly so. The bachelor is not only forced to buy from the same overpriced local village "family stores" families are, but they also have to abide by these companies' restrictive hours of operation.
In short, if you go to Europe as an American bachelor prepare for a culture shock. And not just "oh they wear different clothes or their toilets are funny," or $12 Big Macs. But for what is going to be a dramatic decrease in your freedom of mobility and the convenience you've grown accustomed to here in the US. Yes, the US has it's issues, and certainly Europe has it's benefits (somewhere I'm sure), but you will come back infinitely more appreciate of the US, its infrastructure, how it operates 24-7 for its people, and the freedom that allows you to, at the drop of a hat, just get in your car and go.