I had a reader comment a long comment on the last post, which I chose not to publish because it didn't have anything to do with the post. I'd usually respond through e-mail, but couldn't locate one for her, so I thought I'd do it here. Nathalie wrote:
The one thing I am not clear on from your blog is what you mean when you say you aim to try 'incorporating a more European, relaxed feel' into your life. In fact, it's never clear to me what Americans mean when they use the term 'European' in this way, anyway - the English home counties have very little in common with Budapest, or Vicenza with Bonn or Galway. And London is considerably less 'relaxed' than NY, these days, to my mind, anyway!
How much time have you actually spent living in Europe, apart from your posting near Bury St Edmunds? And what kinds of 'European' practices have you incorporated into your life?
I ask from genuine interest, as it was only after living in the US that I realised why so many American tourists in Europe wear such peculiar clothes (fannypacks, brand-new running shoes etc) and appear to be so freaked out by the tube or the metro - because the US is so overwhelmingly a car culture that these people are simply not used to walking several miles a day on a regular basis (hence the shoes that suggest they are engaging in some form of athletics), and they aren't used to public transport a lot of the time either, and have no idea how to behave on it. It had never occurred to me before that the (to me) ordinary act of walking around a city was as much of a novelty to some of these tourists as Notre Dame!
I had to laugh at your comment, as I imagine it does seem odd to group "Europeans" together. However, since all of Europe that I've seen is vastly different than here, that is how I choose to do it. I have only lived here in the U.S. and in England for 2 years, but have traveled throughout Europe, and a little through Asia and Africa (with Turkey and Egypt respectively). I felt incredibly more relaxed living in England than I ever have here. Upon returning it was a bit scary, actually, as the grocery stores, driving, shopping, etc all overwhelmed me. (And they still kind of do.)
I don't think European countries are all the same, though I do feel that many tend to share qualities I like. I appreciate places that move slower, where things close down earlier, where parks and abbeys are full of people who don't feel the need to be go, go, go all the time. And in my opinion London is incredibly more relaxed than any city I've ever experienced here stateside, in the sense of rushing.
I don't really know much about fanny packs, as I haven't worn one since I was a kid at camp. I think they look ridiculous, and so therefore avoid them. Same goes for the trainers. I got weird looks from other Americans while traveling for not bringing them, but I feel the only time running shoes should be on your feet is when you're doing actual running. I climbed all over Athens wearing my favorite pair of red flats (actually, I think they've been to every country I have). Day to day I wear flats, with the occasional boot, heel, or wedge.
As for cars vs. walking/public transportation, it's probably best not even to get me started. My husband and I share a car, which when he's stateside he uses to drive to work. We both enjoy walking for miles upon end, and while in England did it for recreation as well as to get from place to place. Here in the city it is a bit more difficult depending on the area, and unfortunately tube systems aren't as popular in this country. Personally I prefer to walk or ride a metro system, so keeping my fingers crossed that it eventually catches on more here.
I suppose that the "European" practices we incorporate into our life can include walking. As well as the way we shop (the fresher the better, and we choose to get to know who we get our food from). And the way we run our household with non-American sized portions, taking our time, making it a relaxing part of the day. We prefer to get out and enjoy coffee at a cafe rather than stay in and watch television. Or for that matter stay in and enjoy coffee at the table. We also buy less, preferring to save and put money towards something that will last. Neither my husband nor I buy into the idea that things will make you happy, which is a trait that has unfortunately become associated with our country. I'm drawing a blank on other examples, but you'll have to excuse me as I've been up for nearly 12 hours (pregnant naps while lovely throw my schedule off).
I would love it if you'd care to e-mail me and tell me a little about yourself. And if you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me any time. My e-mail is easily found through my blogger profile.