Tag Archives: europe

In Continent: Pictures of Europe’s Boringest Cities

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For the last two weeks I was on an epic work trip.

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To Geneva, Brussels, London and The Hague. This is the ceiling of the UN!

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You know that movie that you liked when you were a kid, and you watch it now, and it sucks, and it makes you hate it, and it makes you hate your younger self for ever liking it? That’s exactly how I feel about Geneva.

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Look how obnoxiously beautiful it is, the whole country is an elaborate commercial for LL Bean.

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Even the statues are look passive-aggressive, like, ‘oh you only have one watch?’

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Next up: Brussels! The only people who hate it more than the tourists are the people who live there.

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The city’s neighborhoods are either dioramas for tourists or slums, nothing in between. Walking long distances is like going from Narnia into Mordor.

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Hoping Belgium had more to offer, I took a daytrip to Gent, which is Flemish for disappointment. I ate canal fish and waited for the rain to stop. The local residents have been doing little else for 600 years.

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I did go to a great art museum, though, where I got shouted at for taking pictures of a quotidian machine and a projected image.

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I have no idea what these signs mean.

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Did I mention that I’m a 30-year-old man?

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Later that week, I went to a meeting at the European parliament. The wallpaper symbolizes how you can all be the same color, yet still not mix.

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This building is only two stories tall, I’m just that short.

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Europeans have to color their cities to make you forget how little alcohol is in that hot wine.

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London is only photogenic twice a year. The queen alerts all her subjects by text message.

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Here’s some graffiti that I thought looked kind of like me. Especially the buildings coming out of the face. 

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The Shard was just completed, but it’s being torn down next year because it makes it harder for the pigeons to see St. Paul’s.

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Two weeks later, I’m back in Berlin, same as I left it: Cold, grey and covered in cocaine. Thank God. 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Berlin, Personal, Pictures, Travel, United Kingdom

Why I Will Never Move Back to the United States

I left America in 2005. I don’t know when I started telling people that I would never move back, but about two or three years ago, I realized that I meant it.

Work
You know all that shit you hear about Europeans being indolent socialist sponges? It’s fucking Bible true. Europeans work fewer hours every week and get more vacation every year. They are harder to fire, so when their bosses ask them to do unreasonable shit like work on a weekend, they say ‘no’ and the conversation ends.

For a foreigner, integration means becoming just like them. If I ever move back to the States, I would have to find a job where I was paid a wage in exchange for my labor, rather than just my presence. Even if I wanted to move back, I’d be homeless in a matter of weeks.

Transport
Biking in Berlin isn’t as Cadillac-smooth as it was in Copenhagen, but it’s fundamentally a safe, feasible way to get where I need to be. On the days when it’s not possible to bike (snow drift, flat tire, urban riot), a comprehensive public transport system takes me within walking distance.

This means I haven’t sat in a traffic jam or looked for a parking space since Star Wars Episode III was in theaters. The parts of my brain that managed those things are now devoted exclusively to cheese and wine pairings.

Food
Again, the stereotypes about European food are all actually facts. It fucking is better here. Europe has bakeries like America has Starbuckses. The coffee is blacker, the fruit is fruitier and all the scientists are too busy eating to genetically modify anything.

People think food service is slow and rude in Europe. This is incorrect. The meals are just so good, the waiters are reluctant to give them away.

Healthcare
I don’t think any country has successfully divorced health from income, but at least it’s less blatant here than in the US. When I inevitably get hit by a bus, I’ll get repaired, I won’t get an invoice.

Americans bitching about socialized medicine is like starving African kids bitching about the new Facebook layout. After seven years in three European countries, I wish bureaucrats would find more of my life to socialize.

Socializing
Being a foreigner is awesome. When I do something a few standard deviations weirder than the median, people go ‘he’s weird because he’s foreign’ rather than ‘he’s weird because he’s an asshole’. Being treated this way isn’t a privilege I’m going to give up just so I can go back to speaking the same language as everyone else.

Government
Guantanamo, drone strikes, enhanced interrogation, too big to fail, more with less, flavored milk, the TSA, the filibuster, the Bush tax cuts, the death penalty, Sarah Fucking Palin, bankruptcy reform, wardrobe malfunction, Twilight–this isn’t a culture that represents my values.

I’m not actually making the argument that Europe is better than the US. A lot of people prefer driving to walking, libertarianism to a nanny state and getting rich to paying taxes. That’s totally fine. But at this point, it’s totally not me.

I’ve lived in Sydney, London, Copenhagen and now Berlin, and none of them are perfect. I don’t want to stay here forever. I don’t want to not want to move home. I just know that, on every dimension I care about, living in the States would mean a sacrifice I’m not willing to make.

Part of me will always be ready buy a one-way ticket back to America. I just have to make sure America’s ready to have me too.

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Filed under America, Germany, Personal