Oh, Europe!


For Management class we’ve had to do this assignment on the wine industry in the “Old World” versus the “New World”. It’s based off a case study written by an Australian (New World) professor at the Harvard Business School, and to say that its biased against the Old World (aka, Europe) is a bit of an understatement.

“Despite the enormous ‘home field advantage’ of an event held in Paris with a judging panel of nine French wine critics, the American entries took top honors in both the red and white competitions. When French producers complained that the so called “The Judgment of Paris” was rigged, a new judging was held two years later. Again, Californian wines triumphed.

Basically, BOO YAH! is the message that comes across in this New World, Ivy League case study.

The Australian professor writes about the old school, traditionalist French and German winemakers, so obsessed with custom and safeguarding the “poetry of wine” that they’ve been stuck in a rut for the last 300 years, using the same outdated wine techniques that they stole from the ancient Egyptians and coming up with super complicated classification schemes that no one understands (in the 1990s studies showed that only 65% of people who entered a wine shop actually had any clue as to what bottle they were going to walk out with).

This is, in contrast, to the ever innovative, always in-tune New World winemakers, with a middle finger to traditional harvesting and a thumbs up to wine-in-a-box (Franzia!). The students suggest that Old World snobbery and comfort in the known is precisely why the New Worldies have given the Old Timers such a run for their money in the global wine market. It’s very black and white as an explanation, and the whole article ends with a reference to angry French winemakers blowing up supermarkets selling imported wine while dipping their croissants in bowls of coffee and climbing on barricades in berets.

Anyway, since my post a few weeks ago and from reading this New World vs. Europe case study a few times over, I have Europe on my mind! Again, as a warning, this is not a post to say that America RULES or bash Europe, it’s just a little old list of free flowing thoughts that spring to mind when I think of “Europe” (disclaimer: this is mostly based off my observations of living in France and Belgium and traveling to the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, and the Netherlands). If you are European and you find yourself reading this list thinking, “No, no, no”, it’s probably because I haven’t visited your country or because your country simply does not fit my experience! Not every thought refers to all countries. So excuse me in advance for sweeping generalizations and just enjoy!

  • Terraces. Seats under heat lamps and with blankets. No matter what time of the year it is your god given right to sit outdoors. Olé!
  • Amazing wine, cheese, proscuitto and vegetables in the supermarket for practically nothing. I’ve heard food quality is not as good in The Netherlands, but I can’t really attest to that. France and Belgium really have this food quality thing down pat. Even English food is honestly pretty on point (except I am over fish and chips).
  • Cigarettes. Les clopes.
  • Gluehwein. Vin chaud. Hot wine.
  • Christmas markets. They love their Christmas markets in Europe. We can’t even have these back home because everyone would walk away with an Open Container ticket ;-(
  • Stick shift cars. Still waiting on that lesson…
  • Priorité de droit (priority from the right). The crazy law that states that anyone making a right turn off any sized side street has priority over anyone racing down the main drag. Picture this: if all the cars barreling down NYC numbered side streets had the right to swerve onto busy Broadway, 5th Ave, Amsterdam, etc over drivers headed down those main throughways. I just don’t see the logic.
  • Leisure.
  • Universal healthcare. What a nice, friendly idea.
  • Trams! Actually just functioning, extensive and reliable public transportation overall. Well, when there is not a strike…
  • People smoking weed and hash in public. And that one time, in line at Delhaize. The audacity!
  • Dog sh*t. Apparently picking up for your dog is just simply not done here. There is a repeat offender in my neighborhood – someone recently taped a piece of paper down saying something along the lines of “DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT LETTING YOUR DOG POO HERE AGAIN” right on the spot on the sidewalk where the dog usually lets one go. I applaud that person and support such neighborhood initiatives wholeheartedly.
  • Stores and everything shutting down at 6pm. And Sundays. Also businesses just kind of being open when the owner feels like opening it. Can cause a lot of frustration when you show up at Carrefour and it’s supposed to be open but it’s not, and the employees see you knocking at the door and pretend to have to go to the stock room to get something so they can avoid confrontation. No prob, I’ll just take my business over to Delhaize, they have better kettle corn anyway.


  • British spelling.
  • Pubs. What nice, cozy little places filled with warmth and banter. Pub grub is a plus too. Ohh cider!
  • Formal speak. Should I use vous or tu? How about you usted me. Might you possibly be so inclined close that window? So sorry to bother, cheers my good sir.
  • Little cars and trucks. Case in point (me towering over car in Rome, 2012).422777_1747260045724_1125814844_n
  • Multilingual people. Maybe that’s just a Brussels/Dutch/Scandinavian thing but it’s really mind boggling peoples’ fluency in English and usually one other language too.
  • Chocolate.
  • Pharmacies that are actual pharmacies and nothing else. Also, you can’t buy cigarettes at pharmacies here! What a notion!
  • Beer. Just would like to add the the USA for a long time had small microbreweries like they have here that were decimated by Prohibition and then we had to water everything down during WWII, so that’s how we all got used to the taste of Coors Lite. But unless you live under a rock the USA is back on track with the beer brewing so phew!
  • Carafes of wine.
  • Once I was at a Peruvian restaurant in Brussels and I asked for a glass of water with my Pisco Sour (need to get back on those) and the waitress looked at me and said while shaking her head (in French), “Honey, please, this isn’t France.” In France they’ll give you a carafe of tap water, pas de problème, at many places in Belgium they can’t believe you even dared to ask.
  • A soda “with ice” is more like with “an ice cube”.
  • Night shops.
  • Pick pockets. I’m a repeat victim. Do not get me started about that time at Ekxi…
  • Bureaucracy.  “C’est impossible” when in reality it’s really quite possible, it’s just a simple case of incompetency.
  • Cobblestones.
  • Separation of toilet and bathroom. I really don’t like asking for the toilet though, much too graphic, I’ll never get used to it. Restroom should be the preferred term, for sure.
  • Funny accents all around!
  • Roma
  • Oddly numbered buildings and floor layouts. Parfois c’est vraiment pas évident.
  • Patisseries. Oh la la, j’adore.
  • Crepes
  • Kebabs. Durums. Frites. Sauce Andalouse.
  • Comic books.
  • Socialism!

Et voilà.

About alicestockwellegan

Language and culture enthusiast from New York living in San Francisco.
This entry was posted in America., Belgium, British, Brussels, Cities, Culture, French, German, Just for Fun, Rants, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s