May I Have My Check?

October 16, 2018

This past month, I had the opportunity to travel to Europe which was my first time out of the country since studying abroad in college. As always, I was surprised by the number of differences I encountered, many of which are subtly living under the layers of everything else we have in common. Europeans go shopping. Europeans drive cars. Europeans eat McDonalds and even drink Starbucks coffee. But there are a handful of decidedly different customs, particularly when it comes to the relationship between consumers and retailers.

Tourism Is A Massive Industry

Having lived in Minnesota for most of my life, I don’t think I’ve ever really understood the extent of the tourism industry. For cities that are more popular vacation destinations, tourism is a huge part of business and life. From restaurants to bars, shopping centers to transportation, tourists are a major focus – or a major deterrent.

Quality Over Consumption

In most European homes I’ve visited, there seemed to be a more careful consideration of their belongings. Overall, there was less stuff. In America, stores like Target or Walmart make the consumption of cheap goods easy and – frankly – enjoyable. Have you checked out a dollar aisle recently? Three dollars here, three dollars there, and you’ve got yourself a brand-new set of Halloween decor. In contrast, I found that Europeans are more likely to shell out the bigger bucks for products they expect to last more than a season.

Customer Service Is Not King

A major difference I noticed in Europe, particularly in the restaurant industry, is the de-emphasis on customer service. Tips are far less expected and far less sought after. In America, there is a distinct attention to detail when it comes to serving your clientele. “The customer is always right” is an adage that we have largely come to believe in the service industry. For Europeans, not so much. They want you to come to their restaurant, spend some money, and do as you please.

Time Is Of The Essence, Or Not

Despite attempts at shifting the “busy” culture of Americans, it is still alive and well in all facets of our society. Make this more efficient here, cut out a few steps here. We’re always looking for ways to save time and move on to the next task. But for what? Sure, we get more done, but who’s to say all our to-do’s even matter? Europeans have a greater appreciation for slowing down and savoring the value of life. The good food on your table, the company across from you, the coffee in your cup. It’s not all about grabbing and going. So, come on in and stay awhile. That’s what travel is for!