Since I have been back the obvious question that I get the most is “What’s the biggest difference between the US and Europe?” My go to answer is always simply how big everything is in the US. Much like we Americans say everything is bigger in Texas, compared to Europe, everything is bigger in America (Texas must be truly huge compared to Europe given that). It really isn’t just one object either, it’s the cars, trash can, apartments, buildings, beds, cups, and so on and so forth.
The most apparent example of this upon first entering a European country are the cars. European style cars tend to be more boxy and very often run on diesel fuel. Cars are kept very small as automobiles such as the smart car are a common site. The smart car is on the extreme end of small but even the larger cars are still infinitely more compact then the typical American vehicle. This comes in handy especially in cities where many forced to wedge themselves in between several cars parked along the street(another object reduced in size when compared to the US). Also, many of the parking garages don’t allow for much space to work with so anything larger would simply not fit. An often popular alternative (especially in Paris) is the motorcycle which allows you to weave through traffic and have a plethora of parking options. Others often bike, walk, or simply use the metro.
An odd area of size difference is the size of trash cans in each place. Theoretically, one would expect these to be constant across much of the world but here too we Americans have it bigger. The easiest way to explain it is in the trash can in my dad’s apartment’s bathroom. For a long time it seemed that there simply wasn’t one. I checked all around the floor for a little waste bin and saw nothing. Little did I know, the trash can was on the sink itself as it was no bigger than a gallon of milk. Again, this is the extreme example and the kitchen and such had larger trash cans, but even those cans in other area of the house still pales in comparison to those used in the US. Additionally, the cans used for collection from the garbage men were also significantly smaller in size.
Another weird object to see decrease in size were the cups. This object too I would have expected to be pretty standard throughout the world but It was not the case. The tall glasses typical in American household saw little use during my trip around Europe. This is indicative of a larger comparison with Europe and that is the often smaller portions of food and such served there. The change is cup size was made shockingly apparent upon my return the US when I ordered a small drink at a burger king. The 22oz seemed enormous after my travels. The funny part is that that was just a small, how monstrous in size would a medium or even a large have seemed?
The size of building and in turn the spaces inside them is the one the most significant changes as far as the affect on daily life. Large skyscrapers were not common, at least in Paris (they were present but kept in one small area of the city for the most part) and building were not the looming towers of New York and Philadelphia. With this came much much muuuuch smaller apartments. During my last week of Paris I rented an apartment on Airbnb and the total size of it may be smaller than simply the main room
of the apartment I am sitting in currently to type this. Compact and dense is the name of the game in Europe and many people do well in cram many things in tiny places. Every nook and cranny is put to use for storage and the like to manage the spaces.
Decreases in car and apartment sizes are obvious when you consider the dense populations of Europe but things like cups and trashcans don’t seem so straight forward. Perhaps when things like cars and apartments are reduced in size the rest just follows suit. Houses in the countryside of France and other countries surely provide more space but cars and the like still retain the same small size when compared to the American version. Looking into the history of the gap in size between America and Europe would be an interesting endeavor for a future time.