After watching this video, you will be able to describe life in different parts of Europe and how the various approaches to life compare. A short quiz will follow.
Life in Europe
What is life like in Europe? The question is exceedingly complex. Life in Europe, like anywhere, varies a lot.
Life in European cities is different from the country. Life in the UK and Scandinavia is different from continental Europe. Life in Western Europe is different from Eastern Europe.
To summarize an entire way of life in a whole continent, much less one that contains around 50 countries, is no easy task.But there are still certain patterns we can discuss, certain generalizations in various parts of Europe that seem to apply. Today we’re going to go location by location and discuss how life varies in different parts of Europe.
Life in Western Europe
Western Europe is the part of Europe that generally includes the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. Sometimes Scandinavia is included due to cultural similarities, sometimes not. This part of Europe is by far the richest and contains major financial centers like London and Paris.
The cities of Western Europe, especially in the UK, France, and Germany, are responsible for a large proportion of the economic growth, and life there is different from much of the rest of Europe. Like in many places, city life is faster-paced and more stressful. People drive faster, talk to the neighbors less, and work longer hours.But you don’t have to go far from a major city, even in Western Europe, to find this attitude change. In most of Europe, including the countryside of France, Germany, and Spain, life is relatively laid-back and slow-paced, people work less demanding schedules, and family and mealtimes are central parts of life. Europe has strong social safety nets and this further reduces the level of stress in people’s lives. Few people have cause to worry about finding themselves living on the street or having crippling medical bills.
Religion plays a less-significant role in everyday life than places like the United States, and the majority do not attend church regularly. This is especially true in Western Europe, which is more secular than other parts of Europe. Crime is also relatively low, even in cities.
Europe is very much a safe place to live.
Life in Mediterranean Europe
Heading south, you find hotter weather along the Mediterranean coast. Mediterranean Europe is an area that includes Eastern Spain, Southern France, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro, and Albania. Life in this part of Europe is even more laid-back and relaxed than further north.
Relatively large amounts of time are spent with family, and mealtimes are extremely important to many cultures in this area, especially French, Italian, and Greek cultures. People will routinely spend several hours eating a meal with family. People are also much more religious here, especially in Italy where the Catholic faith is dominant.Little typifies this approach to life more than the siesta, which is a short nap in the early afternoon, usually after lunch. This is especially common in Spain, Southern Italy, and Greece.
Businesses tend to close for anything from an hour to four or five hours, and reopen in the evening. In parts of Europe where siestas aren’t common (such as Western and Northern Europe), businesses tend to close earlier in the evenings.
Life in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the Eastern side of the continent of Europe, usually considered to include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and Bulgaria, though sometimes also including Poland, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. There is no precise definition of Eastern Europe. Life in Eastern Europe has more and more in common with the West every day, especially in cities, where fast food chains are now common. To really get a sense of traditional Eastern European culture, you have to venture beyond the cities into small towns and hamlets.Once there, you’ll discover friendly and welcoming cultures, with a heavy Russian influence.
There is a strong tradition of hospitality in Eastern Europe, and generosity and goodwill are common: from inviting strangers to dinner to offerings of drinks and gifts. Accepting one drink may lead to many more, even if that drink is strong; vodka is common.Eastern Europeans are usually very religious, though here, the most common faith is generally Eastern Orthodox. Many of the countries of Eastern Europe were once part of the USSR or were allies of the Soviet Union at one time or another. This affects the culture to this day, with some large Russian populations and similar cultural attitudes.Governments also tend to take a much heavier hand in their economies to this day, and will work hard to actively provide jobs for their people. Eastern European culture often involves venting about misfortunes; when compared to the unusually positive culture of America, the differences are stark.
Many Eastern European cities are not designed around cars, and walking is common. This is true to a lesser extent in much of Europe, but especially so in the east.
Western Europe is the part of Europe that generally includes the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. This is the richest part of Europe, containing the major financial hubs of Paris and London.
City life is fast-paced and stressful when compared with Europe as a whole. But you don’t have to go far from a major city to find this attitude change. In much of Europe, life is laid-back and slow-paced; people work shorter hours and have lots of time with family. Europe has strong social safety nets and this further reduces the level of stress in people’s lives. Religious attendance in Western Europe is poor. Crime is low, even in cities, making Western Europe very safe.
Mediterranean Europe is an area that includes Eastern Spain, southern France, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro, and Albania. Here, life is even more laid-back and relaxed than in the West. Lots of time is spent with family, including several hours for meals. Religion is central to life, especially in Italy where the Catholic faith is dominant.
Siestas are increasingly common as you go south. Siestas are a short nap in the early afternoon, usually after lunch. Businesses tend to close during this time and reopen in the evening.Life in Eastern Europe has more and more in common with the west every day, especially in cities. Traditional culture can be found in rural areas. Eastern European culture is friendly and welcoming: from inviting strangers into your home to offerings of gifts and beverages.
Thanks to the USSR, there are some large Russian populations and similar cultural attitudes. Governments also tend to take a heavy role in economies compared to the West. Many Eastern European cities are not designed around cars, and walking is common.
Knowing the main aspects of this lesson will allow you to:
- Compare city and country life in Western Europe
- Analyze the lifestyle in Mediterranean Europe
- Recognize the role of hospitality, religion, and government in Eastern European countries