People debate what cultural differences America does better than Europe

It’s no secret that there’s many cultural differences between living in the United States and living in Europe. From workplace culture to tipping at restaurants, there have been countless debates about how different practices can be across the United Kingdom and European Union, compared to American customs and traditions.

In a viral Reddit post shared to the popular r/AskReddit forum, Reddit user u/cohen5250 recently wondered: “What are some things the USA actually does better than Europe?” The thread, which was posted on 17 December 2023, unsurprisingly received more than 6,000 comments from both people living in the USA and Europe, who debated which practices and customs were better than others.

A wide consensus seemed to agree that the national parks system was the biggest benefit of living in the states. “Every time this is asked the top answer is usually national parks,” read the top comment. “Final answer. Reserved, protected national parks.”

In the US, there are 63 areas that have been designated as national parks, which are protected and operated by the National Park Service. While the National Park System comprises 425 national park sites, only 63 of them have been given the “National Park” designation in their names, according to the National Park Foundation.

“I am not American, but their national and state parks system is f***ing glorious. Services, lands set aside and protected, information, knowledgeable employees, and infrastructure,” one person agreed. “NO ONE else is even close. I have lived in six countries and travelled to more than 60 – I still dream of American parks.”

Another item that’s commonplace in the US is how easily you can order ice at a restaurant or café. “Ice water at restaurants,” one Reddit user wrote, while another added: “Even, just water. Hydration. Being on a summer vacation outside the US means doing some sweaty activity all day (because of no AC) and then sitting down to lunch with a thimbleful of room-temperature water.”

Any American travelling in Europe may have noticed the lack of ice in their drink, compared to the excessive amount of ice Americans put in their water or soda. It’s unclear exactly why this difference persists today, but some people on Reddit previously speculated that it’s because some Europeans prefer their beverages to be served room temperature. Others suggested that Europeans get more bang for their buck if they order a drink without ice, or it’s because ice will simply water down their beverage.

“I am originally from Eastern Europe and have been living in the USA for over 20 years. I was visiting my grandma over there and on a particularly humid day, I ordered an iced latte,” one person shared. “The barista looked at me mortified. She said they don’t have ice, so I asked her not to make my latte hot. She said okay – it was still piping hot.”

When it comes to hot summer days in Europe, many Reddit users pointed out how Americans are lucky enough to have access to central air conditioning in practically every home or public establishment. “Central air conditioning is something we take for granted in the US. I realised this when I started hearing countries in Europe getting summer heatwaves and people dying by the thousands,” one person said.

According to a 2021 report from the UK Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, less than five per cent of homes in England have air-conditioning units installed. A majority of the air-conditioning in UK homes came from portable units, while nearly half of cooling systems in England were located in offices, retail locations, and hospitals.

The difference between salaries in the US and Europe has often been debated over the years, but many people on Reddit claimed that annual salaries for workers is “vastly superior” in America. “Comparing as someone who had lived in France, the USA, and the UK: salaries. They are vastly superior in the USA. Customer service is also notably better,” they said.

“Seriously, I was dumbfounded at the salaries for my equivalent position when I looked at jobs in Europe,” another user wrote.

According to CMD Recruitment, an employment agency in the UK, the average salary in the US was around $58,260 in 2021. In the UK, the average salary was around $38,291 when converted to dollars. While the average salary may be greater in the states, there are many other important factors to consider when comparing salaries across the world.

For example, full-time workers in the UK are entitled to 28 days paid annual leave each year. In the US, it’s up to individual employers and companies to decide how many days their employees get paid leave. In addition, Europeans are given the benefit of free national healthcare funded by their taxes. Meanwhile in the US, people have to pay for health insurance either individually or through their employer.

“Salaries by themselves are great if you’re young, childless and healthy,” one person reminded others. “Once you factor in education, healthcare, access to public transit, food regulations, childcare, and safety it becomes less and less relevant.”

This isn’t the first time people on Reddit have debated differences between practices in the US and the rest of the world. In 2022, several users compared working in the US and Denmark while Australians and Americans compared their “live to work” versus “work to live” cultures.