If You Want Europe You Know Where To Find It

EditHint: TheAdjunct

This derives from Dennis Ritchie's famous comment. When Ritchie received certain complaints about the C programming language, he was said to have replied "If you want PL/I, you know where to find it." That is, C isn't PL/I, nor should it be.

I suggest that the same thing can be said about the differences between the UnitedStates and Europe.

There are deep differences between American culture and European culture (cf AmericanCulturalAssumption). The biggest one that I see is that Europeans appear friendly towards their governments, whereas Americans are always somewhere between wary and paranoid about theirs.

To the Americans who want their government to be more all-encompassing like European governments, I say that if you want Europe, you know where to find it. Likewise, to Europeans that are sick of their government sticking its nose in everywhere, I say that if you want America, you know where to find it.

Both systems are valid. Both systems have trade-offs. Both systems have something to add to Humanity. Air-fare is relatively cheap. If you like the system on the other side of the Atlantic, perhaps it is best to VoteWithYourFeet.

-- RobMandeville

I think you might be watching too much American TV, especially the X-Files. Paranoia and suspicion about the U.S. government is real, but not nearly as deep or widespread as the media will make you think.

Healthy scepticism is more the norm. But "If you want X, you know where to find it" is a good pattern for many things in life.

However, there is another issue: we all live in a closed system. There are things I don't like about the U.S.: rampant consumption, excess pollution, large-scale waste of water and energy. It is not a valid defense of these problems to say "you can move".

So, why is consumption higher in the US? Would Europe consume more if they could?

We are working on the pollution and waste issues. A large part of it is local regulations. For instance, many cities (like Philadephia) have auto pollution laws of their own, separate from state or nation laws. Another large part is finding that wasted energy and materials is not cost-effective. Chemical companies who were some of the worst polluters have found that by operating more efficiently, they make more money, and pollution also goes down.

I think the biggest pollution problem is probably cars. Over here, we tend not to live near where we work, and often we aren't dense enough for mass transit to be effective either. Gee, if we weren't so dense, we could figure out how to read those wacky timetables just like the Europeans. Oh, you don't mean that kind of dense, do you? For instance, the "cities" in my county are too small for subways or railways, so we have busses. The nearest bus-stop is about 5 miles from my house though.

Even if I could easily get to and from work without my car, well Damn it. I just like having a car. Driving is fun. And that is the big reason we want to keep our cars.

'You sir, suffer from CarAddiction.'

Charges of CarAddiction (or that Americans are just stupid, or lazy, or evil, or whatever) are just idiotic. Doesn't anyone bother to investigate why something they think should exist and be wisely used (public transportation) doesn't meet expectations? It's much more problematic in the U.S. than most places for perfectly functional reasons.

There are a lot of complex issues involved in this kind of thing (try to create an accurate simulation sometime!), but the most obvious issues is that public transportation works best in areas of high population density. In areas of low population density it is economically unfeasible to do well, and when it's done poorly, people look for functional alternatives.

In fact, "The cost per ride of providing public transit is inversely proportional to population density" -- http://faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans/sprawl.htm, which also mentions other issues that could be viewed as less flattering to us Americans.

Side issues: As the cost per ride goes up, quality of service goes down (timeliness of service, quality of accommodations, etc.) not just pure accessibility, which in turn causes nonlinear effects, such as the fact that only the lower socioeconomic classes then use public transit, which interacts with other factors. (When it's only the lower classes using the bus; transit is then attacked as a wasteful drain on tax dollars).

New York city has extreme density, and has excellent public transportation. A large percentage of the population not only owns no car, but never learned how to drive.

Similarly in Tokyo. 99% of the Japanese population live on 1% of the land.

Look at Italy. Their public transportation is wonderful, I can testify to this. But they have a 2004 population of 58 million on a total of 300 thousand square kilometers (193 heads per km^2), versus the United States with 293 million people and a total of 9.16 million square kilometers (32 heads per km^2).

Italy has 6-fold the population density! Of course the public transit can be made better there.

Local governments in the U.S. often struggle hard to improve public transportation, putting it high priority because often they, too, dislike the situation with automobiles. But regardless of their efforts, in all but the highest population density cities, public transit is never good enough to be considered functionally effective by the majority of residents.

If it takes you 30 minutes to drive to work, but 90 minutes to take the bus, what percentage of the population will happily take the bus? Few. It's not in their best interest. Yet that's the situation in most American towns and cities.

See http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ for irrelevant population and land figures.

Or things like "Are Europe's Cities Better?" http://www.brook.edu/views/articles/nivola/1999pi.htm, which is only partially on topic, but makes some interesting points.

If you enjoy having opinions, do yourself a favor and inform your opinions (but that would require thinking and reflection, not something many Americans are fond of.)

I don't see the contradiction in liking your nation of origin and desiring improvement. I live in the UnitedStates, and I mostly like it here, but in many ways I wish it were more like Europe. Can't I stay here and work for a different and better UnitedStates in the future? This "If you don't like it, move" attitude seems a little defensive to me.

Maybe that's because the things that some people would like to change aren't universally agreed upon. Many people, for instance, would like to see the United States become another socialist state (or, should I say, more of a socialist state than it is now). Some of the rest of us consider that to be a threat, and therefore, naturally, we get defensive about it. -- MikeSmith

Mike, if you and I disagree, then we can talk about it without getting defensive or insulting each other. That's essential to living in any civil community, whether that community is capitalistic or socialistic or whatever.

"Shouldn't the sewage pipe open up downstream of the water intake, like it does in Happiton?" -- "If you want Happiton, you know where to find it."

There is a mile of difference between "I largely like things here but there are some things I want to change", and "I hate nearly everything about this place." In the latter case, it is completely unrealistic for such a person to expect a system composed of hundreds of millions of people to ever go to where they want it to go anytime soon, and the "IfYouWantEuropeYouKnowWhereToFindIt" idea is a more rational response then living in an unhappy state with no chance of improvement. There is a limit to what one person can accomplish... and frankly, if any one person could change the system I'd kind of be scared, that's a little more volatile then I'd care for.


This idea that if you don't like something you should move seems to be typical of Americans. Linked is the idea that if a country complains of American actions it is because they are jealous of America.

I have heard people say:

Of course, even if every Arab were allowed to come to America without restriction, this would be a ridiculous argument. You can't say that because someone prefers to live in place X, we can do what we want to place X as they could move here.

Example

What if the US Government decided that, say, South Dakota had too many militia members. They said that anyone who wanted to leave South Dakota was free to do so, but after that they would bomb the place. This would be unfair. How much more unfair would it be if they insisted that only people who could do a job in a shortage area, or who had close relatives in other states could leave before the bombing? If people in South Dakota complained, would it be just because they were jealous of the rest of the USA?

Americans also have a strange idea that everyone in the world would want to live in America, and that an American preferring to live somewhere else is a traitor. (See section below.)

That's because they probably are. In all likelihood, Americans who go to live abroad become more tolerant and more knowledgeable; in other words, more cosmopolitan and less provincial. For the reverse effect, it's known that Canadians who go to live in the USA become stupid and narrow-minded. They might keep their Canadian passport but they are not Canadian.

So, are the Canadians who stay in Canada merely stupid, or merely narrow-minded?


Suppose I were to test this philosophy.

I might like to move to Europe. Is there some special immigration process I need to go through? What about finding a programming job, especially in this economy? And a place to stay? What countries have the fewest obstacles in my doing these things?

In England, and I think most European countries, the criteria for entry are similar to those of the USA. Firstly, you could be ruled out if you have criminal convictions. Then you have either to be related to someone with the right of residence or to be able to do a job which cannot be done by someone already in the UK (there are humanitarian grounds, applying as a refugee etc., but I don't think anyone from the US could use these!). As you work in IT, I would imagine that you probably could find a company that had a post they couldn't fill and get in if you persevered. Even so, in the current economic climate it would not be easy and you might not get a very good salary. If you are not working in a skilled area, then you might as well forget it!


This seems very close, semantically, to AmericaLoveItOrLeaveIt?. It presumes an AdHominem argument (you should leave because there is clearly something wrong with you). This was rhetorical horse manure in 1970, and still is today.

Of course it is. Statements like this also provide an interesting filter: if someone uses them, you are fairly safe in assuming that they are incapable of rational discussion of the subject. :)

Actually, to me, the semantics suggest that if you wish to live under a certain kind of government, culture, or climate, it is easier to move to Sweden than to wait until America's educational system resembles Sweden's. But, then, where are you going to go for a good, decent jar of peanut butter?

Unfortunately, such statements are never offered as helpful advice. They're used as defensive justification for ending an argument about the deficiencies of the USA.


More to the point, why is it assumed that the US in inferior in these discussions? Lift the European rock and you'll find a fair share of spiders: racial trouble in France and Germany, political corruption in Belgium, lax fire safety in the Netherlands, the shameful treatment of the Lebensborn children in Norway, etc., etc., etc. We're all struggling with our issues.

Some more than others. The USA has more issues than Western European nations, yet its citizens struggle with them less than Europeans do.

Wow, that's about as vague a blanket statement as I've heard in a long while. Don't bother defining what constitutes 'issues', let alone how to measure whether 'more' or 'less' exist. And don't bother defining what it means to 'struggle' with an 'issue' either.

For 'issues', read any of 'intolerable situations', 'injustices' or 'unacceptable situations'. For 'struggle with', read any of 'know about', 'discuss', 'argue' or 'try to remedy'.

There, now it's not vague but general. And being so general, it should be easier to disprove if at all possible.

Does America have more issues or are they just more open about them? Actually I think its both, but the exaggerated contrast is still there.

How can you ask whether the USA is "more open" to its problems when the contention at hand is precisely that they are less open to their problems?

The USA has more intolerable situations and more injustice (high instability, high insecurity, high poverty, high inequality, low education, low health, high fundamentalism, high political apathy, extremely high crime, more violence, extremely low livability due to cars, an extremely child-hostile culture, et cetera). And on all of these issues, the USA (by which we can mean either Americans as a whole or the socio-political institutions) is less aware that they are problems, less knowledgeable of possible solutions, less tolerant of substantial discussion on the subject, less willing to argue about the subject (this is the country where "I defend your right to say it" is an Orwellian catch-phrase to mark someone as a lunatic and completely dismiss whatever they say), and less tolerant of any radical groups trying to promote change (democrats, socialists, communists, anarchists).

My point is that appearances can be deceiving. Unless you actually live in America and Europe you end up making judgements based on media and third-hand accounts. The US has impeached their head of state twice in thirty years, showing a willingness to question up to the highest levels. European examples of such abilities are much harder to find. That's the main reason the issue of immigration has exploded into European politics; no-one wanted to talk about it.

If impeachment of a head of state is a sign of "willingness to question up to the highest levels" then just imagine how critical, thoughtful and democratic a nation must be if they've assassinated their head of state multiple times! Why, by that standard South America is a bastion of democracy!

Impeachment isn't at all a sign of willingness to question. CEOs get kicked out too and that doesn't make corporations any less hierarchical, nor does it make people any more critical of corporate behaviour.

The facts are that 1) the USA is not at all democratic, yet 2) the very issue of whether or not the USA is democratic is verboten (forbidden? forbidden to talk about, taboo) in the USA. In contrast, 3) Europe is fairly democratic, and 4) it is worried about the issue of democracy.

[Why does everyone think the USA is a democracy? It isn't, nor was it ever, it's a republic, and always was. The founders knew democracies were problematic and would lead to the problem of tyranny of the majority over the minority, so they rightfully avoided establishing a democracy.]

I call you on citing belief as fact there. The fact that I accessed this page disproves #2.

And the title of this page is what? That there's nothing wrong with the USA and that if people don't like it then they should leave it. So please explain how your accessing a page originally meant to stifle all criticism of the USA is some kind of evidence proving that the USA (both Americans and American institutions like the corporate mass media and government) do not stifle discussion on whether the USA is democratic. Let alone, as you claim, that your accessing this page is proof of this truly fantastical claim of yours. On the face of it, the title of this page would rather prove the opposite.

The fact that Americans don't succeed stifling criticism of their country because this wiki has both an international and enlightened character is besides the point.

If you think Americans stifle criticism of their country, you obviously don't live in America. I defy you to find a single action that isn't heavily debated by some group of people. Unfortunately, "you", the author of the previous paragraph, are at a disadvantage in that challenge if you don't live in the US, because a lot of that debate won't leave the country's borders, any more then I hear about the presumably frequent and bitter debates that happen in the UK. To stand outside and make such accusations is pointless; you don't have access to the dialog, so you assume it doesn't exist. AbsenceOfEvidenceIsNotEvidenceOfAbsence. Canada receives the full range of American media, and many Canadians watch it. So any invisible discussion would have to be limited to a person-to-person basis.

You'd have been much better served citing the AmericanBarbarism? page, but then I'd just have brought up the vituperations of MikeSmith as counter-evidence.


There is a key issue that this argument skips over. I might want Europe, and know where to find it, but that doesn't mean Europe wants me or will let me in. getting work visas, much less permanent residency in most European nations when you are not coming from an EU nation is not exactly simple. -BrianMcCallister

Similarly for those want to leave the EU and go to North America. It's not exactly an open door policy is it? Yet both economies would probably be much better off if we did have freedom of movement between North America and the EU.


The doors to the US have been open for about 400 years, My ancestors were European, and came to North America in 1620, 1635, 1799, 1800, and as late at 1850s. While a few returned to Europe, including a nephew of mine, the majority have stayed here. We have a long history of open doors, Millions have taken advantage, legally and illegally coming to this continent, from Europe, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, IndoChina?, China, Japan and other Asian Countries, from Africa, as well as from South America, Central America, Canada and Mexico. The cultural stress that has created has been and continues to be worked out, and is not being ignored or dismissed. History has proven that American is a solutions-oriented society and can boast a cultural diversity that includes over 100 countries and thousands of ethnicities. It is not been hard to find the US, as the Millions on Millions have found for centuries. You will be welcomed and embraced by the vast majority of Americans and accepted regardless of your origin.

... if you can get a company willing to sponsor your visa here, that is.

That is only one of the several ways you can obtain a permanent visa!

The Web site listed below provides you with information and directions necessary to apply for lawful permanent residence in the United States. It offers the opportunity to access helpful information regarding various paths and eligibility requirements for lawful permanent residence as well as other benefits associated with the process of applying for lawful permanent residence.

There are currently 5 ways that immigration can take place:

See http://www.visa2003.com/.

Thanks for the link. This is the first I'd heard of the Diversity Lottery.
This idea that if you don't like something you should move seems to be typical of Americans.

For good or for ill, this is a deeply rooted part of the American psyche, with strong historical reasons. First off, all Americans (except for the NativeAmericans) are relatively recent immigrants; even the most established and rooted families have been here for less than four centuries (while some of the cities of Calfornia, Texas and New Mexico are older, their original Spanish-speaking populations were largely displaced after the Mexican War). Moving on was precisely what our ancestors (or in the case of many Asian and Latin American immigrants, themselves) did to get here in the first place. Second, for much of the nation's history, if one were unhappy with their community, or fleeing from either persecution or prosecution, there were vast frontiers to move on into; even now, in places like Montana and Alaska, there are large unclaimed territories, and there are still a handful of people who abandon civilization for the wilderness. Finally, even within the established communities, there is a rootlessness; many families move from one part of the country to another as often as every three years, and few young adults stay in the communities they grew up in. Among mainstream Americans, the idea of staying on a family farm or estate, generation after generation seems absurd, even impossible. The idea that one not only can but should move into a new place from time to time, either to get away from a bad situation or to revitalize one's life, is a major part of the American point of view. -- JayOsako


Where is equivalent or better information on European travel, visas, and citizenship? -- anon

Very odd question. Depends on where you are and what your citizenship is. Since this is an American wiki: Americans typically don't need visas for short term tourist travel to western Europe (nor many other parts of the world). Questions about obtaining citizenship in various European countries is doubtless best directed to that country's nearest embassy or consulate. Travel information is generally available from travel agents.

No doubt you can also answer all of these questions via google. Or by asking your friendly neighborhood librarian.

I can't really fathom why this question even appears here.

If we're supposed to emigrate as the title suggests, practical information would be helpful, no?

If you want information on how to travel, get a visa, immigrate, etc., to a country, you call the country's embassy. That's what they're for. Google for "embassy" and the country name.
Americans who live abroad are traitors

My wife is American, and she frequently gets asked in America why she lives in the UK. Despite asking the questions it is obvious that people asking do not want a list of the advantages and disadvantages of both countries. While they are prepared to accept that America is better in some things, suggestions that public provision of health, longer holidays, greater freedom to walk where you want etc. are better are taken as a betrayal.

When my wife mentioned that she had dental work done that she could not afford in the USA for minimal cost, a relative told her that the English influence had turned her to a socialist, which was obviously meant as a BadThing! She has also been told that it was good that she moved away because she was obviously UnAmerican.

A betrayal? This is interesting... have others had similar experiences? I've thought on several occasions that it'd be fun to live in a different country, even if it's just for a little while.

There seems to be a tremendous amount of (intentional?) confusion among many rightist Americans regarding the differences between what is known as the "European Social Model" and the political concept of socialism. There is even greater confusion about the difference between the ideologies of socialism and communism, to the extent that the two terms are often used interchangeably, and as said above, both are meant as intrinsically BadThing s.

Is this simply a rhetorical tool (free health care == socialism == communism == UnAmerican, thus I win the argument) or does it indicate a genuine ignorance of the differences between these various concepts?

All three. It's a rhetorical tool, a propaganda tool and genuine ignorance.

Thankfully, the kind of people who use asinine terms like "UnAmerican" typically don't travel. Hopefully, that fact will reduce their effectiveness at giving all of us a bad name.

What is better: UnAmerican and toothed or toothless and American?

In England you can walk almost anywhere. There are public rights of way scattered all over the countryside, and there are large areas of access land where you can walk. We have a "right to roam" law: see <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3884663.stm>.

To give a comparison: in Big Bend park, Texas, there are only 150 miles of trails (source http://www.texashiking.com/hiking/WestTexas/BigBend/), whereas in the Peak District National park, England there are 1,479 miles (source http://www.bugbog.com/english_speaking_countries/united_kingdom/travel_uk_walking.html), and in addition large areas with open access. When I have been in Texas I have found that in many towns the only place to walk is in a park. Most land is privately owned with no right to access. You can't even walk along roads, typically there are no pavements/sidewalks outside a subdivision. I have been in a hotel and seen a restaurant 50 yards away and had to drive there! In England there are very few roads that you can't walk along. I don't know of anybody's house you couldn't walk to.

Now, I don't know if Texas is typical, but if most people want to walk they seem to have to drive miles in a car to get to a small park where they may be able to walk five or six miles around the perimeter. When you see so much open land this is so frustrating. I don't think this bothers the average American, it was quite telling that when I did go to Big Bend around a third of the people I met were not born in America, most seemed to be German or Dutch with a couple of other English people there.

A lot of that depends on how the land is used. I moved to California from Germany and then to Oregon. In California a lot of land is fenced, even if it is "public" land. That's because a lot of the public land is leased out to ranchers who keep their cattle from straying. I too was frustrated by not being able to walk where I wanted. Oregon is completely different. There's a ton of public land that's leased out to tree growers. For the most part you can roam around freely. As to the missing sidewalks - real Americans do their walking at the gym or the mall. -- AndrewQueisser


Transition Costs

One cannot just pack up and move to another country on a dime. Even if the other country lets you in, there are still language, legal, traffic, etc. issues/differences that make the transition difficult. Thus, even if another country is perceived to be 30% better than the US, the transition costs may be say 35% such that it is still not worth it.


Civil Cold War

The urban and rural areas of the US are locked in an increasingly polarized cultural war and the rural side seems to have a slightly heavier influence at the moment. 51% is telling 49% what to do. (Actually, it is an even split if the electorial colledge was abandoned.) I think part of this polarization is due to cable and internet: people gravitate toward media that matches their view, reinforcing difference. The "blue" side is accused of "Hollywood Morals", and the red side is accused of "Enron Morals".

Of course, they could solve this by dropping down to 47 states and spinning off a new country containing Texas (surely the reddest of Red States, even moreso now thanks to some clever gerrymandering), Florida (just to be on the safe side) and Delaware (where an alarming number of US companies are registered). HaHaOnlySerious

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