Europeans like to take things slow. Except drive. Put a calm, reasonable European behind the wheel of a vehicle and they instantly become maniacs, zipping along at 130 km/hr everywhere, horns a blaring, arms and fingers a flailing. I will give them this, though – they are master parkers. They can fit a 6 ft car into a 6 inch space like nobody’s business.
Anyways, back to the slow part.
I love the fact there are almost no drive through coffee establishments here. It’s even difficult to find a paper takeaway cup with at least a lid. (Except, of course, at Starbucks.)
It is actually quite refreshing and somewhat civilized when expected to only do one thing at a time. You are either driving OR drinking coffee and never the two shall meet. Drinking coffee is a pleasure here, not a necessity. Drinking coffee is a ritual, not a habit. Not too many moms running around with a bucket and a half sized coffee thermal mugs here. If you don’t have the time to sit and have a cup of coffee, if you don’t make the time to sit and have a cup of coffee, something is amiss. Whole countries halt at certain times to sit and have a cup of coffee, basically sometime around 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. , lasting a half an hour or so. (Please, don’t forget the cookie.)
What we consider as law and order are ‘suggestions’ to Europeans. The speed limit; a suggested speed. The lanes and lines on a road are only guidelines. Your assigned plane seats; the suggested area you might like to sit and if you find someone is already in your seat, sit in another without a fuss. The no smoking section is more or less the no smoking section, and is only true if everyone sitting there happens not to smoke.
There are no barriers or guard rails protecting us from ourselves. The assumption is that you have the common sense to have common sense. There are no laws here to wear bike helmets. (Even if there was or is, nobody pays any attention to it anyways.) There are no fences and guard rails on the edge of cliffs. If you are that stupid to go over the edge, nothing will stop you. You are free to act like an idiot, whether it is driving too fast or going over a cliff, when you so please.
There are limited signs on the highway indicating how far you are to the next town or your destination. What does it matter? You’ll get there when you get there and if you are running behind, just speed up.
At first this disregard for rules seemed like chaos; the lack of urgency, laziness but in reality, it now is starting to actually feel more freeing. I am slowly decompressing from my Canadian lifestyle and I have come to realize we are too uptight in North America. (Could be all that coffee.) We have been lawed, policed and fined into submission. We live (and are ruled) by the clock. We fill every available hour to the point we don’t even enjoy, at minimum, a full 15 minutes to simply have a cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is something we do while we are doing something else, like obeying the speed limit and staying within the lines.
I don’t think there is a comparable translation for the word multi-tasking over here, in any language. They do one thing, methodically, at a time. And take their time, they do. Nobody is in a rush over here. Except to arrive at point B and park that car.