Why I…

…don’t live in Europe anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. Europe is great. History, culture, art; pragmatic politics; liberal philosophy; well-educated people; intellectual discourse on TV rather than clips for 11-year olds. All good.

But then this, at my local 24-hour supermarket:

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A typical Reuben sandwich. Has half a cow on it.

And in Europe, the Europe I remember, this would have one slice of meat. One. Not two.

Imagine a lunch table in The Netherlands, or an Autobahn restaurant on Germany, or any hotel with a “continental breakfast” pretty much anywhere in Northern Europe. One slice. If you take two, you are a waster, a bad person. One is plenty for a good person; two is for bad people. A 24-hour supermarket or two in every small town in Europe? Yeah. ten centuries after hell freezes over. Wasteful “American nonsense”. And it is “unnecessary”.

Like drive-through ATM machines (why park and waste time lining up?); drive-in cinemas; easy Internet banking; cheap commoditized goods; lower taxes; and much of what makes North America great. After all, we are here for a few decades and then we are gone. Why deny ourselves everything that makes life easy? We should try to make things easy. In Europe, it is my impression that the intention is to make life as difficult as possible. Here we say “Yes, unless”. There, they say “NO, unless you can show why it should be allowed”. NO, unless you can show why it is “necessary”.

Another example. Here, to get a personalized car number plate (mine are “MVW1” and “CAMERAS” (!) ), you look up the available names online, pay the government a couple of hundred bucks, and you’re done; your plates arrive in a few weeks. In Europe it is impossible to, because GOD FORBID that we make life more fun or easy for people. No, we can’t allow such :”American Nonsense”.

I wonder what those Europeans would make of a sandwich with about 40 slices. Heart attack, probably.

And photography has many parallels. Until not many years ago, photography was a “protected” (i.e. regulated) profession in much of Europe. Here: do what you like. Which is how it should be, however difficult it is for established photographers. Let the chips fall where they may.

And who wins, in all these circumstances? The consumer!




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