As a European, I totally love it when certain self-hating Americans otherize Europe to present it as some beautiful Mecca where the sugar is sweeter, teenagers are all uniformly polite, and everybody looks like a supermodel. Here is a prime example of such a completely hilarious portrayal of the polite, intelligent and self-sufficient “Euroteens”:
I first noticed it at the boarding gate area at JFK airport in New York, waiting for the flight to Berlin. For some reason there were a lot of teenagers on the flight. They were Euro teenagers. They were distinct from American teens. The Euro-teens acted like civilized people with what can only be called a sense of decorum. They were not costumed like clowns, criminals, sports stars, or zombies. Every day is not Halloween for them. Being a person seemed enough for them, as though the human condition were an honorable state-of-being. There were no obese Euro-teens. They were not stuffing their faces with pizza, French fries, and cinnabons. They were not obsessed with texting or other cell phone demonstrations of their social status. They waited patiently through the boarding delay and appeared to enjoy each other’s company without impulsive demonstrations, tantrums, tears, fights, or fits.
I’m guessing that the author of this passage wanted to say something nice (albeit completely invented) about “Euro-teens.” To me, however, they sounded like obedient, patient little zombies who are completely devoid of any personality. Honestly, I’d take a normal, happy, pizza-chewing, glued-to-the-phone teenager over this sad parody of a Stepford teen any time of the day.
The good news, though, is that this description of European teenagers has nothing whatsoever to do with reality. Every European teenager I have met as an educator, traveler and a European was just as much into pizza, texting, tantrums, social status and dressing outrageously as any regular American teenager. We all have heard of how these supposedly polite, non-impulsive and extremely mature young Brits raze the Spanish resorts to the ground whenever they descend on the coasts of Spain. We also have all heard about the ways in which German youths celebrate their country’s football wins. And many of us have observed the embarrassing tantrums the Spanish young people throw in hotels whenever they can’t get exactly what their fancy has suggested to them two seconds ago. I will also never forget a group of Dutch teenagers with whom I was unfortunate enough to share a hotel once.
The author of the post I linked to shares with the readers the following experience:
When I got to Europe seven hours later I found myself in a world of purposeful adults who take care of themselves and the place they live in.
I love Europe passionately but I keep finding myself living in a “world of purposeful adults who take care of themselves and the place they live in” right here in North America all the time. I wonder what the author of this weird piece is doing with his life to be constantly surrounded by mothers who call their small children “a motherfucker.”
The problem with generalizations is that they are offensive irrespective of whether you generalize negatively or positively. Europeans are not all supermodel-looking, invariably polite, smiling and responsible creatures. And it’s annoying to see one’s place of origin used by a disaffected American to project his unhealthy fantasies of what Europeans should be like. Europeans are human beings who have no interest in fulfilling self-hating dreams of every American tourist.