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Rooks Reflects: Combating the American false sense of urgency

Over the weekend, I made plans with some friends to meet up in a park at 8:15 p.m. As an American, I am used to the standard of arriving at the agreed upon time to a social gathering, or even a few minutes earlier. However, because many of the new friends I’ve made while studying abroad are European, the standard is very different; people arrived anywhere from 10 minutes late to an hour after the meeting time, which was more of a suggestion to them than something definitive. This observation contributes to the conclusion that in Europe, the false sense of urgency that drives Americans to live such tightly-wound lifestyles is not as predominant. 

A good example of this phenomenon is the cycling culture in Leipzig, the German city where I currently live. According to Statista, 20% of German citizens report traveling by bicycle multiple times per week. I can personally verify this statistic by noting that I see more bicycles every day than cars. A Medium article reports that the U.S. is one of the world's most car-dependent countries, with Americans utilizing cars for 85% of daily trips. Comparatively, the average European does the same for 50%-65% of daily trips. 

This culture of reliance on cars is not only bad for the environment, but it also encourages the idea that a person can’t take their time getting to their destination. Cycling to work or school gives a person more control over their pace and level of leisure while driving to work makes the trip all about the destination and less about the journey. 

A similar example is the use of public transit in Europe. In Germany, the tram runs more or less punctually, but there is still an always-present chance of delays. Putting the fate of one's ETA in the hands of public transportation is much more common in Europe than in the U.S., with 45% of Americans living without access to public transportation, according to the American Public Transportation Association. The people who use public transportation in Leipzig have to make peace with the fact that their trams may run late, and an overwhelming amount of people seem to be OK with that. 

Another common example of the difference in lifestyle is dining habits. A study done by the CDC reveals that approximately one in three Americans eat fast food every day, while Roamler reports that only 9% of Europeans eat fast food often. These numbers are not only a reflection of the difference in health standards, but also a representation of the “on-the-go” culture in America that is not as prevalent in Europe. From my observations, most Europeans seem to enjoy a sit-down meal instead of taking their food with them. This demonstrates the pace of leisure that Americans tend to give up in favor of a fast-paced lifestyle. 

Living without the false sense of urgency that dominates American culture has done wonders for my lifestyle. National Geographic reports increased levels of stress and anxiety associated with the American standards of always being on the go or always being in work mode. At home, I often fall victim to that mindset and find myself feeling overwhelmed without any real cause. 

Exposure to the European culture of taking things slowly and recognizing that not every problem has to be handled with a sense of immediacy has helped me appreciate smaller moments throughout my day. Overall, it has contributed to a calmer and more enjoyable lifestyle. 

Sophia Rooksberry is a sophomore studying journalism. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Sophia know by tweeting her @sophiarooks_

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