Dare to Ask: Are Europeans less driven to drive?
By Phillip J. Milano
The Florida Times-Union
Is it true that Europeans are less dependent on the car than North Americans?
— C., 22, female, Montreal
Only in major U.S. cities do you find public transportation systems that even
come close to rivaling Europe’s. If you live anywhere other than a major city
here, you need a car. Also, Americans still have some pioneering spirit left
inside, and we like thinking we can just pull up stakes and move across the
country if we want to. — Ted, 31, Austin
One reason for our superior transport is that the cities are so old. You
can’t knock down a 500-year-old building just to extend the road. Also, [in
Europe] there is often a preference for communal solutions over individual ones.
Green issues are more important. Also, the English drink a hell of a lot when
they go out, so public transport is convenient. — Oisin, 25, male, London
To clarify, the European love affair with the car has always been great. Go
to any car show in Britain, and you’ll see this. — Barry, 20, London
As traffic conditions worsen and people get fed up with dealing with it every
day like I did, they will be more receptive to mass transit. I never realized
how stressful it is to fight traffic every day until I started taking the bus. I
really saw a difference in how I felt at the end of the day. — Jacqueline,
26, San Jose, Calif.
North Americans have a highly individualistic culture. Maybe it’s [more
comfortable] for most North Americans … to travel alone than go to work inside a
crowded bus or train, where the body contact is all over. — Rocío, 24, female,
Think of it like this, said Wes Raynal, executive editor of Autoweek Magazine
and autoweek.com: Europeans regard driving as a privilege.
“It’s like putting bread in a toaster. Just something to get you where you
need to go. Europeans 'aspire’ to drive. They appreciate the in-between, the
So, while they may not be as dependent on it — they do have mad mass transit
skills over there, after all — Europeans really dig driving when they do it.
“It’s also a lot harder to get a license there, and more expensive,” Raynal
said. “There’s much more rigorous testing. So once you pass it, it’s a
privilege. Here, you ID a stop sign and a deer crossing sign and they hand it to
So, while trains, buses and environmental consciousness mean less “driving
just to drive” in Europe, when they do get behind the wheel, they tend to do it
for the true joy of it, he said.
“It becomes a leisure activity,” Raynal said. “In Des Moines, Iowa, or
Lincoln, Neb., I don’t know how many people love to jump in a Miata and go for a
ride for the hell of it.”
Or watch others do it:
“The second-biggest TV sport globally behind soccer is Formula One racing,
and it ain’t Americans watching it,” he said. “Their ratings here are in the
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. email@example.com. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his