The European Dream

On our block is the pharmacy, a pastry shop, a clothing shop my wife loves, two baby stores, a place that sells groceries, a chocolate shop, and the affectionately termed “chino,” with everything from party balloons to women’s nylons. One block away are some of our favorite cafés, our favorite grocery store, our bank, another pastry shop, another chino, a dry cleaning place, another handful of cafés and restaurants, our favorite baby supply shop, the home of one of my English students, a beautiful park and playground several bus stops, and a few gyms.

For many Americans, the European dream consists in precisely this: that what you want / need is close by and you don’t have to drive 15-20 minutes in order to get it. Contrast this to the American dream of everyone owning their own car, single-family home and having the whole world a car ride away.

Add to this European dream a life in the street. Families with children, couples, grandparents, and disabled all regularly go outside for a paseo, a leisurely stroll along the main pedestrian thoroughfare and say hello to each other as they walk along the street. People put on their latest purchases, and enjoy being in public. They stop at a café in the middle of the road and have a long conversation over a coffee or beer and then continue walking. The paseo is a ritual that deepens the already interconnected society Spanish society.

Contrast this with the American dream where every man´s home is his castle.

We Americans have become a “backyard” society, as opposed to the front yard.

 

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