This article was originally published on Travlerz
The United States of America may be known as one of the world's top superpowers, but there are definitely some areas where the great nation is lagging. From food to transportation, the USA could learn a little something from these other countries. And by a little, we mean a lot. So keep scrolling to see all of the impressive things other places are doing to make life better.
Lower Drinking Age
Something America is, unfortunately, known for worldwide is the extremely high legal drinking age. Many people think that it doesn't make much sense that Americans are allowed to vote and join the military before drinking alcohol. As a matter of fact, they can only legally start drinking three years after they can vote. In most other countries of the world, the drinking age is around 18 rather than 21.
Lowering the drinking age really would make a lot of sense. Whose idea was it to put it at the old age of 21 anyway?
Public Bikes With a Built-In Navigation System
Although public, shared bikes are readily available in most cities worldwide, Copenhagen seems to have taken things to the next level. Each of the electric bikes in the city also comes equipped with a touchscreen tablet that allows people to navigate the city easily. Considering most of the people using these bikes are tourists or visitors (not locals), this should really be adapted in more places around the world.
It looks like Copenhagen isn't considered one of the most cyclist-friendly places in the world for nothing! Be sure to check out the Bycyklen next time you're in the city if you want to travel around easily!
Who Wants Some Free Wi-Fi?
It is very unlikely to find public places in the US that offer free Wi-Fi. Maybe that's why Starbucks is so popular after all! In Estonia, however, things are pretty different. There, they consider the internet a human right and therefore offer speedy, free Wi-Fi in most public spaces throughout the country. Convenient for locals and tourists alike, more countries should consider adopting this! We would definitely use it.
Can you imagine being a tourist in a new country and never having to worry about not having internet service? People probably hardly get lost there, and it must be so convenient to travel all around.
No Shoes in the House
What is a pretty common practice in countries across South Asia, the Middle East, Scandinavia, and even Canada, is very uncommon in the US. Why don't Americans remove their shoes before entering their houses? After all, who wants to bring in all the dirt from the outside world into your clean home? Apparently, people in the US don't mind that much and don't always remove their shoes at the entrance.
Maybe they are more concerned that their feet will smell bad if they take their shoes off, especially when guests are over. But that's what house slippers are for!
24/7 Warm Bottled Drinks
Everyone is used to going to any convenience store and picking up a cold drink. However, cold drinks are the only option for an easy grab and go. But that isn't the case for everyone in the world. In Japan, warming stations are pretty popular for those looking for hot coffee or tea instead of just offering the cold variety. Vending machines and gas station stops even offer this luxury-like service.
It certainly is much more convenient than always waiting in line at a coffee shop just to get a hot drink. You would think this would be more popular around the world!
New and Advanced Sunscreen
For better or worse, the US has a pretty intense process for approving new ingredients for products sold to the public. Everything has to pass through the FDA to make sure that it's safe and effective before allowing people to sell it. But in South Korea, things are a little bit different. They do not have this process and therefore offer very advanced and creative options, especially in sunscreen.
For many South Koreans, wearing sunscreen has been a part of their essential skincare for a while. And they've made some amazing products.
Grocery Stores Just for Frozen Foods
Although most people automatically think of the United States when they think of frozen foods (after all, that's where the microwave dinner originated), it seems like other countries may be more obsessed with frozen foods than them. France has entire grocery stores that are dedicated to selling frozen foods and only frozen foods. Everything from fancy meals to pre-prepped ingredients to traditional frozen pizzas, you can find it all frozen.
We love some low-maintenance cooking, so imagine how refreshing it would be to be able to just pop over to the frozen foods grocery store and have entire meals ready and waiting for you!
Recycling Bins That Give Food to Stray Animals
Turkey seems to be way ahead of the times with its new social responsibility project, which creates an environmentally conscious way to provide food to stray cats and dogs. Pugedon, as it is called, feeds the homeless animals from specially designed vending machines. People recycle their food and water, and it creates options for hungry animals. Recycling and feeding the starving puppies and kittens? Sounds like a perfect organization.
This should definitely be adopted in more places around the world, especially the cities that have countless stray cats and dogs. Save the environment while saving animals' lives.
An ID Card That Requests More Time to Cross the Street
People all around the world struggle to cross the street in the given amount of time, especially the elderly and those with disabilities. The US should consider adopting the simple and genius method available in Singapore to help people who need more time. There they can simply tap their ID cards to the crossing meter, and it registers that they need some extra time to cross, delaying the change of light for 13 seconds.
This is a straightforward solution that helps those who need some extra time while also making sure that every crossing time is not extra long, keeping traffic moving properly.
More Vacation Time
There are no nationally-required paid vacation days that companies must offer in the US. Therefore, each company decides how many days they want to provide their employees, with the average being about ten days a year. That doesn't give people very much time off work throughout an entire year! And even those days are often given away grudgingly. The US is alone with just five other countries in the world that don't require a minimum amount of vacation days.
Kuwait offers a record amount of vacation days, landing at 30 vacation days a year for each employee. The UK is next in line with 28 days per year.
No Excessive Security at the Airport
Alright, so on this one, no one can really argue the reasoning behind America's extreme airport policies. But just about everyone who has traveled through an American airport can admit that they certainly left feeling like a criminal. In European countries, things are much more laid back. However, America had a much larger tragedy than Europe in regards to air travel, so that is probably the reasoning. But that doesn't make it any less irritating.
Hopefully, one-day air travel in the US can become a bit more relaxed and not such a stressful ordeal for those traveling. Or at least let us go through security with our shoes on!
Water Fountains With Sparkling Water
There is no doubt that the French love their sparkling water. They love it so much that you will find water fountains throughout Paris, but not just ordinary water fountains. These fountains offer fresh sparkling water for free to any passerby. Perhaps it's no surprise that the French love sparkling water enough to set these fountains up throughout the city, especially considering that the famous Perrier originated in southern France.
Although it is a nice idea, it does seem a bit strange to go for a sip of water from the fountain only to get sparkling water instead of plain water.
Brazil Really Cares About Dental Hygiene
Everyone knows that cleanliness is super important to maintain health and wellbeing, but did you know that Brazil tends to take things to a whole new level? Showering twice a day is typical, and most restaurants offer sinks and towels to wash your hands before eating. Although that might seem pretty ordinary, they take things to another level with dental hygiene. In some public bathrooms, you can even find mouthwash in a soap dispenser and dental floss!
Whether it is just one big advertising campaign or genuine concern for dental hygiene, mouthwash brands offer their products to be featured in public bathrooms across the country to give people a chance to try them.
Colored Lights at Pedestrian Crossings
What could be the purpose of adding colored lights to the ground at pedestrian crossings? This town in the Netherlands decided to try them out in an effort to ensure that pedestrians using their phones (and looking towards the ground) will notice when they can and cannot cross, thereby preventing accidents. Although it is a sad reality, other cities in Germany and Singapore are also looking to adopt these lights.
What else can you do when countless people are constantly looking down at their phones instead of checking to see if it is safe to cross? Although they still may be too oblivious to notice these lights, it will hopefully help!
Sales Tax Does Not Have to Be Seperate
There is nothing more frustrating than thinking you know the cost of an item and have the exact amount of cash in your hand, only to realize that you forgot about the sales tax. In most countries outside the US, sales tax is included in the cost listed on the price tag. That makes a lot of sense, considering most people don't have the energy to calculate an extra 5-9% on every purchase.
Most countries in Europe, Australia, and some places in the Middle East also add the sales tax to the listed price instead of making people add it on themselves.
Staying Fit and Active
Although this is probably a trend across the whole world, Americans are much less physically active than they were in the past. Maybe it is a combination of taking cars or vehicles to work and just working much less laborious jobs, but they are moving less than in previous generations. And while America has a huge exercise industry, other countries stay more active without it being seen as this big deal.
There has even been a significant effect on metabolic rates in the US because of lessened movement compared to previous generations.
Order Your Meal From a Vending Machine
Have you ever gone into a restaurant and thought to yourself that it would be so much easier to just order from a machine outside instead of ordering with an actual person? In Japan, they offer just that! They have vending machines that allow you to select the meal you want and pay for it before walking inside with your ticket and claiming your meal from the chef. Yes, we're talking full meals, not just snacks!
If that isn't the definition of futuristic living, who knows what is! Just check out the extensive menu on this vending machine; it's more than some regular restaurants offer.
Parental Leave Actually Exists
A big issue for many Americans is that the country does not offer parents paid leave from work. They are one of only a few countries in general that don't provide such a basic right. Estonia is the opposite, offering around 87 weeks of parental leave, while many other European countries offer more than half a year. That would be unheard of to most new parents in the US!
How are Americans supposed to successfully raise their children while also worrying about having to return to work immediately? It's hard enough to be a new parent, even without worrying about work.
Trash Cans That Are Also Wi-Fi Hotspots
Singapore really is one of the best examples of innovation in people's everyday lives. What is their most recent idea? They have public trash cans that also offer modems, routers, and cords set up on top to provide internet and connection for free. Anyone within 30 meters (98 feet) of these "smart bins" (which are solar-powered, by the way) is able to access the free internet connection on the go.
There isn't much else that trash cans can be used for, so why not make them into smart trash cans that offer internet to passersby? Maybe the rest of the world should consider copying Singapore.
Is It Soccer or Football?
This one might be a little trivial and more related to the language rather than policies or habits. But everyone knows that in America, they call the popular sport that involves kicking a ball around the field soccer. However, the rest of the world has given it a much more fitting name: football. But Americans call this other sport that involves a ball and feet - but mostly hands - football.
So, is it football or soccer? Or does it not matter as long as everyone is enjoying the sport and having a good time in the process.
Vending Machines Just for Cheese
Everyone loves cheese. Well, just about everyone. And it seems like in Europe, they love it even more than Americans. That is exactly why they have set up cheese vending machines in various cities that offer 24/7 cheese to every citizen. What do you do if there are no grocery stores open and you are craving some cheese in the middle of the night? These vending machines are the perfect solution.
Surprisingly, these cheese vending machines aren't as uncommon as you would think, and they can be found in many different countries, including Germany, Switzerland, and Russia.
High-Speed Transportation Is a Must
Although the US is one of the most advanced countries in the world, they are sadly lagging in many important areas such as public transportation. There is a great system of trains, busses, and subways throughout the country, but the speed on the railways, in particular, is shameful. Countries such as Japan, France, China, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Italy all have trains that reach 150 mph, while American trains average at 68 mph.
Perhaps the train would be more popular in the US, reducing America's toll on the environment, if the train system was more convenient, motivating people to take the fast trains instead of cars.
Nudity Is Not so Taboo
In the United States, nudity is considered highly taboo, and even the simple act of walking in public braless can be shocking to many people. That is not the case in many European countries, as nudity or going braless is not frowned upon or treated shamefully. Nude beaches are common, and coworkers and friends will often go swimming naked together, without it even being considered strange in the least bit.
The US still has a much more old-fashioned perspective on nudity. Although there are some nude beaches, they are not generally accepted as a regular place to hang out.
A Lesson From Germany's Social Medicine
There is no denying that the healthcare system in the US is not the best for many American citizens. People are used to paying half their salary for simple medical procedures and are terrified to go to the hospital in fear of what their medical bills will look like afterward. And don't even think about taking an ambulance; you'll probably be in debt for years! Social medicine, as Germany offers, is a great solution to these problems.
It would be unheard of in Germany for someone to choose to pay for a simple surgery over a vacation because they can't afford both. But that is very commonplace in the US.
The Entire Concept of Debt
There is no denying that debt is a massive problem for many Americans. Most people do not even think twice before taking out a credit card and spending far more than they are able to pay back. It is so much a part of society that your credit score will often go down if you pay off all your debt, which is not necessarily the case in most other countries.
Credit cards with great benefits and unique perks are not as easily accessible in countries outside of the US...and maybe that is for the better, making it a more debt-free society.
Maternity Leave Like This Only Exists in Dreams
Most Europeans would be shocked to learn that it is unacceptable to take more than two weeks off for maternity leave in some parts of America. If you do, you not only risk having your pay cut significantly, but you could easily lose your job entirely. In Germany, as in many places in Europe, people don't even think twice before taking up to two years off for maternity leave and with no worries about any repercussions.
The US could probably learn a thing or two from other countries about balancing work and personal life. Or at least about giving parents some time to adjust!
Just a Judge and No Jury
In places outside of America, the concept of a jury trial may sound very, very strange. In many countries, there would never be the option of having a group of complete and unqualified strangers get together and be the ones who decide the fate of another person. Some countries outside the US think that it is unjust to have random, unqualified people have that much control over another person's life.
In countries like Germany, the only option is to have a trained and certified judge who decides if someone is innocent or guilty and what their fate is.
Taking the Bathroom Experience to the Next Level
The United States has a pretty simple bathroom experience compared to many other countries in the world. A simple stand-alone toilet and some toilet paper are all you will likely find in the average American bathroom. Many countries do things a little differently and offer a toilet along with a stand-alone bidet. Japan has taken things to the highest level and even has toilets with built-in bidets along with seat warmers and dryers!
It doesn't seem like Americans will be open to the bidet experience anytime soon, especially in public bathrooms. Still, maybe they will follow the example of countries like Italy, Argentina, and Japan one day.
Durable and Pretty Money
Australia is pretty proud of its colorful and durable money. Unlike American money, which they claim falls apart easily and is monotonous and boring, Australian $50, $100, and $20 banknotes are all different colors. Not only that but they are made out of plastic, making them last much longer than America's cotton cash. The polymer bills of Australia last almost double the amount of time as their American competitors.
Maybe America is trying to be more environmentally friendly by creating cotton-based bills rather than plastic-based ones like in Australia. Either way, no one can argue that Australian money is prettier than US dollar bills.
College Is Much Less Expensive
It's truly crazy to think how expensive college is in the US compared to other places in the world. Most Americans finish their higher education experience only to be thousands of dollars in debt. Americans hold more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. Because of this, many Americans flee to countries that offer affordable college educations, such as Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, and Slovenia, where (compared to America) the experience is practically free.
You would think that more Americans would take advantage of the study abroad experience, especially considering how much money they could save in the process (and how many experiences they could gain).
Did They Really Invent the Internet?
Did you know that the US has the 10th highest internet speed in the world (as of 2017)? That is a little shameful considering the US pretty much invented the internet. However, it looks like they may not have kept totally up to date with the internet after they created it. South Korea actually has the fastest internet speed on average in the world, followed by Norway, Sweden, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Finland, Singapore, Japan, and Denmark, and only then the US.
Maybe they have bumped up a few places since 2017, and hopefully, they are trying to catch up to other countries around the world when it comes to internet speed.
Other Countries Have Stronger Passports
Most people in the world think that the American passport is the strongest, allowing them to travel easily to many different countries. However, that is not the case. Although US passport holders can travel to 158 countries with a visa, German passport holders can travel to 161 visa-free. Not only that, but the passports of Singapore, the UK, Denmark, France, and South Korea, among others, are all stronger than America's.
Granted, traveling to 158 countries visa-free is not bad at all either. However, it is not quite as strong of a passport as many people would be led to believe.
The Most Powerful Washing Machines
American washing machines simply do not compare to the extremely powerful German machines. Germany's average cycle per wash is 2 hours, unlike the usual 30-minute washes in the US. That is a whole new level of cleaning...those clothes must be sparkling clean afterward or ripped to shreds. But considering the obsession with clean clothes, they probably have the perfect combination worked out that preserves clothes while also cleaning them meticulously.
What do you think their drying cycles are like? Or perhaps the wash is so intense that they just choose to air dry all of their clothes instead?
America Has a Terrifyingly High Murder Rate
It is no secret that crime rates are rising all throughout the US. School shootings, drive-by shootings, carjackings, etc., are risks that citizens are dealing with on a daily basis. Whether you live in the countryside or the city, Americans do not feel as safe as they should. That is not necessarily the case in many other countries around the world, with crime rates being much lower in many European countries.
School shootings, in particular, are an issue that is pretty exclusive to America, for whatever reason. That is not really a concern for many people across the world, and America should take note of ways to improve this!
Huge Highways With No Speed Limits
It is probably beyond the comprehension of most Americans that there could be a huge highway that does not have a speed limit. Every road in the US has a speed limit. Whether people actually follow it or not is a whole other story. However, in some countries, speed limits do not exist on certain roads. The autobahn in Germany allows you to drive at whatever speed you want.
That is truly a foreign thought to most Americans (and probably many people worldwide). Speed limits are in place to protect everyone's safety, but it looks like some countries just trust their drivers to be more responsible.
A Highway Just for the Bicycles
Have you ever heard of a network of highways just for cyclists? There is no need to share the road; Denmark is building a highway system only for bike riders. It will be called the Supercykelstier (meaning the "cycle superhighway") and will include 45 different roads that take riders throughout Copenhagen. It will feature safe intersections, air pumps, and traffic lights timed just for the many cyclists who will use it daily.
This will certainly avoid the many issues that come up between cyclists and motorists. No longer will they need to share the road with each other.
Where Recycling Isn't a Choice - It's a Lifestyle
Most people can agree that recycling is not really on the list of top priorities for many Americans. Although there are certainly some groups who are extremely passionate about it, it is not quite as mainstream as in many European countries such as Germany. It is generally considered important, and the excessive amount of waste, the destruction to the environment, and the extreme plastic consumption are considered a national embarrassment for Germans.
That is why most German stores do not offer plastic bags for their customers unless they choose to pay for them. They try to promote recycling and reusable products.
America Is Not so Travel Oriented
Perhaps because it is such an enormous country or maybe because everything is so far apart, but American culture is not particularly travel-oriented. Although german TV shows and movies may make it seem like the opposite, Americans don't really travel that much. Many Americans don't even have a passport, and some people only get ten vacation days a year, making it even more challenging to pursue their travel ambitions.
Granted, it is much easier to travel in Europe than in the US. While the US has different states that don't require a passport to travel between them, the EU has different countries.
Fixing Roads the Right Way
Why fix something at all if you aren't going to fix it right? It is pretty common, especially in big cities like New York, to see a makeshift road fix next to a caution cone on the side of the road. Maybe that is because it is such a bustling city or because the quality of work was not that great, but they are then forced to repeat the mending process nearly every year.
In Europe, it seems that things are done a bit differently. Although they may spend more time fixing the roads (and it might be an inconvenience at first), at least it is made to last!
Knowing Multiple Languages Is Useful
There is a running joke involving Americans and their ability to speak more than one language. Most Americans are fluent in English and English alone. Luckily for them, English is pretty much the most useful language to know (for travel and business purposes), but it could still be helpful for them to know at least a little bit of another language. Perhaps they never learned because they never had the need.
Americans don't travel internationally quite as much as many Europeans, which is another reason that they probably don't speak that many languages. To most Americans, it's crazy that many Europeans can speak multiple languages.