Europeans must think Americans are so wasteful.

Riding “le Metro”, the quickest mode of transportation around the city of Paris, has taught me a great deal about what is and what is not important to the Parisian people.

Air conditioning? Not so much. Leisure? Absolutely. When I arrived in the midst of August heat, most Parisians were on vacation in the south of France or somewhere else enjoying their vacation time. The advent of September brought back the hustle and bustle I expected from such a cosmopolitan city, with noises and traffic and general merry business. More people flooded the Metro every day, and stops that I originally thought were “low-key” or “low-traffic” areas became noticeably more packed. The end result of these two circumstances amounts to lots of people crammed onto a tiny metal tube whisking them throughout the city, with small rectangular windows open at the top that provide very little ventilation, ergo lots of sweaty people.

Sweaty people touching the same dingy metal poles in the middle of the train, since all seats are always occupied. I haven’t sat on a Metro since September arrived. People stand; some patiently, some anxiously. Some quietly, some yelling to their companions around the small confined Metro. Some listen to iPods or try to read; some just stare at the doors and wait for them to open.

Parisians place much more emphasis on the overall picture regarding enjoyment and leisure. Relaxation and “time off” is very important to them, whereas in America, people work much longer and tougher hours and take almost half the vacation time as Europeans do, but work in much more luxurious accommodations. Find me an American office building that’s not pumping frigid AC all throughout the business day. Find me an American retailer-a bookstore, restaurant, coffee shop, or shoe store, that’s not constantly temperature controlled with bright overhead lights beaming down almost unnecessarily.

Paris shops are smaller- no WalMarts or Barnes & Nobles here- and each are operated in its own quaint way. Most are dark, with doors and windows open for natural ventilation. Well, if you only work there 6 hours a day, 4 or 5 days a week, those aren’t bad conditions. Americans aren’t spoiled- we’re just used to more pleasant circumstances in which to slave away 85% of our waking hours.

So Europeans must think Americans are so wasteful- we waste energy, electricity and time. What they call gaspiallge.

We also waste the best years of our life putting in 20-hour days doing internships, graduate programs, or finding our careers. La perte. Waste of time.

Americans focus on making the most money as soon as we can, to pay off the credit card so we can put children through school and hurry up and retire to start enjoying life.

Europeans put emphasis on getting home at 4:30 in the afternoon to walk the dog with their children, and on going to St. Tropez three times a year for a holiday. Europeans enjoy life every day, as they go, not working and working and working for some big “pay off” in the distant future like Americans do.

Incredible waste.