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8 Things the World Can Learn from Europe

8 Things the World Can Learn from Europe

Maybe you think that European cities are quaint, beautiful and historically fascinating? You are right, of course. But Europe is much more than that, and it is leading the world in many fields. Just look at the European Union, for a start. It is a success story of political, social and economic integration. All this has led to 70 years of peaceful co-existence which would have taken centuries in another era. It is not surprising that it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. Let us have a look at what the world can learn from Europe.

1. Europe leads the way in energy efficiency.

There are many examples of energy saving in housing projects all over Europe. The Brussels project known as L’Espoir is an excellent illustration of what can be done at a very low cost in terms of materials and green energy.

This project is a model of eco–construction and energy-saving initiatives. Low level income families were able to buy houses for very modest sums. The houses themselves have the following features:

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  • Wooden frames
  • Sustainable materials used throughout
  • Thermal solar panels
  • Green roof
  • Rainwater cisterns

Another excellent example is the Hammarby Sjostad project (10,000 homes) in Stockholm. Builders here had to meet very high standards in the areas of technical installations and energy saving, which have led to a model development. There are 50% less emissions here compared to other areas of Stockholm. In addition, they have beautiful cycle paths, green areas, renewable fuels, and modern sewage treatment. They also use gray water recycling where shower water can be reused for watering landscape areas and also flushing toilets.

2. Europe encourages cyclists.

The winters may be cold and wet but that does not discourage cyclists. Cycle paths are a standard feature in urban development. Just think that the main station in The Hague in Holland houses 3,000 bicycles in its parking lot. Amsterdam is another example. Only 20% use their cars while 30% are on their bikes and 36% walk! These cities have stopped the urban sprawl so typical of American urban areas which never seem to end. Americans have no choice: they use cars and pollute the atmosphere.

3. Europeans know how to enjoy their food.

The Americans have invented an expression which sums up perfectly how they gulp their food down. I am referring to the expression “to go” when ordering takeaways. In Europe, there is a much more relaxed attitude to eating. People sit down, take their time and really enjoy their food. The Spaniards combine this with an afternoon siesta (soon to be reduced, unfortunately, if a new law goes through). Food and eating are revered in Europe.

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4. Europe provides free health care.

European countries provide mostly free health care, adequate unemployment benefits, and low cost college education as basic rights. It is startling to realize that 16% of Americans are living without any health coverage at all because they cannot afford it.

5. Europeans take longer holidays.

Most companies are now trying to encourage their workers to actually take all their vacation days. Many do not and think that their work ethic is all that matters. There are now many studies which show the health benefits of vacations. Reduction of stress plus increased creativity and productivity are just a few.

Just look at the recent OECD study which shows that Americans are working 400 more hours annually than their European counterparts. Give me a break!

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6. Europe leads the way in flood protection.

The Dutch have been the trailblazers in protecting their land, often below sea level, from devastating storms and excessive rainfall. This process is known as “climate proofing.” They have become experts in building dykes and dams. They now let citizens grow their own vegetables along the dykes.

7. Europe leads in childcare and parental leave.

There is a long way to go in the reduction of poverty and protection of children. Neglect, exploitation and abuse of children stalk the world. The European Union is committed to improving maternity benefits and childcare facilities as many women are forced to leave employment due to a lack of facilities.

Europeans pay higher taxation, but they are getting many more benefits, especially in the area of childcare and parental leave. Just look at the infographic here to understand how far behind some countries are. America joins Lesotho and Swaziland as the countries where maternity leave is unpaid, although many US States are working to improve the situation.

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8. Europe and Erasmus

The Erasmus+ programme developed by the EU in 1987 is unique. It fosters transnational partnerships in the areas of education, training, youth work and sport. It allows up to 3 million Europeans to gain work experience, to study, to train and to volunteer in countries adhering to the programme. It has recently simplified the application procedures and funding rules.

Erasmus has fostered not only the free movement of people learning new skills but has also developed cross-border contacts and friendships throughout the European continent.

Let us know in the comments how your experience of visiting or living in Europe has changed your outlook on life.

Featured photo credit: Europe Day/Niccolo’ Caranti via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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