That image is as accurate as that of the typical European, who is asked to describe their mental image of the typical 'American lifestyle:' a cowboy decked out in spurs, chaps and cowboy hat, up on their horse out on the trail, lassoing stray cattle on the cattle drive, all the while blasting away with his six shooter at marauding Indians. .
Having lived in Europe for 6 long years during two tours of duty in the U.S. Army, I have considerable insight into how the typical, real life European lives on a day to day basis, and I am here to tell you, those folks lounging about sipping their espressos on the Champs de Elysee are far, far, FAR from typical. .
Western Europe has embraced gigantic taxes to finance their socialist way of life since World War II. Not burdened by having to pay for battleships, aircraft carriers and tanks (the United States pays for all of that, you see), they are free to use that tax money to provide free health care, finance 35 hour work weeks, month long vacations in August, lucrative and opulent pensions beginning at 55 for life, and on, and on, and on..........
But what are the costs for all of this socialism? Nearly all European countries, and most noticeably Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain (P.I.I.G.S.), are floundering in crippling debt and bankruptcy. England is not far behind, nor is Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and many other socialist countries in Western Europe..
And the reason these countries are bankrupt are not that they all live in 4,000 square foot mansions, sip Dom Perignon champagne morning, noon and night and race off to fabulous parties in Monte Carlo in their Lamborghinis: the lifestyle of the typical European is as opposite of that as day is to night..
Quite the opposite, in fact: the average European family (4 members and shrinking) lives in a small, dingy apartment of perhaps 700 square feet. This average family has no car, but rather has to depend on the public transportation system, which is enormously expensive and inefficient. If a family does buy a car, it is not a Lamborghini, but rather a Citroen 'Duck,' a chintzy cheap piece of sh*t that gets around 40 mph, has a top speed of 60 mph (100 kph), and they fill the tank with $8.00/gas (benzine). Parking is another enormous expense, and accordingly, most European families do without these luxuries. Yes, cars are luxuries in Europe, whereas they are necessities in the U.S..
The average size refrigerator is smaller in the typical European household than you would see in any typical college dorm room in the U.S. Accordingly, Europeans don't have much room for food storage, and must make daily trips (within walking distance) to the local grocery store to buy the daily meals. Savings available to U.S. citizens via mega-stores like Safeway, Piggly Wiggly, Super Walmarts and so-on are non-existent. Europeans pay full blown retail for their food, as deep freezers are completely alien to most Europeans..
Taxes: All Europeans pay at least half if not more of their incomes in taxes. Income, sales, excise, property and value added: all of these are piled onto everything Europeans buy. In Germany, if a family has a TV, a tax is levied on the TV annually. Just like the Beatles song goes, if you take a walk, they tax your feet. Taxes are cripplingly high in Europe, and they still can't make ends meet, even though they scarcely contribute a dime for their national defense (the U.S. picks up the tab here). Paying these taxes assumes that the European is employed, which would be a spotty assumption: the European unemployment rate has hovered around 11% for most of my adult life, and they consider that 'normal levels.'.
Life is cramped, Spartan and at times downright mean in Europe. Socialism is expensive, unsustainable, and living in a socialist system downright sucks. Trust me, I've been there and done that..
And we are heading in that direction.