“In the present there is always a space as vast as the Steppes waiting to be filled with more love and more of life’s joy”.
One glaring different between Europeans and Americans, is that Europeans are way more affectionate and emotional, specifically the French, Spanish and Italians. Their languages, culture, lifestyle and environment all support romance. Since I’ve been in Madrid, the first thing I noticed when walking down the street is the PDA exhibited by couples. I guess I can understand why with everything that is surrounded by them. The city is beautiful and scenic with its museums, gardens and plazas. The quaint, narrow streets create a romantic ambiance. The dining experience also caters to couples because of the style of food and the typical dining time. People usually go to dinner around 11pm and order a bunch of tapas (small plates) to share. All of this combined with the fact that people in general are more comfortable with showing affection than in the US.
One of the most endearing things is that PDA is not limited to young couples. I see just as many older couples in there 70s and 80s walking around holding hands as I do young ones. It’s a beautiful thing to see and be surrounded by. To your left you see an old couple walking down the street holding hands. To your right you see a young couple stop for a long kiss on the sidewalk. In front you see a guy put his arm around his companion’s waist as if not physically touching her is unnatural and uncomfortable. All this is going on without anyone yelling, “Get a room!”. I must admit that I’m sometimes the person to say it, but not here. I appreciate the love that people show for each other here. This is not to say that Spanish people are more in love than Americans, it’s just to say that it’s nice to see outward expressions of love.
In class, I had a conversation with my teacher about the history of Madrid. He told me the background behind why there is now a huge clear wall on a bridge on Calle Bailen. He said that years ago teenagers in love would go here and jump off the bridge because they thought this was the ultimate expression of love. After a few incidences, the city built a barrier to prevent this from happening again. So maybe the Spanish are more in love than Americans. While I’ve heard about teen suicides and young love, I’ve never heard about American teenagers doing anything like this.
I could be getting sucked into the fantasy of romance, but there is definitely something to it. I want it and so does every other woman I know. I can’t speak for men, but I know many can do without. Perhaps the level of comfort that European men feel with showing emotions and affection is something that American men are not used and it translates into a lack of romance.
I know that romance is just one element of love and that there is much more to maintaining a strong relationship, but romance is usually the first to go. Romance is what distinguishes a romantic relationship from other relationships (familial, platonic, business, etc.) so why is its long-term value often discounted? Today I am making my plea for Americans to become more affectionate and romantic. Do something a little different today for the special person in your life to intensify your connection. Hold their hand. Stop them on the street to kiss them. Look into their eyes. You’ll be surprised at their response and, more importantly, how you feel inside.
Updated with one of my favorite sequence of photos taken on this trip.