Is This a Cultural Difference?

I am a big believer in tradition. There is something comforting about doing something the same way our ancestors did. It gives us a sense of continuity, of contact with past generations. I am not, however, a Luddite (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/luddite). I do not fear new technology and have frequently been an early adopter of technological innovations, at least when my finances have made that possible. I have no desire to turn back the clock and live in the “good old days.” That sort of nostalgia frequently overlooks the realities of what the past actually was like and replaces them with an ideal that never existed except in the mind. I like having indoor plumbing, especially during the Canadian winter.

A month traveling in Europe has convinced me that Europeans are rooted in the past, that they fear new technology and eschew it with a passion. If it was good enough for their ancestors then it is good enough for them. No need for modern conveniences. Well, that may be overstating it, but there seems to be one modern invention unknown in Europe.

This does strike me as strange, because Europeans have been responsible for many inventions, from recent items such as the cassette (both audio and video) and the World Wide Web to, in centuries gone by, the steam engine and the printing press. So can someone tell me why there is so much reluctance to utilize that simple invention, the window screen?

In Canada if a window opens it has a screen. The idea is to allow the air to flow in and keep insects out. Simple really. In Europe, wherever we went there were no screens. Private residence, youth hostel, hotel, bed and breakfast, it made no difference. If we were staying in a 400-year-old chateau I could understand, but some of the places we stayed in were recently renovated. There is no reason the windows couldn’t have been fitted with screens when the renovations were done. Europe has mosquitos too; I saw them (and felt them). Not to mention the other flying creatures that took advantage of the barrier-free access to check out our room.

I can only assume that European mosquitoes, and whatever the continental equivalent of the black fly is, are much less a nuisance than their Canadian counterparts, so people would rather put up with a little inconvenience rather than going to the trouble of installing window screens. No malaria worries either I presume. But I sense a great business opportunity here, or would if I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body. I suspect someone could make a fortune installing screens to keep the bugs out. All it would take is a few early adopters and you could make enough money to retire.

I am not really complaining about there being no window screens in Europe. What I did find interesting though was that there still are such differences. I am sure I am not the only one who has noticed and suggested that the Canadian way has certain advantages when it comes to window construction. But I guess if it was good enough for their ancestors it is good enough for modern Europeans.

Perhaps it all comes down to marketing. Screens aren’t flashy, and North Americans have had them for a long time, so there is no novelty factor. No matter how useful I think they are, to the average European consumer they are neither sexy nor exciting. Some enterprising person though could stir up interest and make them a hot commodity all over Europe by one simple tried and true method. Just call them iScreens. After all, it worked for Apple!

One comment

  1. […] complained about this before. One of my first posts, reflecting on a European vacation, noted the absence of screens. That was a tourist’s […]

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