Cultural Differences – II

In North America time is money. We are always looking for ways to save it; it may be the most valuable thing we own.

Europe runs at a different pace. That was obvious the first time I went to a gas station to fill up the car.IMG_1218

We had borrowed a car to run some errands. Setting up an apartment does require trips to furniture stores and grocery stores, and with the apartment in a small village, a car is a necessity.

I had previously checked to see which side of the car the tank was on, to avoid embarrassment at the pump, not wanting to be the guy stretching the hose. And I knew the gasoline options would be different.

At the pump I used there were two: diesel or super. Diesel is far more common here than in Canada. At other pumps there were up to three “super” choices, different grades I presume. Just regular unleaded gas like we have in North America. (Is leaded gas still available anywhere? I doubt it.)

The price didn’t phase me – I already knew gas was cost more than twice what I was used to. It was about two dollars Canadian a litre, call it six American dollars a US gallon.

All these things I knew in advance. What I hadn’t thought about was the payment options. There weren’t any.

I don’t mean that there wasn’t the option of cash, debit or credit card. But you had to go into the gas station to pay. No payment at the pump.

In our busy world paying at the pump has become the norm. No time “wasted” going inside and having a human interaction. In and out of the station much quicker. For the gas companies it is more efficient also – they don’t have to have as many people working, as most busy North Americans are happy to pump their own gas.

Fifty years ago, gas stations were service stations. You would drive up to the pump and sit in your car. Someone would come out, say hello and ask what they could do for you. While they were pumping your fuel, they would automatically wash all the car windows, and ask if you wanted them to check your oil levels. I guess cars back then needed the occasional oil top-up.

That doesn’t happen anymore. Labour costs are expensive, and drivers have been trained to do the job themselves. After all, it is faster and more convenient. However, it is less human.

When you think about it, our opportunities for human interaction are considerably fewer than what they were not all that many years ago. We don’t speak to the gas station attendant, or the bank teller, or the grocery store clerk. We shop online instead of going to the store.

That may make us more efficient, but I wonder if it makes us better people?

 

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