Family Travel: Exploring the Contrasts Between Asia and Europe

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Traveling with your family is a remarkable experience that opens up a world of new discoveries and unforgettable memories. As we reflect on our seven months of family travel in Asia and our ongoing journey in Europe, I couldn’t help but ponder the major differences between these two diverse continents. It’s important to note that these observations are based on our own unique experiences, and yours may differ greatly. Nevertheless, let’s delve into the striking contrasts we’ve encountered during our year of full-time international travel.

Costs: Where Does Your Wallet Feel More At Home?

One of the most significant disparities between Asia and Europe is the cost of travel. It’s a well-known fact that Europe is generally more expensive compared to Asia. However, we’ve realized that with careful planning, it’s possible to explore Europe on a budget. Transportation costs, housing expenses, and food prices vary greatly within Europe, and some of these differences may directly impact tourists. It’s not uncommon to find inflated prices on English menus targeted towards tourists, while locals can enjoy the same meal at a fraction of the cost. Nevertheless, we’ve learned to adapt and accept these surcharges as part of the experience. It’s worth noting that there are also affordable countries in Europe, just as there are in Asia. Portugal and Italy, for instance, can be quite budget-friendly, while countries like Croatia offer more affordable options. On the other hand, destinations like France, Germany, and Austria tend to be on the higher end of the expense spectrum.

Transportation: Navigating the Roads and Rails

When it comes to transportation, Asia and Europe offer similar options, but there are some notable differences. Overall, getting taxis in Asia was easier compared to Europe, where we often faced challenges and experienced less friendly drivers, particularly when traveling with our children. Southeast Asia proves to be more budget-friendly in terms of transportation costs, but Japan aligns more closely with Europe when it comes to taxi fares. Both continents boast efficient train and bus systems in major cities, with signs predominantly in English or accompanied by English subtitles. However, there have been instances where we’ve taken the wrong direction, only to realize our mistake later on. It’s worth mentioning that Europe’s international train system is exceptional, making long-distance travel a breeze. In terms of cleanliness, Singapore and Japan stand out, with their train stations and bus stops being noticeably cleaner compared to other countries.

Friendliness: Embracing Cultural Differences

When it comes to friendliness towards tourists, Asia takes the cake. The locals in Asian countries are generally more welcoming, understanding that language barriers exist and not taking offense when English isn’t spoken. In Europe, while we haven’t faced significant challenges, there have been instances where the language barrier and cultural differences have caused some frustration. With many Europeans speaking multiple languages, the fact that we primarily communicate in English often sets us apart as tourists. Interestingly, due to our Northern European heritage, we’ve been mistaken for Europeans in Rome on a few occasions, which has added a unique dynamic to our interactions. That being said, the kindness and politeness we’ve encountered in Asia still hold a special place in our hearts. Thailand, in particular, stood out with its warm and welcoming atmosphere, where tourism is embraced and celebrated.

Ease for a Big Family: Finding Accommodations and Acceptance

In terms of accommodating larger families, both Europe and Asia offer reasonably similar experiences. The world of hospitality, in general, is designed for families with two children, regardless of the continent. Hotel rooms tend to be consistent in size and cost, with some variations depending on the city. While we found it slightly easier to find larger taxis in Southeast Asia, we were pleasantly surprised by the availability of family-friendly accommodations in Rome. It’s important to note that the level of affection shown towards children varies from country to country, with Southeast Asian cultures being more overt in their displays of adoration. On the flip side, we’ve encountered instances in Europe where adults have expressed frustration with our decision to travel with children, resulting in unpleasant encounters. This stark contrast further solidifies our belief that Asia is an exceptional destination for family travel, with its warm and accepting environment.

Food: Savoring Familiar Tastes and Discovering New Delights

When it comes to culinary experiences, Europe offers a wider range of familiar options for those coming from the United States. While Asian cuisine is undeniably amazing and diverse, there are moments during long-term travel where the longing for familiar comfort food arises. This is where Europe shines, as it boasts a plethora of delicious culinary offerings. From the mouthwatering cheese and freshly baked bread to delectable pastries and irresistible gelato, European cuisine has captivated our taste buds. It’s amusing to walk around European cities and stumble upon packed Chinese restaurants, catered to Asian tourists seeking a taste of home. The desire for familiarity in food goes both ways, and Europe fulfills that craving for many Asian tourists. Additionally, Europe has proven to be more accommodating when it comes to dietary restrictions such as gluten-free options, with an abundance of choices available at gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores. Although there are exceptions, finding gluten-free food in Asia can be quite challenging, with limited options available outside expensive hotels catering to western tourists.

Beds and Bathrooms: The Impact of Comfort and Cleanliness

While it may seem trivial, the quality of beds and bathrooms can greatly affect the overall travel experience. In this regard, Europe generally provides more comfortable beds, with western hotels prioritizing the importance of a good night’s sleep. Asian countries, on the other hand, tend to favor firmer beds, with some establishments offering rather stiff sleeping surfaces. Our experience in Hong Kong, where our bed consisted of nothing more than a piece of plywood with a mattress pad, highlighted the extremes in the region. However, Japan stands out as an exception with its well-designed, high-tech bathrooms that are impeccably clean. Japanese toilets boast advanced features such as automatic seat cleaning, seat warming, and even sound effects to mask any noise. This level of bathroom sophistication is unrivaled, making Japan a standout in this category. In other Asian countries, the quality of bathrooms varies from typical western-style toilets to squatty potties, depending on cultural norms and traditions. In Europe, bathrooms closely resemble those in the United States, with bidets being a common feature in apartments, houses, and hotels. However, it’s worth noting that some public restrooms in Europe may lack toilet seats in the women’s stalls, leaving only the bowl. The flushing mechanisms in Europe can also differ significantly, ranging from tanks located above the toilet to floor pedals that require manual operation. Furthermore, cleanliness levels vary in both continents, with Asia excelling in this area, especially in countries like Japan and Singapore.

Sidewalks and Parks: Navigating Walkways and Areas for Recreation

The availability and quality of sidewalks and parks play a crucial role in family travel, particularly when exploring cities with young children. In Asia, the presence and quality of sidewalks tend to align with the level of development in a given country. Some places in Southeast Asia lack sidewalks entirely, while Japan and Europe consistently offer well-maintained walkways. It’s important to consider this factor when traveling with strollers, as navigating cobblestone streets can be challenging and uncomfortable. Furthermore, parks provide an excellent opportunity for children to run, play, and unwind. Asia offers a variety of impressive parks, with destinations like Thailand and Japan boasting well-designed and accessible playgrounds. Europe, however, has been a mixed bag in terms of park availability. While we’ve come across a few parks in Rome, they haven’t been as abundant compared to our experiences in Asia. Therefore, planning ahead and researching park locations is crucial when visiting European cities.

Beaches and Clothing: Soaking Up the Sun and Embracing Fashion

Beaches are a significant consideration for families, especially those traveling with children. Asia is renowned for its stunning beaches, some of which are among the most beautiful in the world. However, it’s important to note that the cleanliness of these beaches can vary greatly, with more developed countries generally offering cleaner shores. It’s disheartening to witness the persistent issue of beach and ocean trash in Southeast Asia, although efforts are being made to address this problem. In Europe, the beaches we’ve visited have been relatively clean, which could be attributed to regular cleanup efforts and stricter environmental regulations. When it comes to clothing, fashion trends have their extremes across both continents, but overall, they are more similar than one might expect. Climate plays a major role in determining fashion choices, and apart from a few countries like Thailand and Bali, traditional clothing is less prevalent in both Asia and Europe. It’s fascinating to note that many clothing stores found in malls worldwide offer similar styles, bridging the gap between the two continents.

Unveiling the Contrasts, Embracing the Experiences

As we reflect on the remarkable contrasts between family travel in Asia and Europe, it’s important to remember that no destination is perfect. Each place presents its own quirks, advantages, and challenges. Ultimately, the key is to embrace the diversity and immerse ourselves in the culture, allowing for personal growth and understanding. Whether you’re planning a trip to Asia or Europe, the journey is bound to be filled with new discoveries, unforgettable experiences, and the joy of family bonding.



Additional Reading

  • Visiting Germany’s Largest Amusement and Water Park With Kids: Europa-Park Tips
  • 13 Fantastic Things to Do In Bergen, Norway With Kids
  • 11 French Châteaus In The Loire Valley You Must Visit With Kids During The Holidays

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