I just got back from my first (short) trip to Europe. It’s a huge and very diverse continent obviously, so I don’t pretend to have amazing insights… but I’d say my personal world-view has been very broadened. I made it to Paris, Barcelona, Sicily, Naples, Rome, Nice, and Florence. The people were uniformly very friendly (even Paris wasn’t bad).
Quick short list of observations. Note that all of the below comments are shallow observations, and not arrogant judgements (really!).
The Italians are a wonderful people, but Italy is not such a wonderful country. Run-down, poorly managed, and far less prosperous than expected… especially considering its the home of so many great premium luxury brands. Ran into many, many mainland Chinese tourists here… all of whom were surprised at how poorly Italian cities compared to Chinese cities. But they do make great footballers.
Barcelona was beautiful. Not a bad word to say. Took the Spanish hotel train from Barcelona to Paris… blah. Not very impressed.
Paris central planning is brilliant. Amazing blend of history and modernity. China really, really could learn much from Paris in the construction of its cities. Mainland Chinese tourists here were uniformly impressed (unlike Italy). On the other hand, Parisian suburbs really are run-down and impoverished as well. And is it really so difficult to add air-conditioning to the subway system?
All in all, saw far more mainland Chinese tourists on this trip than any other Asian “variety”. During the same time I was here, one of my uncles/aunts set foot outside China for the first-time with a one-week trip to Moscow/St. Petersburg. Watch out world: the flood of Chinese tourists is starting to rise.
It’s amazing how much I also learned about China and the US just by stepping foot in Europe for a couple of weeks. Those who don’t travel internationally extensively are really missing out. ~mental note to self~