Americans are a proud bunch. Ask anyone you pass on the street what the greatest country on earth is, and you'll no doubt receive some funny looks. It's the U.S., of course! Even when we don't come up with ideas on our own, we can always make them better (pizza, anyone?). When it comes to these six things, however, the U.S. could learn a thing or two from its foreign neighbors:
The fabled afternoon nap is often associated with Spain, but it's practiced throughout southern Europe, including Greece. At least, it used to be. The habit is starting to disappear from urban centers, and that's a shame. Research is indicating that the practice may actually fend off heart disease.
- Maternity/Paternity leave
Parental care just isn't really a thing in the United States. Women often have to save up vacation and sick days and then find themselves returning to work pretty immediately. This might be why our infant mortality rate floats around Serbia and Bosnia's, while Sweden, which offers 16 months of parental leave that the parents can split, has one of the lowest rates in the world. Not only is it good for the kid, it helps the workforce. Right now, if a child is born with severe health issues, the choice facing most parents is "quit work" or "hope your kid doesn't die at the nursery." We're slowly coming around, but we're not there yet.
- Restorative Justice
Sometimes the best ideas don't make much sense on the surface. Here in America, we're all about "good vs. evil" stories. Look at our highest-grossing movies—all Star Wars and superheroes. We really like to see criminals "get their due." Compare that to Norway, though. Their prison accommodations are luxurious, from music classes to ski slopes—the removal of freedom is seen as punishment enough, and the prisons are nicer than the living conditions for many Americans. Yet Norway has an incarceration rate almost one-tenth of ours, and when their criminals get out of jail, they stay out. Only 20% of Norwegian prisoners go back to jail within five years. Compare that to 77% here. Maybe there are cultural reasons this won't work here, but just maybe it's time to try something different.
- Metric System
In America, the metric system is good for three kinds of people: drug dealers, scientists, and foreigners. We regard all three with vague hostility. Spend any time online, though, and you're reminded that in the entire world, only three countries still use the Imperial system: Liberia, Myanmar, and the good ol' U.S.A. And while updates are hard to come by, Myanmar did announce a metric conversion program in 2013, meaning we might soon be even further in the dust than we were.
Poutine is a classic Canadian dish, but the description sure sounds like something we'd come up with—it's a giant plate of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. Seriously, how did the Canadians wind up with the most American-sounding dish in food history, and why has it not caught on in this country when it's got literally everything we love?
- College Costs
There are endless think pieces on why college costs are skyrocketing, and how that debt will affect the economy in the coming decades as an entire generation tries to raise families under its yoke. Countries like Germany, Iceland, and Norway offer public university tuition for free, and the UK writes off whatever hasn't been paid in 30 years. Meanwhile in the US, not even bankruptcy can save you from your student loans.