I know these are generalizations and are not meant as anything but innocent notes... nothing more - nothing less... but, here are a few observations noted from the recent trip to Southern Europe since the last trip a few years ago:
1. Freeways and drivers aren't as aggressive as before. And average speeds have drastically reduced from 140 -150 k/h to 120 -130 k/h. Is this due to the high cost of fuel? Or is the populous slowing down a bit?
2. Drivers, particularly Italians no longer use their horn when driving. Before, they used it to yell at you to get out of the way, blasting away at their horn, or to just warn you that they were in the vicinity.
3. Toilets in bars and restaurants, for the most part, have drastically been updated and modernized. Sanitation has taken a giant step forward.
4. Graffiti and litter are drastically reduced (except in Lyon, France), including along train tracks, stations, freeways, and industrial areas.
5. Guys are much taller than they used to be. This last generation has shot up past their parents nearly a full foot! Most teens and 20-somethings are eye level with me (6'-3") and this rarely occurred before. And is it just me or are they all cuter than they used to be?
6. Beaches are much more conservative. Maybe it's the beaches we happened to go to on the Mediterranean, (we were on the Riviera), but it was clearly noted that there were NO topless beaches! Before, almost all beaches were topless across the board. Also, the 20-somethings and younger guys are all wearing board shorts to the knee, and speedos are left to the older generations - including the ancient guys... not a pretty sight. A few years back you would never see board shorts at all with every guy in a skimpy speedo. NOTE: I can't say that I noticed the women beach attire, but my wife informed me that she saw a couple of 1-piece swimming suits and noticed they were being featured in a new fashion magazine.
7. Guy hairstyles are across the board. I saw a lot of shaved or very short hairstyles as well as lots of ponytails and long hair. Seldom did I see beards or mustaches or goatees of any kind, but lots of sideburns of various lengths and 3 to 4-day growths. NOTE: I can't say that I noticed the women and their hairstyles (I think they still had hair) - sorry...
8. Earrings on guys is a very regional thing. Some towns and cities you'd see none sporting earrings while other towns, particularly along the coast, you'd see more with single and double earrings than not.
9. Everything, I mean everything is more expensive... Of course, the dollar's value has been deflated, but it's amazing how average Gino can afford to live! We'd look at real estate in the storefront windows and note how expensive it is to buy new property or remodeled villas or apartments. So much for the dream of living over there... at least for now... I can still dream, but it ain't going to be a reality anytime soon.
10. The food can never be better! They really know how to eat! They say that Italians "live to eat, while Americans eat to live". That has never been more true. And let's don't even talk about the gelato! It makes me never want to eat American ice cream again.
11. Smoking was banned to the exterior of all public spaces, including bars and restaurants in Italy, but not in France the last time. Now, smoking is banned in both countries across the board! What a breath of fresh air - except now, everyone smokes on the sidewalk...
12. Oh, did I say that the guys are cuter than ever?