US vs. Italy vs. Ireland

From the archives – and freshly updated! – comes a little piece comparing the 3 countries in which I've lived.  Seemed fitting in light of the fact that we are soon leaving Ireland to head back to Italy for a while.  WARNING: the word "awesome" is used to excess.


I have been meaning to make a list of Things That Are Awesome and Things That Are Not So Awesome about the US and Italy.  Of course, I simply had to add Ireland to the mix!


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US vs. Italy vs. Ireland: Which Is The Awesomest?



The US wins because the roads are designed for Cadillacs and semis, and we like our S P A C E .  If you so much as look me funny from another lane, I will sue your a**, buddy!  Quit breathing down my neck!

Italy fails – except as a training ground for defensive (or more properly, completely offensive), off-road, post-apocalyptic driving.  As if the fast-paced, loud honking, passing-within-centimeters of your mirror bending of the rules – or "suggestions" as they are thought of on the boot – was not enough, there are potholes that will swallow you, a large Italian family, and several Vespas whole.  And follow it with a delicious digestivo.

Ireland is merely “meh.” Locals think Irish roads are horrendous, but that’s only because they have never lived in Italy.


The Romans knew from classy bathing.


Water heating methods:

Italy wins because of caldaie – household sized, in-line water heaters that mean an endless supply of awesome hot water.  It's the next level of Roman bathing luxury, without all that pesky public nudity or emperor stabbing.  And it's right in your own home!

Ireland comes in a close second for similar reasons, as many homes have in-line electric heaters for showers, though there are many (like our wee apartment) that have hot water heaters.  Too bad they still haven't figured out that you can do this for the whole house and get rid of that energy-sucking, closet-space eating boiler.  Think big, Ireland!

Sadly, the US fails. We just don’t know that there is a better way than wasting time and money on a slowly boiling cauldron.  Our foolish pride prevents us from having a delicious supply of endless, steamy, relaxing hot water.  Perhaps if large corporations figured out how to make beaucoup bucks from caldaie this would not be a problem.  Or maybe we just need a way to work this into the road-paving budget.


Appreciation of fresh foods, including tendencies to have a garden at home:

Italy totally wins.  Even in Naples, the city that once boasted the world's highest population density after Shanghai, China, people find a way to grow tomatoes and basil on their balconies.  For those with houses, it's not uncommon to find the ingredients of tonight's salad out back next to the above-ground pool.  Fruit trees also abound.  And considering how many people do grow their own produce, the cost of frutta e verdura in the markets is quite low.  No wonder the "Mediterranean diet" is so popular here – it's cheap as hell!

The US, with a few notable exceptions, pretty much fails.  McDonald’s and Hostess Twinkies earn negative points for the US.  So negative, in fact, that it may be impossible to recover from this nutritional deficit.  (Sorry, having microwave popcorn available at all times does not count.)  While there is a growing urban and community gardening movement, the people who participate in these things are not often regarded as logical, economical, and health-minded, but crazy time-wastin' fools holding desperately to a bygone era.  Alas, as Jersey Shore proves, even exporting burger lovers to the land of god's own tomatoes cannot save us from ourselves.

Ireland is great for fresh dairy products and accessibility of locally grown produce, even when living in the city.  Unfortunately, much of that produce seems to consist of cabbage and tubers.  Even strawberries are imported from Denmark.  (Denmark!?)  It seems obvious when driving anywhere in Ireland that agriculture is still very much a part of the mindset and the economy.  Sadly, it's not easy to keep a cow or a potato patch in an apartment.

Special note: both the US and Ireland do get points for smoothie bars.


Apparently the Romans also knew from classy hiney washing.


Plumbing (hygiene):

Italy wins and even kicks France’s allegedly washed hineys.  Often there is one bathroom for each bedroom in a home, and all come equipped with bidets.  You do not know what personal hygiene is until you've experienced the majesty of a freshly washed nether region after having a good read on the throne.  As a friend said to me years ago, "It's like a breath mint for your a**!"

US and Ireland fail UTTERLY — no bidets?!? Trust me, once you’ve known the glory, it is shameful and embarrassing to go back.  You wonder how civilization was even able to advance with such dirty hineys.

To top it all off, Ireland has a penchant for sinks with two spigots.  That's right, hot and cold running water come out of two separate places, and the twain shall only meet if you fill up the sink.  What's up with that, Ireland?  Have you never heard of the pleasures of warm water?  Neither too hot nor too cold?  …Goldilocks has a thing or three to teach the Irish.


Plumbing (waste disposal):

US wins, hands down.  (At least from the user perspective; recycling and sewage treatment are outside my bailiwick.)  Being a young country, we tend toward new buildings with large pipes.  No mincing around with just how much toilet paper can be stuffed into one flushing, no sirree.  Cram it full!

Ireland comes in a close second from the flushing standpoint.  When toilets came to replace outhouses and "that spot in the pasture behind the rock", they built 'em good.  However, as daily showers were not always so common in the days of yore, sometimes shower drains have to be cleaned a little too often.

Italy fails based on lack of toilet flushing capacity, lame trap design (i.e., there doesn't seem to be any), and swamp gas of death.

Special note: neither the US nor Ireland would need such high toilet flushing capacities if they'd just get with the bidet program.


Forget class, the Irish know from delicious breakfast.



Ireland, no doubt — giant and hearty!  Eggs, bacon ("rashers"), sausages, toast, beans, black and white pudding, even a grilled tomato or mushroom on occasion.  I mean, who knew that something as gross as black and white pudding could be so delicious?  You won't have to eat for the rest of the day.  Mmm…  savory!

Italy is good for a quick nibble and some socializing at the bar (that’s coffee bar, not alcohol bar). Oh, and cookies. Yeah — you can totally have cookies for breakfast in Italy.  That is pretty awesome.  Hmm…  I may have to reconsider this one.

In the US you can conceivably have Irish, Italian, or Mongolian breakfast if you look hard enough.  Our standard, however, is often cold cereal with milk.  Convenient, yes, but does not warm the cockles of one's heart like cookies or pudding.


No contest – USA!  I mean it has stars AND stripes!  What's more awesome than that?  That's right — NOTHING!  Grade A for AWESOME.

Italy has big, bold chunks o’ color which were used as the basis for an awesome Italian food, Pizza Margherita, but it does not twinkle.  Indeed, it's just 3 slabs of unadorned color (even Mexico has a bird eating a snake, fercryinoutloud!).  Really, for a country that spawned the likes of Michelangelo and Da Vinci, you'd expect something a little more elaborate.  Color me (pun intended) not impressed.

And Ireland?  Same colors (or should that be “colours”?) as Italy, but faded.  Fail.  It's not like you can claim the flag was bleached from too much sun.  Come on, guys, make it an all green field dotted with magical, golden potatoes or something.  Show some national pride!

Seriously, though, stars rule.  And so do unicorns.  Really, if there was a country with unicorns on the flag, I think we’d all have to bow down to their awesomeness.




In actuality, I’m fond of all three places, each for different reasons.  Just think of this piece as Rick Steves à la  And yes, there are many more subjects to consider in this great debate, but for now that’s all the awesomeness I can cram into one post.  Tell me what other local peculiarities you’d like to know about and maybe I’ll use it in a chest-beatingly awesome post for the blog.  In the meantime…


How does your country measure up?


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  1. Simon says:

    To think I have always seen the bidet as a given and thought it was everywhere in the world, obvious!

    I died on the Irish flag thing

    1. I'm sorry I didn't get back to you sooner, Simon. I'm afraid I returned to university, studying things like how to add extra "U"s to words and such like. Sadly, yes, bidets are not nearly as common as they should be. The world could use a little more hiney washing. I'm sorry to hear of your apparent humour (see?) related death. I hope your casket was draped in an awesome unicorn flag.

  2. This was a great post comparing the countries! That would be a blast to compare even more of them. I only have the U.S. so I can’t pipe in any more than that but I enjoyed reading this! :)

    1. Thank you, Mike! I do hope you’ll skip across the pond one of these days to experience it yourself. In the meantime, even a trip to the Great White North or the lands of Quetzalcoatl will provide some surprising insight into how even our closest neighbors cherish similar, though different, values. And yet… we all like to smile and laugh. ;)

  3. My US house has a bidet! Granted, we pile our linens on top of it and I have never seen it turned on…

    1. How did I miss your comment, Julia? Apologies!

      But then again – you have a bidet and you DON’T USE IT?!?! *facepalm*

      It does take a little getting used to, I admit. However, once you get accustomed to it, you’ll wonder how you ever did without one! Go on – give it a try for a week or so. You’ll thank me later. ;)

  4. Interesting post. Nice use of the word Awesome!

    1. “Interesting”? Ma’am, I believe the word you are looking for is “AWESOME!” ;)

  5. This post is freaking awesome. I’d like to add Australia into the mix… I’ll do some thinking! :)

    1. Hahaha! Thanks, Annie. I do wonder how the land of things large and poisonous measures up. ;)

  6. Every household in America should have a bidet!Your business would be booming! Haha =P That be pretty ‘awesome’. =)

    1. I so wish I was an import-export guru. I see many opportunities of which I have no idea how to take advantage, including this one. Seriously, the US needs cleaner hineys! If you know any international shipping and export geniuses, point ’em my way. I’ll definitely give you a share of the profits. ;)

  7. I’ve held the belief that America does pretty well on the breakfast front, bacon with pancakes etc…

    1. Oh, we absolutely CAN make a stunning breakfast, no doubt about that. It’s just that we usually don’t. Extra Sugar Frosted Fruity Blergs and hormone-enhanced cow milk are just so common, I don’t think you can say that eggs, bacon, and pancakes are the usual.

      Speaking of pancakes, I haven’t found American-style *fluffy* pancakes easy to find overseas. Crepes, yes — often misleadingly called pancakes, much to my repeated disappointment! — but not fluffy deliciousness. I taught Dario’s family how to make pancakes and they loved them, but they (perhaps rightly) consider them an after-dinner dessert, a rare delicacy, but not a breakfast. They even send me pictures on Facebook when they make them. :D

  8. Ah the pleasure of sitting on the bidet while eating an Irish breakfast and waving the american flag!
    Awesome post!

    1. Hahaha! It didn’t occur to me to try all three at the same time. Still, I suppose it’s better than driving while taking a bath and tending your garden. ;)

  9. haha, I love it! This post is the most awesome! :)

    1. Yay! My typed words filled you with awe, which is awesome in and of itself. It’s like a circle of awesome here! xD

  10. Bemused Boomer says:

    Great post! I’m sitting in my breakfast nook chuckling away, which surprised my house guest when she emerged from her room. Thanks for the smiles.

    In the couple of years since you moved away from the U.S., many people have begun gardening. The price of food has gone up more than I’ve ever seen it here, and a garden has become a necessity for many families. “Pea Patches” (community gardens)have waiting lists, and some of my friends even talk about wanting to raise chicken. (Being allergic to eggs, I am spared that fantasy!)

    1. But you do like eating chicken, right? And you could probably sell some funny photos of your wee doggy being dwarfed by a chicken. And heck, you could sell the eggs to your neighbors!

      I’m not sure the cost of an air conditioned chicken coup in the desert would be worth it, though… ;)

  11. “And Ireland? Same colors (or should that be “colours”?) as Italy, but faded.” Okay MAJORLY not liking this statement! The Irish flag is Green, White and orange(or gold in some instances), so most certainly NOT the same colors as Italys flag!! Plus there is great meaning behind our flag!! :)

    1. Oh, silly Janet! Red, when faded, looks orange. And I have seen some pretty darn tattered Italian flags. …Perhaps the message here is that all Italians secretly want to be Irish?

      The real question is, if I manage to convince Dario to take a final trip to Dublin before we leave, are you going to have a beer with us?

      1. Yeah I got the whole, red faded is orange thing…just don’t like my pride and joy to be compared to Italys haha. :) Out of all the countrys I have lived in I like the South African Flag the best!

        Yes come to Dublin for beers already!!!

        1. Ooo, you putting down Italy? Dem’s fightin’ words!

          …we’ll probably be up in Dublin tomorrow, so you and Dario and arm wrestle at the pub. I’ll referee — ’cause that’s what Americans do. ;)

  12. I must agree on the flags!!! Nothing beats Stars & Stripes!!!

    Great post!

    1. Of those 3, I must agree. However, I think Mexico does have a pretty cool thing going with the eagle and the serpent. And Bhutan has a DRAGON! Sheesh, how did I miss that when I was writing this post? Dragons are nearly on par with unicorns!

  13. Great article. I just kept laughing. What I agreed with most was that there are things I like and miss about everywhere I’ve lived. Very cool and very fortunate.

    1. Yay for laughter! Yeah, I usually keep my humor on the softer, self-deprecating side, so it was important to point out that I really do like all 3 places. And really, without all the ridiculousness, what would I have to write about? :D

  14. I enjoyed this!

    As far as driving and road go I give Canada (my country) big points. I was home this past summer and being able to drive and not wonder if I was going to get side swiped by a color blind driver was refreshing, and being able to walk on the sidewalk without being mowed down by a scooter (AWESOME)…I live in Korea :)

    As far as food goods, well, for seafood there is nothing like Atlantic Canada…lobster, scallops …fresh fresh fresh. I am great lover of Korean food, but they’ll never beat my country on seafood.

    And bidets! Canada and the US need a lesson. I learned to love these things when I traveled in Japan last summer (AWESOME).

    Now that I have written a book in your comments section… I’m off!

    1. Haha! No worries, Nancie. Write away! Yes, I didn’t even touch on the parking or sidewalk situation, good one! I grew up on the west coast of the US and thought I knew from seafood, but it’s a whole other ballgame in Europe. (Don’t tell anyone in the Pacific Northwest, but I think Atlantic salmon kicks the pants off Pacific salmon. ;)

      You’ll have to tell me if the bidet craziness I’ve heard about Japan is true. They have some luxury, robotic, programmed action, I hear. Usually benign stuff that can auto-wash and blow-dry your rear, but occasionally gets out of hand and leaves you feeling like you got violated by a firehose. Any truth to those rumors? ;)

  15. I think a traditional big US breakfast is quite good. It’s certainly not as awesome as the full Irish breakfast, but beats Italy’s cup of coffee. Fun post, anyhow.

    1. The thing is, it’s not just coffee — it’s coffee and a pastry, or even coffee and a COOKIE! Just confirmed with the hubby that you can, in fact, have cookies and milk for breakfast. He even says it’s pretty common. I mean, I remember begging my mom for some crispitty sugar-coated cookie shaped cereal growing up, but there was a great deal of disapproval involved in the whole process. In Italy, moms worry about you becoming too thin and *encourage you* to eat cookies. How awesome is that? ;)

  16. :) Nice! Me and my hiney enjoyed my bidet in Portugal. :)
    Thanks for the mention!! Funny…I am compiling a bathroom post and the awful 2 spigots is part of it! Love that hand maneuver to wash my face w/ warm water. Now that is NOT awesome. :)

    1. A friend who lived in London as an expat for a few years said they have the same thing on the other island. His theory is that “quaint” is more important than “practical.” My theory is that “madness” is apparently more important than “sanity.” …Yes, so not awesome.

  17. hmmm … very interesting truths … I wonder how you’d compare India, China and the USA?

    1. I only know bits and pieces about India and China. Even if I visited, it’s not quite the same as living there. The 3 countries above were chosen because I’ve lived in each of them. I’m not yet sure where my adventures will take me, so anything is possible, but I have to admit that neither of those two countries is big on my “gotta live there next!” list. That being said, I hear that in India and China both toilet facilities and driving are something to behold!

  18. I am obsessed with bidets!!

    1. I know, right? Did you see Lisa Lubin’s post about it?

      Maybe, after encouraging enough people to get a passport and get moving, my next mission should be to start the bidet import business moving in the US. WE NEED CLEANER HINEYS!

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