Frans de Waal on Being European

Frans de Waal in Euromind:

Frans_de_WaalDespite having lived and worked continuously in the USA for the past 35 years, I still feel very European. I am of Dutch origin, married to a French woman, and visit Europe several times a year.

I look at all European citizens as having a shared background, a shared history, a shared culture, and definitely shared interests. Even though all of us speak different languages (I am fluent in four), and have different cuisines, we obviously have a common cultural heritage dating back many centuries. My own country has been under Roman, Spanish, French, and German rule, and even though we generally don’t consider these invasions in a positive light, they mean that we have always been connected to and influenced by other nations. This is true all over Europe.

It has hard to formulate what makes me feel European rather than American, but one simple example is the structure of the cities. In Europe, cities are compact, with narrow streets, arranged around a square and a large church or cathedral. We all take this for granted but it is radically different from many American cities, and also from Asian ones. The way people interact, the music they prefer, the way they dress, in all of these aspects I still feel most at home in Europe.

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