When you look down the list of countries with the highest obesity rates, Australia is a lot higher than most European countries. This year, around 30% of Australians are considered obese. When you scroll further and further down the list, you finally see European countries like France, Germany and Italy coming towards the end.
But how is that possible? Germany is home to the fattiest and most delicious sausages paired with continuous pints of beer. Italy has given us creamy pasta and wood-fired pizza. And France – they smoke like chimneys and offer (arguably) the best bakery sweets in the world. Australians appear to be more health-conscious. We have F45, surf culture, low-fat milk, and acai bowls. Then again, I’m a Sydney-sider. It isn’t like that everywhere in Australia.
On my Europe trip this year, I people-watched (like a true Parisian) and I began to discover the differences in health culture between Australia and Europe. Here is what I noticed:
The Europeans love to smoke. We all know that. In fact, places like France and Spain are notorious for their smoking habits. If I had to list the first three things that come to mind when I hear the word ‘Paris’ I think: croissants, Eiffel Tower, and cigarettes.
Compared to Europeans, you could say that Australians have never heard of ‘cancer sticks’. With the constant advertising over the recent years to progress health standards, ciggies officially have a bad rap in Australia. Just under 14% of Australians were daily smokers in 2017-2018.
In Europe, smoking is constant. If you didn’t see clouds of smoke or smell the poignant scent of tobacco, you were probably swimming at the beach, 50 metres away from the shore. I saw a young girl in Poland at around 13 years old asking people on the street for cigarettes – with her mum! In Europe, the packets either contain no horrific advertising of what can happen to your body from smoking, or they are decorated with comical images, like a man being sad at a funeral – a visual of very bad acting – which almost makes it ‘funny’ to smoke in Europe. My cousins in France would buy a pack of cigarettes and look forward to seeing which image they received on the packet. Last year, countries like Greece, Hungary and Czech Republic were in the top 20 countries that smoke in the world.
Drinking and eating habits
Although Europe has fine food, wines and beer, they don’t necessarily overeat or overdrink. We Australians love a good pub feed and drinking until we see double. In Europe, that whole routine of smelling and tasting wines isn’t considered douchey and in fact, is a way for them to appreciate the craft and the time that was put into making these precious products that we Aussies don’t seem to give the time of day. Instead, we buy cheap Aldi wine at $3 a pop so that we have enough money to get drunk for the rest of the weekend. Priorities, am I right?
Meals in Europe differ. In some countries, breakfast is non-existent (or a ciggie and an espresso), lunch is a salad, and dinner is a small piece of protein with more salad. You may believe Italians eat pizza all day and drink wine all night, but you are mistaken. In fact, if you had to compare, it’s more likely that Australians eat pizza all day and drink (cheap) wine all night. Even if we are trying to eat healthier and have fewer fats and carbs, our portion sizes in Australia are more influenced by America’s standards.
So far it’s a tie between Australia and Europe. This is where Australia may take the crown. Fitness culture in Australia is intense AF. We have more gyms than schools, we have thousands of fitness influencers on social media, and hundreds of Mr Vitamin stores selling protein powders and low-calorie bars. We are crazy about fitness. To a major extent, this is a good thing. We are health conscious and most of us are basically now peer pressured to joining a gym and actually going. Otherwise, you ain’t cool, fatty.
In Europe, there are some gyms – I guess? I saw a few here and there with maybe three women on the treadmill and one guy doing weights in the corner. It’s just not as big there. Couples go for slow strolls along the streets at night instead of tag-teaming at the gym at 5am on a Monday morning. In Australia, it’s popular to own a food journal and count calories with the My Fitness Pal app, whereas the only journals they use in Europe is to express their feelings. It’s a lot more intense on this side of the hemisphere, but at least we are attempting to be more health-conscious.
Do you believe Australia is health-conscious? Tell us what you think in the comments below!