Things are starting to fall into place: I have started looking the right way when crossing the street, phrases like "that's grand," "good craïc," and "cheers" (meaning 'thank you') have crept into my speech, and I can recognise and count Euro coins easily. In fact, when I pulled a U.S. quarter from my backpack the other day it looked out of place.
Sadly, many travellers make a list of things that are different ("worse") here than from the U.S. To combat that attitude, I have started making a list of European things that, I think, should make their way to the U.S. Here are a couple items on the list:
• Text messaging. Also called SMS or texting, lots of phones in the U.S. have this service, but it's not used nearly to the extent that it is here. It's a really cheap and convenient way to exchange information. I also think it's more polite than calling—so often in the States incoming cell phone calls take precedence over all other things. With a text, you can send quick questions to people and they can respond at their leisure.
• Gelato. Hands down, the best frozen dessert anywhere. Right now, there is a gelato gap between Europe and America. This needs to be fixed. There's no excuse for not having massive quantities of cheap gelato in the States.
• Trains. On the Continent (meaning Europe, minus the U.K. and Ireland), trains are the best way to travel everywhere relatively inexpensively. It's worth recognizing that there isn't really any transportation network like this in the U.S. Although there is Amtrack and Greyhounds, these are often as expensive as airfare, and not widespread in use. A car is probably the best way to see the U.S. on a budget, but that's not an option for youth travellers under 25 (no rental cars).
• Castles. Europe has them everywhere. They're big and cool. Given my (admittedly limited) knowledge of U.S. landmarks, I can't think of any castles. Maybe we could import a few.
No doubt there's more to Europe than these four small suggestions, but it's a start.