The Difference Between the Germans and the French

Several years ago, I had a German woman riding shotgun on the van. She pointed to my coffee cup and said, “In Germany, we don’t have cup holders in our cars. We feel that drinking coffee will distract you from driving.” I thought about it and said, “That makes sense—you’re doing 180 on the Autobahn, you probably shouldn’t be sipping a latte.”

Later that year, Tess and I went to France. I was driving our rented Peugeot on the Autoroute, and we pulled over into an aire—like a rest area, but with gas and a restaurant (do not think Stuckey’s)—and went into the café after filling up. The tomato and mozzarella sandwich was delicious. I decided I wanted some coffee for the road, but the woman behind the counter didn’t have any to-go cups: she said, “You know, you really shouldn’t drink coffee and drive—the driving will distract you from the flavor of the coffee.”


I told this story to an Italian man, and he said, “For us Italians, coffee is communal thing—a chance to get together and talk.”

Since then, someone told me the Germans now have cup holders in their cars. I’m disappointed.

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