Hipper in Europe?
By Justine Seligson
Illustration by Chris Murphy
Last summer, I was feeling old. It wasn’t when I was playing with my six-year-old cousin who had enough energy to run a four-minute mile. It wasn’t when I heard that yet another form of the iPad was coming out, with me having been alive before the first iPod debuted a billion years ago.
It was when I observed the culture of Europe’s youth and how hip and free they were as compared to Americans who could be mistaken for an Amish settlement in comparison.
That’s right; Americans are nothing but square.
I used to think that the US was one of the freer, more modern countries on Earth. With its multimillion-dollar corporations and massive influence all over the world (like when I saw a McDonald’s in an isolated village in Zambia), how could it not be?
That all changed during the summer when I spent almost a month traveling in Sweden and Denmark. While there, I fell in love with the European style, especially the hipster culture.
In Stockholm, it was rare to see a woman who didn’t have her hair dyed a funky color (copper red, ice blue, electric green). In Copenhagen, basically the entire younger generation has either tattoos or piercings, or both.
Back in the states, when school started up again, I couldn’t help but observe the styles of my peers. Out of the 1,800 students who attend my high school, there may be ten, if even, that have the hip style so common in Europe (I’m specifically referring to dyed hair, piercings and tattoos).
But there are many who crave having a hipper look. One of my friends wanted to get a tattoo, but it was out of the question. Her parents wouldn’t let her. And I’m guessing the parents of many of my classmates have put the kibosh on the idea of tattoos and piercings.
Europe is simply, much hipper. Why? From what I learned through meeting people there is that in general, European parents allow their children much more freedom than American moms and dads. And European society also seems to be more lenient, allowing youth greater freedom.
In the U.S., it’s not just the parents who have a tight grip on kids. It’s the government in general, enforcing strict regulations on our country’s youth. American teens are attached by an extremely strong rope to many adults preventing them from (sorry for the cliché) spreading their wings and flying.
The restrictions on what American teens can and can’t do nowadays are ridiculous. Who knows, but maybe in a few years kids will have to get a signed permission slip to breathe.
Restricting kids on so many things in the long run will not do them any good. Everyone, teens especially, need to learn from their mistakes and shouldn’t have to be sheltered from learning experiences. A 16-year-old should be allowed to get a giant tattoo of One Direction on her leg without parental consent if she wants to. If she regrets doing it in 30 years, that would be her problem. But then again, one could do the same thing when she’s 25, without a parent, as adults can be just as stupid in decision-making as teens.
My suggestion is to lower the age requirements for things such as piercing and tattoos, and in general, loosen the cord so tightly attached to all of America’s youth.
We’re suffocating here.
About Justine Seligson: Just-Teens Travel columnist
Justine Seligson, our teen columnist and photographer, is a sophomore in high school. Justine started her Just-Teens Travel column providing teen insights, ideas and advice for students (and their parents) when she was in 7th grade.
At 14 years old, Justine won the Cynthia Mullins Award in Youth Photography at the Annual Juried Student Exhibition at Silvermine School of Art in New Canaan, CT. She has also been published on National Geographic's Intelligent Travel blog. See her piece here.
If you would like to suggest topics--or contribute a teen travel piece--e-mail Justine.