Me outside a church in Stockholm

After three weeks in Europe, SoCalDevGal is back home…”you can check out at any time you like, but you can never leave” and is thinking about the parts of the EU I visited and differences. 

First from a professional standpoint, European audiences, particularly developer audiences, are notoriously demanding. As this was only my second time delivering technical presentations in Europe, I can’t say that I am an expert, but I did notice a couple of things.

All sessions were delivered at a 300 to 400 level.  European audiences are attentive (no talking and don’t leave early), and demanding – they prefer depth and detail – jokes, stories and distractions aren’t expected.  Also, it’s rare to be asked a question during the presentation.  Many attendees take detailed notes.  Use of social networking during the presentations, such as Twitter, doesn’t happen.  Most presenters showed a small number of slides and spent a good amount of time talking to each slide.  If I had to summarize, it seems as the expectation is to gain knowledge – US audiences prefer actionable information.  Another difference I noticed, is the interest in Green IT from Europeans, particularly around data centers.  I learned quite a bit about what Microsoft is doing in this area from attending other presentations at the various events I spoke at.

Other than work, I noticed some other interesting differences too.  I know I am over-generalizing a bit here….first Europeans seems to really separate work and play.  That is when working, they deeply concentrate on work and aren’t really interested in playing around or being entertained.  This contrasts with the US, where I find that audiences increasingly want to be presented with edutainment.  Don’t get me wrong, when Europeans do play, they play hard, it’s just that a more definite separation between the two aspects of life seems in evidence. 

Also there is a maturity around health, aging and social responsibility that I find refreshing.  I had a great discussion about the Swedish social support system with a couple in Stockholm.  There is more naturalness about accepting life’s stages. Of course, I live near to Newport Beach, the botox capitol of the earth, so the contrast is more pronounced. 

On the other hand change comes more slowly and there is a generally more conservative and skeptical attitude toward newness in most areas of life.

Digging into the minutiae of life, I got frustrated by overly complicated plumbing controls (I prefer our one-button showers, especially in the morning!), I envied the incredibly fashionable boots in Stockholm, I missed the bold, athletic colors worn by Americans (particularly in London, where drab khaki and green seem to be the colors of the day), I could pick out US or Japanese tourists by the size of their suitcases, I was happy to see that there are finally some restrictions around smoking in European bars and restaurants and I think I started to understand that self-irony is most acceptable type of humor in Europe.

In all I had a wonderful trip, I definitely believe that travel enriches and our world in general would benefit if more of us traveled.

Oh, here are links to my pictures

Vasteras, Sweden – here
Stockholm, Sweden – here
Antwerp, Belgium – here
Brussels, Belgium – here
More Brussels, Belgium - here

So, where should I go next?  What do you think?  What are your favorite places and why?