Tuesday, November 10

the american version

I'm no gear head. I don't particularly crave certain cars (although my Dad has a few tasty classics in his garage) and generally speaking, I try to figure out how to live my life without the buggers... but I must admit I fell in love with Fiat's Cinquecento (500) the first time I laid eyes on it.

A new version of this cute little number will be coming soon to my fellow patriots. With one key modification (there are actually several differences, but this one is key). The American version has cup holders.

When you think about it, this seemingly trivial detail says volumes (well, at least a blog post worth) about the difference between Italian and American culture.

Walk into any coffee shop in the US, what do you get? A large paper cup of pipping hot beverage... coffee or a latte? Generally about 16 oz. worth and hot enough to carry you through half an hour of your commute. Or if you're thinking green, you might bring in your own travel mug. But in either case, it's to go. You grab your coffee and hit the road, enjoying the warm tastiness on the way.

And the forgotten supporting role in this scenario? The cup holder.

On the other hand, in Italy, the coffee shops are called bars (you can in fact add a little extra zip to your morning btw) and what you get is something completely different. First off, no paper cups. Nada. Zilch. Nine (no, not 9, the german zero). Second off, it's a bar. At which you stand. Thirdly, anything you order can be finished in at most, 5 sips. No matter how many times you say grande, what you will get will fit in a tea cup. How long were you planning on standing around anyway? So you get your little cup of cappuccino, swirl the sugar around, drink it in, oh, 2 minutes if you're really dragging it out, pay your bill (sometimes you pay first) and leave. Perhaps in your little Cinquecento. Sans cup holders.

Can you imagine if they tried to sell a car in the US without cup holders?!?! It'd be like offering a car without a steering wheel! How could you drive the thing?

And at the same time, going anywhere with a travel mug in Italy might raise enough suspicion to cause an evacuation.

Brilliant. The cultural implications of the presence/absence of cup holders! Wonder what it would take to get the automotive industry to apply this level of genius to the problem of pollution?


  1. We always kvetch about the lack of cup holders and arm rests in European rental cars. Even for resting a bottle of water they're handy. Even europeans can get behind bottled water. Can't they?

  2. I do cheer the concept of no paper cups. But cup holders are very handy, even though I don't drink coffee myself.

    I also know nothing about cars and care less. I don't know their names, and rarely remember what my friends' cars look like, so fail to wave at them when they pass.
    How anti-social of me!

  3. hah, so funny! We're (Europeans) are not used to walk around with our coffee. (yes, we're copying everything what you do in US but it's not our tradition)
    We enjoy to sit down and chat with friends/coworkers/family etc.
    Take it easy and relax... :)

    ps. welcome to my blog dating tomorrow! Take your friends with you!

  4. Thats an interesting angle. I never knew of this. Our cars come with holders !

    That has the odd water bottle. The coffee is had at the roadside shop !


  5. LOL, we have several cup holders in the Multipla. The day we got it from the dealer Mario spent the whole day double checking what I meant by "cup holder", glowering at these strange holes in his new car and giving me sidelong glances in case I was taking the micky.

    We have renamed them the cell phone holder, the house key holder and Son of Thor's discarded wrappers/socks/gormiti holder.


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