I am very interested in ready Petra's impressions of the US from her trip over here. Since knowing Petra and having some wonderful conversations with her and visiting the NL only once, I am still learning and gaining an understanding of some of the ways we are the same and different as a society.
I see similarities in many ways but also see some differences both pro and con in both countries. What impressed me most about my visit to The Netherlands was the emphasis put on the social welfare of their citizens and the overall infrastructure of the country. I don't think there is any question that the health and wellbeing of citizens in the NL is given much more attention than it is here. Also the infrastructure of roads, train and bus services as well as basic utilities seemed first rate. Here, you can go to different parts of the US and find big differences from one another. Some parts of this country would be similar but many other parts of this big country would seem like those basic services are lacking and so far behind what you have there.
Now from conversations with Petra and friends over there I understand that these great services do not come without a cost. The overall tax rates there are so much higher than here and knowing americans and paying taxes, asking them to pay anything close to the rate over there would be a huge battle. I have always felt that way too but after seeing how things work there, I am not so sure anymore. We are a nation of extreme wealth and poverty. Is it asking too much for those who are comfortable here to give more in taxes if it is used to help everyone?
The comment that you received Petra on your post is probably very accurate. While you are right, many retired age people here want to continue to be productive and work, the woman who was cleaning bathrooms at that age must feel that she must to continue getting the services she needs for her and her family. Most likely health insurance. That is indeed sad.
Where I see a difference and advantage here, and I may be completely wrong, but from my conversations I have this feeling at least as of now. This truely is a land of opportunity for all. Is everyone given those opportunities without a lot of effort? No, but I have seen personally hundreds if not thousands of cases of people here without the background or education or growing up in the right family or part of the country that have become extremely successful in business or the arts or an occupation or calling that in other parts of the world may be shut out to them because they don't meet the requirements. I guess it is because all of us here have come from somewhere else and in the beginning relied on each other equally to get by. That spirit still is very strong here. I am oversimplifying things I know but wanted to comment on Petra's posts on impressions. I hope you will share more. I really enjoy getting to know not only you and your country but getting to know myself better.