Monday, May 23, 2011

The search for the long lost cup holder

If you're an American and you rent cars in places other than North America, chances are you'll have this experience:

You buy a soda at a grocery store or gas station. You get in the car, open it, start to drink it, and then look for where to set it down so you can get on your way. You try setting it in this place and that and finally come to the conclusion that the car is missing one important thing: a cup holder.

It's taken me five years of living in Europe but I now know to not expect a cup holder in my car. A cup holder is an American thing.

I had never considered this before. But when you think about it, what self-respecting European drinks on the run? No, better to spend 5 Euros on one soda or coffee and enjoy it for a few hours at a cafe.

But the cup holder phenomenon goes beyond cars. Take baby strollers. In the U.S., you can get a baby stroller complete with, you guessed it, a cup holder. European strollers, on the other hand, have places for shopping bags instead.

Have you ever searched for a cup holder and come up empty?


Paul said...

Hehe! Yes, I guess you're right! I'm a Brit in Florida, but I never thought about it before! I never assume that there's going to be a cup holder, but I am used to there being a pair. They are useful in Florida though, because of the heat, it is almost essential to have liquid refreshment at hand in a hot car.


M'dame Jo said...

I know you know Bill Bryson, but his chronicle on cup holders is a must-read. I just wanted to mention it.

My opinion? While driving in the US, I am able to drink while driving. Why? Automatic cars, larger roads, and more "civil" road behavior. Here I can't: I need to focus more on the road and to use my both hands to drive.

That, and the fact that Americans usually have longer car commutes may explain this difference.

I've seen cup holders in newer European cars though, usually not between the seats, but in the door. They're more bottle holders, I guess.

I have no opinion on strollers though ;-)

But you remark on the price made me think of something else. I'm not sure it's only a price thing, but more a cultural thing. During a long car drive, people will take a couple of bottled water for thirst. But when people drink a coffee, they like to sit and enjoy it, share the moment with someone, etc., and not do anything else while drinking/eating, etc. and not just filling themselves while driving. Does it make sense?

Nicole Nelson said...

That is so cool -- I never noticed. :)

Mama B said...

The horror experienced by Europeans at the sight of cup holders in US cars as an indicator for lack of class and American excess can be quite funny. I've been told by a visitor "No thanks, I don't need a cup holder in my car, just as I have no use for a bread slicer while I'm driving, either!" Case and point.

Anonymous said...

I just remember thinking, while going through car brouchers many years ago, why would I want a cup holder in my car? On a second thought, I found it useful for the case of being stuck waiting in the car, of course while not driving, but then again quite not really necessary.

So yes, it's quite an American thing, but you can find cars with it in Europe since years ago. In fact, I think it's becoming more and more "popular" in cars, not sure about drivers though.

It might be that some car rental companies leave the cup holder out of their own cars and you've been just not lucky enough. I'd swear the last care I hired had one, in a remote island in Spain. Not sure it was because it's a touristic place or because the car was brand new.

Anyway, I've also drunk while driving without a cup holder, just took a can instead of a cup :)


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