I didn’t expect to encounter bros in Brussels. I figured that Europeans were way too intelligent for such a trend and that typical American bros wouldn’t ever leave the frat house.
I was wrong on both accounts.
It’s not that there are any real, stereotypically bro Euro-bros around; rather, Europeans love bros.
There are two bros in my study abroad program, affectionately dubbed Bro #1 and Bro #2 by other students within our first day in Brussels. Bros #1 and #2 did not mind the nickname, and the nickname has rightfully stuck.
After all, the first thing I ever heard come out of Bro #1’s mouth was, “Yeah, I’m basically just your typical fraternity bro.”
Early in the school year, I was somewhat embarrassed to be around them. They have full on conversations that render absolutely nothing substantial — merely, “dude, I know, dude,” followed by, “yeah, man, I know man,” followed by, “yeah, dude, it’s whatever, dude.”
Surely those Europeans who just walked by, clad in leather jackets and dress shoes, were hardcore judging.
But within a month, I realized Bro #1 and Bro #2 had more European friends than I did. They were mingling effortlessly with other students and they were — gasp — kind of popular.
It’s not just the students, either.
One night I went with the bros to a night shop, where they were purchasing alcohol for pre-nightclub amusement. As the only customers in the store, they obliviously took their sweet time — 20 minutes, not exaggerating, to finally land on the combination of vodka and orange soda.
While the bros grabbed bottle after bottle, and put bottle after bottle back, I stared at the cashier. He was watching the bros’ every move, but not out of annoyance. He was mesmerized. He was giggling. He must have thought the bros were straight out of some bad Hollywood flick, and he was thoroughly amused.
When the bros had made their final decision, the cashier almost looked sad to see the scene end. As we moseyed toward the exit, the cashier called us back and gave the bros free candy.
The Hollywood connection, along with American television, is probably the main reason for the Euro fascination with bro culture. Europeans see these “crazy” college parties and glorified fraternity life, and they idolize it.
I was talking to one European student about stereotypical frat life (YouTube: Frat Life), including how one shotguns a beer or does a keg stand.
These stories did not disappoint the Euro-dreamer, who fantasizes about the “prestige” of brotherhood and, one day, playing beer pong amongst real-life bros.
It’s true — beer pong is a seemingly unattainable goal.
For one thing, those red cups we Americans take for granted do not exist in Europe. And — sit down for this — ping-pong balls are not readily available in gas stations and grocery stores.
My friend can’t wait to study abroad in the States. He can’t wait to go to frat parties and see American bros in their natural habitat. He can’t wait to change his Facebook profile picture to one with him holding a plastic red cup — a picture all his friends will immediately “like,” he says. The red cup is the epitome of cool.
I try to warn him that frat parties get old, and they get old fast. You get over the Hollywood teen movie fascination, and then all that’s left is a bunch of sweaty drunk college students in a filthy house.
We Euro-loving Americans idolize the European club scene, with everything from the chic furniture to the gorgeous lighting feeling so much more special than anything we have back home.
But in Europe, the crazy frat party is America’s ultra trendy nightclub. The chill bro is our effortless hipster. Even though greek life is such a small percentage of a university population, it seems so important to the outsider. Even though European students don’t spend every Friday night at a discotheque, we Americans like to pretend.
It’s not, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” It’s, “When in Rome, do whatever you want that you can’t justify at home.”
JANELLE BITKER never thought she’d be forced to watch her first episode of “Greek” in Europe. The show was as awful as expected, but watching the excited European was enjoyable. Send comments of disbelief to firstname.lastname@example.org.