Spend a few days in Tunisia and it’s clear that life in the North African country differs from life in America. There are pros and cons to both, but we think elements of Tunisia’s rich culture, history, and principles are worth bringing back home to the U.S.
Here are ten takeaways from Tunisia that America should learn from the North African country.
A Healthier Relationship with Food
It is quite unfortunate how obese the majority of Americans are when most countries on Earth still have mostly thin people. One should eat less processed foods, smaller portion sizes, and cut down on snacks between meals as well as sugary sodas.
A little bit of research reveals that this is not just a feeling or a fiction, but a fact, confirmed by organizations like the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which says that food portions in American restaurants have more than doubled in the last 25 years.
Meanwhile, Tunisian cuisine continues to make ample use of healthy fatty Mediterranean ingredients such as olive oil, nuts and seafood, while Tunisians remain, on average, far trimmer than Americans.
Suggested Read: Tunisian Cuisine — Mentality, Spirit & Character
A Good Work-Life Balance
In the US, the concept of work-life balance is as mythical as a unicorn. Long work hours, limited paid vacation days, and the constant pressure to be productive is the norm.
In Tunisia, quite similar to most European countries, employment laws protect the employee from being fired on a whim by their employer.
Tunisians have generous vacation policies and a healthier perspective on work-life balance. They get a minimum of three to five weeks’ paid annual vacation. Even though Tunisia is not quite a land of leisure and relaxation when it comes to the corporate world, people actually value their vacations and believe in taking time to recharge and enjoy life.
Affordable (Mostly Free) Higher Education
Education in Tunisia is free for all — The public University system is virtually free. In addition, studying at private Universities in Tunisia is generally way more affordable than studying at both public and private universities in the USA, although private colleges in Tunisia tend to be less prestigious than their US or European counterparts.
Since gaining independence in 1956, Tunisia has focused on developing an education system which produces a solid human capital base that could respond to the changing needs of a developing nation. This was one of the main reasons to provide a free education system.
Meanwhile, Americans spend an average of $30,000 per student per year, according to the OECD. As a result, Americans are now struggling under 1.47 trillion dollars in student loan debt.
Free Healthcare System
All state-owned medical facilities and public hospitals offer free services to all Tunisians. The government takes care of public healthcare facilities through budget subsidies.
However, the services available in public healthcare facilities are not at par with those being provided by private medical centers. The private clinics in Tunisia measure up to the international standards.
In the other hand, the US has the most expensive healthcare system of any country. A medical consultation with a general practitioner costs, on average, $190 or around €170.
Change Gears, Not Genders
Tunisians are so into road-trips. Most of them own cars with manual transmissions, and love them with a passion. The majority here pretty much agree that stick-shifts are much more fun to drive than an automatic.
The whole driving experience is way more engaging. Also, having to manually shift makes sure that you are paying attention to driving instead of texting, and so on. They also come with other great benefits such as the known reliability of manuals. Their lower cost to maintain and much more.
Meanwhile, only around 18% of American drivers can handle a manual transmission, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Help the Oppressed, Never the Oppressor
Tunisia has a long history in supporting freedom, decolonization and independence around the world.
Tunisia supported several countries in gaining their independence. For instance, it had a direct role in supporting neighboring Algeria in their war of independence by letting members of the National Liberation Front (FLN) use Tunisian towns as bases of operation, which eventually led to the bombing of the Tunisian village of Sakiet Sidi Youssef. It was also the first country to recognize the independence of several countries such as Mauritania and Algeria.
Tunisia was in fact one of the first countries to recognize the independence of the United States. Tunisia, then under the rule of the Bey of Tunis, formally acknowledged American independence in 1777, shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. This recognition marked an early diplomatic relationship between Tunisia and the newly formed US.
Speaking of freedom and independence, since 1948, Tunisia has always been a passionate supporter of the Palestinian cause, whether through its international stance or its unwillingness to normalize relations with Israel. However, there lies the biggest disagreement with the United States, and its unconditional support to Israel, which Tunisia considers as a settler colonial state.
Meet Parents Without an Appointment
Tunisian culture is known primarily for the importance of family. Family relationships are stronger, and parents and children are more connected with each other. In Tunisia, families tend to be very close. They will come together for weekly or monthly meals to reconnect with each other. Family elders are highly respected and cared for. This is also a Mediterranean thing.
There are several special occasions and events that bring families and friends together in a regular basis, Ramadan is one of them.
In the other hand, the individualism influences many American family dynamics.
Guns Have No Place
Just like most civilized societies, guns have no place in Tunisia. Ban all guns or heavily regulate them like almost all other countries do.
The U.S. has a deep and enduring connection to guns. Most gun owners claim the right to carry arms as central to their freedom. At the same time, the results of gun-related violence have shaken the country with several incidents happening every year.
A More Multilingual Population
Thanks to its historical heritage, Tunisia has naturally become a multicultural and a multilingual nation. In North Africa and the Mediterranean region, Tunisia is considered a regional hub for languages, where most of its citizens are multilingual.
Often described as a crossroads between Africa, the Middle East and Europe, Tunisia draws on a variety of cultural and linguistic influences that make citizens versed in a variety of tongues.
Apart from the Derja, also known as Tunisian Arabic, Tunisians are trained from an early age in Modern Standard Arabic and French, and public school pupils begin taking English classes at the age of 10. A small percentage of the population also speaks Italian, as well as Shelha, a traditional Berber language found primarily in southern villages.
Related Read: 5 Mind-Blowing Facts about the Tunisian Arabic
A Better National Soccer Team
Tunisia is one of the most competitive African national teams in international football (American soccer), having won one African Cup of Nations, as hosts in 2004. They have made six FIFA World Cups and twenty Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, and participated in four editions of the Olympic football tournaments.
Football is the most popular sport in Tunisia and Tunisians are obsessed about it.
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