“It’s a man’s world.” So crooned the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, at least. This sentiment may not be true, but at very least, guys have a world of their own. Generally in these guides, I try to cast a broad net, illuminating topics that are relevant to disparate demographics with nothing in common but the desire to study abroad. But I am not going to be doing that today This is not one of those articles.
This is the sign hanging on the tree house that says “No Girls Allowed.” This is the Boy Scouts. This is the Best Cities for Guys to Study Abroad. So grab your Sperrys and your beer snorkels and let’s bro out. Five of the world’s great cities will be compared in three categories the modern guy loves: Sports, Art, and the Bar Scene. Art? Yes, the Renaissance Dude must be in touch with his soul! So let’s take a look at where Joe Bro should go for study abroad, with the help of our good friend Ernest Hemingway (the ultimate macho bro)!
"Think of me as Yoda, only instead of being little and green, I wear suits and I’m awesome. I’m your bro: I’m Broda!”
1. Paris, France
SPORTS While not necessarily known for sports and athletics, Paris has a respectable share of sports-centric diversions for guys. Soccer is king in Europe, and Paris has two solid options for the football fan. Paris Saint-Germain, or PSG for short, is the Ligue 1 soccer team hailing from Paris, and heated rivalry matches against Marseille and Lyon are a great insider peek at mass sports fandom, something that is a beloved part of life in the States. It’s cool to see the insanity from the other side.
The French national soccer team also plays in Paris at the Stade de France, and if you get the chance to catch an international friendly, do it. France played the USA while I was there, and it lead to a memorable night of painted faces, obnoxious patriotism, and U-S-A spelled across the chests of three American bros. I distinctly remember yelling, “Normandie, le 6 juin mille neuf-cent quarante quatre...DE RIEN!" Throw in the Tour de France once a year, and you’ve got a good sports city.
I do have to deduct points, however, because there is not much casual sporting. Gyms are rare and exorbitantly expensive (nearly $1000/yr), and the ideal physique for a French man is not muscular or athletic, but that of a melancholy cig-smoking intellectual. RATING:
BAR SCENE The mecca of brooding artists for hundreds of years, Paris has some of the best bars in the world, bar none. From the romantic gin joins of the 20’s, like Le Crocodile in the Latin Quarter, to Hemingway’s beloved Rallye, to the modern Euro-house clubs of today, Paris can knock a few back with class, à la Midnight in Paris. RATING:
Night Life Pro Tip: Buy yourself a bottle of wine, grab a blanket, and go drink it on the grass of the champs de mars, in front of the Eiffel Tower. Make sure the bottle says “Appellation Controlée.” In the esteemed world of French wines, a bordeaux or a côte du Rhone are only allowed to used the names of those distinguished regions of the wine has met certain stringent quality controls put in place by a governing body. The governing body controls the name, hence, appellation controlée.
ART What can I say about art in Paris that hasn’t already been said, better, in French? The Louvre. The Musée d'Orsay. Sacré-Cœur. Sainte-Chappelle. Add that to the food and the literature that have come from the city, and it’s no contest. When people ask me what Paris was like, I tell them: everywhere you look, there is some sort of beauty to enjoy with one of the senses. Top marks. RATING:
Total on a scale of 1-BRO: 12 Hemingways
2. London, England
SPORTS How do you say “Premier League” in English? Oh that’s right, PREMIER LEAGUE! The greatest soccer league on planet Earth fields three (count ‘em, THREE) teams from jolly old London, and they are each in their own right some of the most fanatically beloved and vehemently reviled sports franchises in the world – Chelsea, named for the upscale neighborhood of London; Arsenal, founded by workers at the Royal Arsenal; and Tottenham Hotspur, bitter rivals of both.
If tennis is more your game, set, and match, well you’re in luck, dude. It just so happens that the most famous tennis club on Earth is in London – the famed Wimbledon.
In addition to these great professional attractions, sporting culture is big part of being a guy in England – and was probably brought over to the Colonies, those rascal upstarts! Pick-up games of football (God help you if you call it soccer) are easy to find and join, and getting your competitive fix isn’t hard. RATING:
BAR SCENE I’ve heard it said that if Paris is an elegant old woman, London is a fun young thang. London is a younger city per capita, and its night life is more thriving. Pubs abound, and are more relaxed than your average American bar. Just sidle up, grab a pint, and grub on some sausage and beans. What could be better? There are also tons of hip, thumping clubs – and lots of beautiful young professionals to mix and mingle with. It’s like New York, with Harry Potter’s accent. RATING:
Night Life Pro Tip: Most pubs close at 11pm due to city ordinances, so if you want the “traditional” British pub experience of enjoying some salty grub with your suds, get there before the witching hour. However, if you want to mix and mingle with London’s social and celebrity elite, head to the South Kensington or SoHo area bars, where neither the drinks nor the patrons are cheap.
ART London’s best museum is actually not about art. The British Museum is perhaps the greatest treasure trove of archaeological and historical artifacts ever amassed by mankind. With everything from the Pharaoh's jewels to woolly mammoth tusks, this is the history museum par excellence.
Art can also be auditory, so check out Abbey Road Studios, the recording studio in London where the greatest band of all time, the Beatles, recorded the music that led millions of adolescent boys to learn to play the guitar so they could sing “Yesterday” to their sweethearts. Thanks, London. RATING:
Total on a scale of 1-BRO: 12 ½ Hemingways
3. Shanghai, China
SPORTS Sports in Shanghai are different than in the West. The Chinese love basketball – having one of your own become a giant (literally) global star will do that, and the one-two combo of Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin have kept that going. With the exception of hoops, though, there is not a ton of professional athletic competition in Shanghai. A large portion of the population gets their daily recreational exercise through morning and evening tai chi. And while this practice is very zen, and awakens the body without pitting competitors against each other directly, I find that lack of bloodlust decidedly un-bro. How am I supposed to know if I worked out if I didn’t beat anybody?RATING:
BAR SCENE The same ex-pat friend says, “The bar scene is huge, but Western dominated. Shanghai has every kind of bar, from dives to full on clubs. Most of these places had Western drinks and English-speaking employees.” So again, mass-produced imitation. However, imitation is perfectly fine in this instance, and can be fun. At least you have plenty of options, unlike the rest of China.
KTV karaoke clubs are more popular among the Chinese themselves. They go and sing and have a great time, and usually do so without drinking much. “The Chinese do not drink as socially as we do,” the friend says, “and when they do, it tends to be men gathered together around a table in the corner of a restaurant.” Knocking back table brews and singing Journey? Very bro. RATING:
Night Life Pro Tip: The Bund is the swanky district that gives Shanghai its distinctive skyline, and is where most of the hip bars are found. Shanghai is a city where appearances are important, so some of the will be VIP-only. However, for truly Chinese liquor, order baijiu (“BYE-gee-oh”), a powerful 40%-60% alcoholic spirit distilled from sorghum and glutenous rice. Sweet, but strong.
ART Art in Shanghai is “a mixed bag,” as one ex-pat friend put it. “The Tian Zi Fang area has a lot of artists you can watch create and buy straight from…everything from traditional-style painting to photography.” However, guys should beware that mass-produced factory fakes are – like in a lot of Chinese industries – becoming even more common than the real deal.
The architecture is something to behold, though. Watching the sun set over a sculpted bronze dragon on a thatch-tile roof is even better with a cold Tsingtao. RATING:
Total on a Scale of 1-BRO: 9 Hemingways
4. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
SPORTS Like most of Europe, soccer is king here. AFC Ajax is the premier soccer team in the Netherlands and plays right in Amsterdam, as does the orange-clad national team, who made a surprise run to the finals of the 2010 World Cup.
But cycling is the real story in Amsterdam, and I don't mean the Tour de 'Roids. No, I mean simple, civilian, -as conveyance cycling. Bicycles are EVERYWHERE in Amsterdam, and it's just about the most charming damn thing in the world. Beautiful Dutch ladies and gents bicycling over bridges and across canals, down cobblestone streets and up cheerful alleys. And when I say beautiful Dutch ladies and gents, I mean it. You might want to use these tips. Wow. RATING:
BAR SCENE Heineken is brewed RIGHT there! I mean literally, RIGHT THERE. I accidentally tripped over it when I was out walking around. I never liked Heineken in the States, but when you get it fresh from the motherland? Delicious, like angels’ tears.
Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops are also world famous, and attract tourism from all over the globe. Customers enter and take a seat at a table like a normal bar or restaurant and are presented menus, offered recommendations, and brought the necessary accoutrements. Fruit smoothies, gourmet coffees and delicious food are also served, as most nicer Coffeeshops have full-service kitchens. These uniquely Dutch gathering places are a tapestry of humanity, and you might find yourself sharing a table with doctors, lawyers, bikers, ravers, tourists, locals, any personage you can imagine. And sharing good conversation over a uniquely local custom? Well that, fellow dudes, is bro in the highest order. RATING:
Night Life Pro Tip: Order a fresh Heineken in a Coffeeshop. Thank me later.
ART As I just touched on, the city itself is art. The cobblestone walkways that line the canal wind between wide open parks and pleasantly laid out streets. Amsterdam is also home to the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, where you can see the textured, paint-slathered-on-thick originals of some his most famous works. Like all major cities, Amsterdam has its opera houses and whatnot, but the Van Gogh Museum is really the crown jewel. RATING:
Total on a scale of 1-BRO: 9 1/2 Hemingways
5. Melbourne, Australia
SPORTS Oi! What’s manlier than a bunch of Aussies knocking a ball (and each other) around?? Literally, scientifically, nothing. Not only is Melbourne the second-largest city in Australia, it is the documented birthplace of both Australian Rules Football and cricket in the country. If you prefer big ticket events, each year Melbourne hosts the Australian Open tennis grand slam tournament, and Formula One’s Australian Grand Prix.
Don’t trust me to give you the real scoop on Melbourne’s sports cred? How about this: in 2008 respected publication SportsBusiness International named Melbourne “the World’s Ultimate Sports City,” for the second time. RATING:
BAR SCENE What, you think Australia can’t party? Please. Melbourne is home to a large population of young entrepreneurs, professionals, and businesspeople. Expect, then, plenty of hip, swanky, post-modern bars and nightclubs that would put even the poshest London spot to shame. This can be a double-edged sword, though, as the recent strength of the Australian dollar has made Melbourne a pricey stomping ground, just as any top-flight city is.
Also, I might have forgotten to mention: three times has Melbourne been named the World’s Most Live-able City, offering its citizens the highest quality of life anywhere in the world. Thrice! I don’t think I’ve ever done ANYTHING thrice! RATING:
Night Life Pro Tip: Already had a late night? Stay up a little longer and bring your beer down to the harbor to catch the World’s first sunrise of the day.
ART When it comes to art, Melbourne has all the classic qualifications down pat: illustrious museums, soaring architecture, grand piazzas, etc. What really sets Melbourne apart is its street art scene. Like New York on the other side of the world, Melbourne is famous for its talented street performers, artists, impromptu theatre, and the like. Think about it: if you want to make it big as an entertainer in our part of the world, you head to New York or Los Angeles. If you were on the continent of Australia, you would go to Melbourne.
I am awarding an extra half-point because street art is a way of sticking it to the Man, and Hem would have been all about that. RATING:
Total on a scale of 1-BRO: 12 Hemingways
And the winner is...
And so the winner, with a Farewell to Arms-ian 12 1/2 Hemingways, is London! London is officially the best city for guys to study abroad, now and forevermore, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
However, nearly any city will have something cool for guys to dig, and a man is not defined by this or any other city article. Pursue the things you enjoy. Forget the things you don't, and forget the people who want to tell you what they think it means to be a man. Whether your jam is sports, art, bars, chicks, dudes, politics, movies or music, find your passion, and be willing to Go Overseas for it!Photo Credits: API Study Abroad