Bryan says Europe is overrated and here is one excerpt from a lengthy post:
…almost no one in Europe lives in places as comfortable and convenient as American suburbs: The houses are spacious, the cars are huge, cheap Big Box stores and chain restaurants are nearby, and (to quote South Park) there's "ample parking day or night.
Bryan suggests that American tourists like Europe so much because they are visiting it with U.S. incomes. I am not sure which PPP calculation he is using but I disagree at a more fundamental level. Bryan gives some good reasons why America is better for 37-year-olds with young children, namely lots of living space and easy shopping. But I view much of Western Europe as better for the elderly, if only because it requires less driving and they are more likely to live close to their children and perhaps also they receive more respect. Western Europe is probably better for children too, for reasons related to safety and health care.
My alternative view is that Americans rate European life so highly (in part) because the buildings from previous eras are so striking and attractive. If all of the U.S. looked like U.S. postwar construction, the country would still impress more or less as it does. If all of Europe looked like its postwar construction, Americans would be less likely to admire European policies and political institutions. Yes I know about Lille, and contemporary Spanish architecture, but in reality most Americans would think of Europe as some kind of dump.
Addendum: Megan McArdle comments.