I once thought that I could get rich if I wrote a book about how to flush a toilet in every country.
No really, how a toilet is flushed is something so culturally ingrained that some people are confused when presented with a toilet that has buttons, pulls, or handles that are different than anything they've used before.
But today's observation is beds. Mattresses are something that we take for granted until we start to travel. In the US beds usually have two mattresses: a solid box-spring below and a second cushiony mattress above. That second mattress can be as firm or as soft as desired. There are even sleep number mattresses that inflate to be as soft or firm as you like. In Italy mattresses are firm. You can bounce a coin off of them.
That said, probably the most amazing bed I ever slept on was an honest to goodness antique down mattress. I used to babysit for some kids back in the 1970's and would occasionaly sleep over at their place. I looked forward to those nights. That mattress was amazing, like sleeping on a cloud. I sank into it and then the down conformed to my shape and supported me. Decades later memory foam was invented, but it still isn't as good as that experience.
In reality, I can sleep almost anywhere given the right amount of fatigue or situation. Camping is no problem for me. I've slept in airports, on friend's floors, and standing up, but when I am staying someplace for an extended period aches and pains can set in.
My knee is all bent out of shape today because I have a hard time coping with British beds. British beds are soft and usually only a single box-spring type mattress with some padding on it. On the older ones you can feel the springs below the padding. On newer ones the padding is cushiony and soft. The problem arises when my body sinks down into it, causing me to end up in a "V" shape. If I sleep on my back my knees are hyperextended, if I'm on my side there's pressure on my knees to bend sideways. I always thought hammocks were cool until I tried one and realised I had the same problem.
I originally solved the problem in England by buying an air mattress and inflating it to the max. Unfortunately they don't last very long. Sometimes they start leaking air the first time they're used. After going through a couple of them, I realised that they were good for only two things. One is that they make an excellent snow sled/sledge that can hold up to three people. The second is as a pad that makes a British mattress firmer. I eventually constructed a comfortable mattress by building up layers of dead air bed, a duvet, and a matress cover to hold it all in place. I had custom comfort for years, but now that I am on the road, I am finding my old back and knee problems returning. I've found that the only firm place for me to sleep on a British mattress is to cling to the edge of the mattress where I'm less likely to sink down.
One thing I do like about British beds is that in hotels beds always provide two pillows, one is soft and the other is firm. You can use one or the other, or pile them up as you see fit. Every other country I've been to has pillows that are the same firmness.
My ideal mattress is the result of my upbringing in the US. I grew up with idea of a certain degree of firmness and cushion. I expect Europeans coming to the US will find the beds too firm or too soft depending the types of bed they had at home. Beds and mattresses are another one of those things that people take for granted and might not realised how perceptions of comfort are so culturally ingrained.