I went on holiday for two weeks in Greece recently and was astounded by the questions of my clients and friends about my stay:
“Are the people ok?”
“What’s the attitude on the Austerity measures?”
“Are people in the streets begging?”
“Is Greece falling into the Ocean?”
After two weeks, talking to a lot of people and having lived in Spain previously and travelling throughout Europe extensively, I came to the conclusion that it’s exactly the way it was before. Ironically nothing was new, nothing that I didn’t know 30 years ago as a newly graduated University kid travelling through Europe with a backpack.
Now I know the numbers don’t tell this story with unemployment for people under 25 years old at 25-50% (depending on whom you listen to). Reports of strikes going on in every country and demonstrations, and outrage. Let’s be candid, if you have ever traveled to Europe in the summer, there’s ALWAYS strikes and demonstrations going on; it’s a national past time for many countries like Spain, France, and Greece.
Here is my main observation and point on Cultural differences:
What opened my eyes was that the islands in Greece are abandoned 6 months out of the year. I experienced First class service, although many of the service jobs have been filled by newly joined EU residents like Romanians and Bulgarians. But even these new comers have embraced the European mentality. When I tell them they can come to Dubai and work 12 months out of the year, (tax-free) and I would be happy to help, all politely smiled and thanked me. This was out of the question for them as the 6 months off…even at the ripe age of 25-30, was too appealing.
Another example of cultural differences, is that when trying to conduct business with Europeans, they will gladly take a call on personal finance during working hours, maybe early nights, and even weekends (although less appealing). Come Holiday time, they are wrapped in lead and the ONLY thing that matters is family. NEVER EVER call a European during his or her holiday. The opposite is true for Americans; they only want to discuss personal finance during off hours. This is not a good or bad thing…it’s just the culture.
I don’t think one page or even a book could explain the financial situation going on in Europe, especially Southern Europe. Economists and observers love to compare the alliance with the United States.
In my opinion, for Europe to be like or compared with the United States: that’s insanity
Europeans are Europeans! That’s what we love about Europeans! Anything chic, classy, and desirable from food, clothing, and cars is Europe! The idea of sitting care free at a sidewalk café sipping a cocktail or coffee is heaven. Traveling to Europe or retiring in a villa in the South of France or a wine grove in Italy, is a lifelong passion and goal for most Americans. To illustrate priorities:
If you check your pants into a dry cleaner in Spain on July 31st…trust me…no one is manning the store while the owners are away. You are getting those pants on Sept 1…maybe.
Live to Work or Work to live I guess would come to mind. A month off for vacation every year in August…and Christmas holidays… Are you serious? Retire at 55 with life-long pensions.
These ideas are about as foreign as Mars to Americans.
Does something have to change? Maybe. Can Europe continue down this path of over-indulgence and spending? Probably not. Has the past finally caught up with them? I don’t have these answers. Europe has been around for thousands of years compared to just over 200 for the U.S. It just seems to me that a lot of what we love about Europe is what they want to change. I have the feeling that it will work itself out. It always does. I just caution people to be careful what they ask for.
You might get it.