Traveling Through Europe In A Crisis

This summer we spent about 5 weeks traveling around Europe, and everywhere we went, people talked about the crisis and how it had affected their country.

We spoke to a lot of people, and often got to see the results of the crisis first hand – this left a big impression on me, and I learned a lot about how people from different cultures deal with the same situation…

Cuts, Loyalty and Pride

One Portuguese woman we met gave us a great insight into how the Portuguese people dealt with the crisis – she was a nurse, and in the last three years her salary had been cut with 60%, but she felt lucky that she still had a job at all.

She said that the worst thing for the Portuguese was having to move abroad in search for other jobs, it was a failure beyond having a lousy salary in your own country.

She said that they would rather have a bad paying job and remain in the country, than having to move abroad to survive.

Everyone we met in Portugal had different opinions on their future.

While one person said that the Portuguese would make sure they paid everything back because they were too proud not to, another person said that it was in their history to always mess everything up; “Whenever we finally have a chance to succeed, we always f*ck it up”.

Strikes & Suicides

It was amazing to think of how we had managed to travel by train through 35 different countries last year without ever missing a single train, because this time around we faced problem after problem.

The worst part, however, was not the actual incidents, but how everyone reacted.

When standing on the platform waiting for a train in Belgium, we were told it was cancelled because someone had just jumped in front of it and killed himself.

The first reaction of everyone around us was not shock, not even a tinge of surprise, but: not again…

A guy standing next to me said that people committing suicide by jumping in front of trains “happens all the time” in the country, and is becoming increasingly common.

In Portugal, train cancellations were even more common – our little week long trip in northern Portugal turned out to be a week of strike after strike. Out of the 4 trains we took that week, all of them were cancelled due to strike (making everyone wait for hours).

The strange thing was how the ticket sales people dealt with it.

When we asked where the train was (nobody EVER said that it was cancelled, or why – unless provoked), one saleswoman even denied that there had ever been a train due to arrive at all.

It wasn’t until we showed her our tickets that she became quiet, left the booth for 10 minutes, then came back and wrote us a new ticket – and finally explained that it was a strike going on (when we asked for a third time).

Matter of Opinion

The fascinating thing about people is how they view the same issue.

One Belgian woman we met, who was (incidentally) working for the government, said that she hadn’t really noticed a big difference in their economy.

A few days earlier, a man who had seen us filming, came up to us and had a very different opinion about the situation in the country – he wanted us to film him giving ‘a message to the people’ that Belgium wasn’t as un-affected as it seemed…

Have you noticed any differences when traveling Europe this year?

15 Responses to Traveling Through Europe In A Crisis

  1. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista October 30, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    I really didn’t notice any difference traveling in Europe but then I was in Germany which is fairing better than other European countries. The people were much more willing to talk about the issues than in the past. I found, the Germans are tired of supporting the rest of Europe and young people have no faith that their government pension will be there when they retire. In fact, they are coming up with ways to save more for this. I found it pretty amazing how similar the issues are to ones we face here in the US!

    • Sofia November 1, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Debbie. I agree, people are definitely more open to talk about economic issues than just a few years ago, and when it comes to retirement I think many people are getting pretty worried.

  2. Natasha October 31, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    I didn’t notice a big difference in Europe. However I think with a lot of my friends who are Spanish or Italian there is a feeling of helplessness – being a young university graduate or professional means that it can be a lot harder to find a job so many are choosing to stay in London.

    The train situation is similar in London though, sadly a lot of suicides happen and the announcements never sugar coat this.

    • Sofia November 1, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

      Interesting to hear your opinion Natasha. I have a similar experience with my relatives in Spain and Italy who also feel very helpless, hopefully things will turn for the better soon.

  3. Zara @ Backpack ME October 31, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    I am Portuguese and I can tell you that, over here, people are pretty tired of the whole crisis thing and its repercussions.

    Older people are probably more proud of the country and also way more attached to it. But if you ask the young ones, I am pretty sure a big part of them would tell you that they’d take a decent job abroad any day if they could.

    As for traveling around Portugal and Europe, I’d say this is a great time to do so! Portugal tend to be more affordable than the rest of Central Europe and now it’s even better. You can get a lot of deals and people here would really appreciate the business!

    • Sofia November 1, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

      Hi Zara,
      thanks for sharing your thoughts about it.

      I would imagine that younger people are more open to moving abroad than old people, although most of the people we spoke to were rather young (20’s to early 40’s).

      We had a great time in Portugal (aside from the train rides :P) this summer and you get a lot for your money there at the moment – and like you said, you help benefit to their economy :)

  4. Ruth (Tanama Tales) November 2, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    Very interesting topic. Would like to learn more about how people in Europe are dealing with the crisis. I do know here in the States a lot of things have changed. Like you said, everybody is dealing with it in a different way. I have lost my job and suffered a huge paycut but we are doing ok. I am an optimistic and think things are going to improve sooner or later.

    • Sofia November 10, 2012 at 11:09 am #

      I’m sorry to hear that you lost your job, but it’s great to hear that you’re feeling optimistic about the future. I too think it will improve, it simply has to.

  5. liv November 3, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    i can imagine how mess a strike can be and how people there deal with it. but it’s stunning and annoying as thinking of a person jumping in front of a train, even more common these day. admittedly that strike is from those who have same view of a common state, but there is no way better than committing a suicide being odd so? it’s actually helpless and negative way of acting.

  6. liv November 3, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    and i also think they will revive sooner or later, restore the initial form of their country to live better. nobody want to live in turmoil or mess so, they can better it, bring it back into a calmed locale

    • Sofia November 10, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      Hi Liv, thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions. I hope they do manage to get things back to a more calm state, and at least get out of the chaos that now puts people in fear and that feeling of helplessness.

  7. Nancy November 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Great topic! It’s interesting to hear how the world is coping with the crisis. Here in Canada, I too lost my executive job after 21 years in the same company… on its way to bankruptcy protection. Although Canada was not hit nearly as hard as elsewhere in the world we are still experiencing the effects. Luckily, I was offered and negotiated my package upon leaving. I agree with the younger generation (I’m in my mid-forties) that no one is going to take care of you in regards to your future including retirement plans. Some quick thinking and a total analysis of the opportunities in the market lead me to take a huge leap of faith and purchase a vacation property with the money I received and all of my retirement savings along with some partners. Thankfully, with a lot of hard work we now own a beautiful vacation home which is renting over 40 weeks a year. Earning me back part of my lost income and giving me a future retirement home. Through adversity comes opportunity and I pray that people who have lost hope find it. It is incredibly sad to see the increase in suicides because of the economy.

    • Sofia November 6, 2012 at 8:26 am #

      Hi Nancy,

      I’m sorry to hear that you lost your job, but I’m really inspired by what you did afterwards and turned the whole think into something great.

      It’s actually our dream/goal to be able to afford buying a vacation property to rent out, it seems like an awesome business idea and it’s great to see how much you’re able to rent it out.

  8. Priyank November 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    Hi Sofia, it’s troubling times all over the world for sure. Hope some good emerges from this turbulence, I am optimistic it will. :)
    cheers, Priyank

  9. liefdevoor November 22, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    I live in Belgium, and yes indeed there is a crisis, but the crisis is nothing compared too Portugal, Spain, Greece…
    My brother lived for 6 months in Porto and he said that the difference between the two countries is unimaginable…
    And the trains in Belgium? They are just never in time! :p