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?