All the news channels everyday start with the present economic and political situation in Europe, the Euro zone, The EU. Someone has lost everyone’s savings and the finger is being pointed at reckless bankers gambling to make large fortunes for themselves with other people’s money. It is all incredibly complicated and becoming quite tedious. Folk who don’t live in or around Europe or who have not visited will be either completely disinterested in the goings on or unsure what Europe’s problems actually consist of. Many Americans probably think that Europe is just one big melting pot of people who cannot count.
Actually, the folk of Europe are quite diverse and what I am going to do here is have a look at the key players in the European story, nation by nation from top to bottom.
The Dutch are the quiet ones of Europe. We don’t get much news of the Dutch as not much happens in Holland. I guess this is because they are all busy during the day unloading all the stuff that arrives in the massive port of Rotterdam and in the evening they are at home probably reading pornography, or going out to sex shows, smoking marijuana or relaxing with their feet up in wooden shoes, smoking a novelty handcrafted pipe. So I’ll move on to the people next door.
The Belgians live in a little country that can’t decide if it is Dutch or French, so they sit around making and drinking beer and eating moule and frites. Belgium hasn’t actually existed for very long as a sovereign nation and looks like it doesn’t have much of a future either.They haven’t had a functioning government for ages. It seems no-one is in charge and no-one minds.
So they concentrate on the beer. Belgium makes more variety’s of beer than anyone. Not just a nice refreshing lager either. They make super strong mind altering beer that no-one else in the world has bothered to invent. Really strong stuff with silly names like Kwak and Delierium Tremens. Much of the beer is made by trappist monks which is clearly the best kind of monk to be. I guess the traipsing about the monastery all day got a bit tedious so they got into making home-brew, well you would wouldn’t you? Having a global reputation for beer and almost nothing else is no mean feat for such a small country sandwiched between Holland and France.
Ahh the French, how we love to love and hate the French. France is the worlds biggest tourist destination. Given this detail you might have thought that the majority of people who work in the massive service industry might bother to learn a smattering of the first or second language of all their millions of visitors, you know, English. Not a bit of it. Go into any bar or restaurant and ask “Parlez-vous anglais?” You will get a shake of the head and a “non”. You might ask “why should they, its their country”? And you have a point. But If I was working in an industry catering to the largest tourist numbers in the world it would not be rocket science to me to at least try to learn the english for the stuff on the menu. You know, just to be a bit helpful to the people responsible for my wages being paid. This escapes most French waiting staff. France is effectively a nation with many nice towns and villages full of splendid places to eat and drink. Eating and drinking are the best things about France.
The French mostly eat ducks. People think it’s is frogs legs and snails. Only tourists eat frogs legs and snails in France, the French laugh at you doing it. It’s a little known fact but I am confident that if the French were told they were no longer allowed to eat Ducks, or bits of Geese and Ducks, they would go into catatonic shock.
One of the most visible major industries in France are the Car makers. Luckily for French car makers, the French are very patriotic about driving French cars. I doubt the main French car makers would have survived had the French people not supported them. This is because until quite recently, Peugeot and Renault cars were a bit crap and Citroens were just wierd. The French are the masters of their own universe though and while they are key players in the EU they actually just stick two fingers up to all the myriad legislation pumped out by the jobsworths in Brussels. The rest of the EU nations hop to the EU beat and the French who are the primary architects of the rules, ignore the rules. How very French.
Next door are the Germans. No-one really knows what to make of the Germans. They are either desperately earnest and studious or ‘crazy mad’. The Germans should all be dead of heart attacks but somehow they aren’t. The national dish is a large chunk of fatty pork and pickled cabbage, washed down with litres of beer. Being spoken to in German is like, well, being spoken to in German, German is not the language of love. Butterfly in German is Schmetterling. The Germans make the best cars in the world, for businessmen. This really tells you all you need to know about who pulls the financial strings in Europe.
South of here is Switzerland, while in the middle of Europe is not part of the EU. The Swiss do not play nicely with other children. They hoard all the toys and are obsessed with time keeping. The Swiss make all the watches. A phrase you will never ever hear spoken is “you are less fun the Swiss”. This is because that is actually impossible.
South east of the Swiss are the Italians. The Italians make fabulous sexy, desirable clothes and cars. The Italians are all about image. Italy is full of pretty hillside villages full of elderly people sweeping their doorsteps and watching tourists walk by. Italy is also a huge tourist destination but I believe that if you took away all the American and Irish Catholics visiting the Vatican those numbers would reduce dramatically. The next largest number of visitors would be English people visiting their house in Umbria or Villa in Tuscany and knowing how they are all much more terribly civilised than those ghastly people who holiday in Spain.
Back to the Vatican and tourists. The Vatican is absolutely massive. You could push a wingless 747 through the front door. Inside is a quite frankly vulgar exhibition of wealth. Out in the courtyard where the masses gather to watch the Pope read out stories to them are some pillars with large statues on top. There are so many that the Church could sell every second one to the worlds Oligarchs and use the money to pay off third world debt. I am confident this hasn’t occurred to the good people of the Vatican. Given that so many millions of English-speaking Catholics visit the Vatican every year you would expect the tourist guides to have a couple of languages, you know, like a hostess on an Airline can manage. I approached a tourist guide with a badge that said ‘information’ on his lapel. Asked him if he spoke English? He shook his head. I sighed and shook mine.
Across France a bit from Italy is Spain. The Spanish are not like the northern Europeans. They like manly things like meat and bullfighting, where a bloke in tights waves a pink tablecloth at a grievously wounded bull. Spain is a place where retired taxi drivers from England like to live out their retirement in large communities of other retired taxi drivers on the coastal bits. Every now and then young people from England flock to Spain to dance, drink, copulate and vomit and make the Spanish frown and wonder what they did to deserve all the English moving in. The signature sound of pub chucking out time in the towns and villages of coastal Spain is drunk or angry young Englishmen and women shouting and singing. Spain is next to Portugal which is similar but the locals speak with an accent that makes them sound like they are from Eastern Europe. Portugal is covered in half finished holiday accommodation developments that someone can’t afford to complete.
I am not going to talk about the other European places like Austria, Poland, and the Eastern countries as I don’t really understand them. I just know in Eastern Europe they have lots of splendid cities to visit in the winter or on stag do’s. Beer is cheap in Eastern Europe and the girls are pretty, what’s not to like?
Off in the far corner of Europe is Greece. Greece is covered in crumbling old things from History, with some nice islands and people. Greece is where you go on Holiday. The Greeks are currently not embracing the EU rules for fiscal discipline. The Germans want the Greeks to give up half their personal income to keep Bankers in a new Mercedes every year. The Greeks just want to go fishing or have a nap. This will be messy but ultimately the Greeks will get their country and their Drachma back. We can go back to lazy days in a Greek seaside bar drinking Ouzo and Retsina (and wondering why) while watching nice sunsets.
Here endeth the lesson.