Since my last Ethical Musings post, I have been in Europe, spending almost two weeks in England, a week in Vienna, two days in Rome, and now a month in Florence. My last visit to Europe was roughly two years ago. Here are some brief observations:
· The English language continues to become more pervasive. In both Austria and Italy, even in a business that has more native than foreign customers, the staff generally presumes that visitors will speak English rather than beginning in the local language.
· A good measure of a state’s relative wealth within the European Community is the extent to which hotel and restaurant staff comes from Eastern European states. In both England and Austria, the preponderance of hotel employees and restaurant wait staff with whom I spoke hail from Eastern Europe. In Italy, after more than a week, I have yet to meet someone from Eastern Europe; most are from rural Italy.
· Similarly, Italy is dirtier and many more things (vehicles, furnishings, etc.) are older and more worn than in Austria and the UK.
· More Americans seem to be travelling in Europe this year. Although that opinion is based upon anecdotal evidence, like all of these observations, the strong dollar appears to have increased tourism from the US.
· Beggars are more numerous everywhere. Thankfully, most are very passive. The social safety net across the UK, Austria, and Italy may more holes than it should, may be stretched too thin, or both. Some of the beggars look relatively young and in good health, but most look old, handicapped, and struggling to survive.
· Life in Europe moves at a slower pace than in the US. Northern Europe (the UK and Austria), however, move at a faster pace than Italy, especially in the heat of the summer.
· Climate change, from the weather I have experienced on this trip and from comments people have made to me, is real in Europe. Temperatures are becoming more extreme, storms stronger, and seasons either drier or wetter.