Following on from an article in the New York Times this week by Paul Krugman – “Europe’s money trap” which made reference to the German public’s stereotyping of “lazy southern Europeans.”, there is an interesting reply in letters to the editor column on the New York Times from Kerry Bell, one of the regular team on barganews, stating in no uncertain terms her view after living in Barga for many years that while northern Europeans may be more productive, her experience with the southern Europeans is that they are industrious, more self-sufficient and grounded — and this may just see them through the crisis.
Industrious southern Europeans
“Europe’s money trap” (Nov. 16) by Paul Krugman makes reference to the German public’s stereotyping of “lazy southern Europeans.” While I recognize that this article wasn’t about national character but about fiscal policy, nevertheless I’d like to convey my experience living in an Apennine mountain city of 10,000.
We reside in a community of family-oriented, church-going farmers, industrial workers, business people, hospital employees and shop owners of all ages. Every family has an extensive kitchen garden, fruit trees, and many have olive groves and vineyards. They are all cultivated, tended, harvested and processed by hand, in their spare time, before work, after work, on weekends, which in many cases are only Saturday afternoon and Sunday as many shop owners, manual workers and business people work five and a half days a week here. Like them our son leaves for school each day at 6:30 a.m., six days a week.
We live in a forested area, and in addition to their gardens people often spend several months of the winter, in their spare time, cutting, chopping, splitting and transporting firewood for their low-emission wood burning furnaces. Social events revolve around church and family. Neighbors help neighbors. Every one has a smile and a joke to tell. Layabouts are few and far between.
It is not paradise, and we have our share of problems. Youth unemployment is high, but the children live at home and often help out with chores, child care and transportation.
So while northern Europeans may be more productive, my experience with the southern Europeans is that they are industrious, more self-sufficient and grounded — and this may just see them through the crisis.
Kerry Bell, Barga, Italy