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ma23peas Jul 18th, 2006 05:41 PM

For experienced (older) travelers, has Europe changed?
A big reason I want my children to see London/England and Europe is that from what I hear it's changing quickly.

This is the scenario put to me by a dear friend of mine native to Holland and now a US Citizen after living here 10 years. She was disheartened at how her country had changed. Her country had an "open" policy on immigrants and their approach was to house and feed many immigrants not requiring the same from them as from natives. Meaning, she saw many living off the state while her native friends and family were struggling to make ends meet and find opportunities. She also saw a huge influx of Muslims over a period of time and had noticed that it was now not politically correct to have "Dutch" days in school or in public arenas because other cultures said it made them feel alienated...she also commented on the child per couple going wayyyy England it's now less than .94 child per couple...less so in Holland. China/Japan also having these issues...but with changes such as these will my children still get the same Holland, Switzerland, France, Austria, England, Italy that was there 10-20-30-40 years ago?

I'm just curious to see how those who have traveled over these spans may have noticed a cultural shift...for better or worse.

I realize the Ottoman Empire collapsed, I know there is no "Prussia" or Constantinople (well by that name)...and things do change...but is Europe changing for the better from a traveler's perspective?

Thanks for may help us decide where to travel next. Thanks!

P_M Jul 18th, 2006 05:48 PM

Every section of the world will change over time. Look how different the USA is compared with 25 years ago. Some things are better, some are worse. The same could be said of Europe. Europe has problems it didn't always have, so does the US, Asia, Africa, etc. But we also have benefits that didn't always exist.

A few things about today's Europe as opposed to my first trip in 1980: I like the fact that ATM cards can be used in Europe. I like the being able to use a single currency in most parts of Europe. I like not having to wait 30 minutes + at borders within the Shengen zone. I like the fact that I can take my cell phone and use it there.

There are disadvantages too, such as increased cost and added security. But these changes are acceptable to me.

I have learned that change is the only constant thing in life. Change is necessary and change is often good. We cannot realistically expect things to stay the same forever, nor should we.

P_M Jul 18th, 2006 05:54 PM

I just thought of a few more benefits of today's world:

I like being able to book a hotel in Europe without picking up the phone to make an overseas call. If I do make an overseas call, it's a lot cheaper than it used to be. By the same token, I can buy theatre tickets in advance over the computer, or tickets to just about anything I need. I can email friends in different parts of the world at no cost.

And best of all, I can exchange my thoughts, experiences and travel questions with people I only know in cyber-space. :-)

Some things in Europe are timeless, and that's what keeps us coming back. The colosseum will not change much with time. Nor will the Eiffel Tower, the Parliament Building, or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. (unless it falls down :-) ) The younger generation will not see the exact same Europe they would have seen 20, 30, 40 years ago, but that doesn't mean traveling to Europe will be a bad experience for them.

ggreen Jul 18th, 2006 06:15 PM

P_M, my first trip was also in 1980! And I agree with what you've said.

In addition, I'm happy "turkish" (pit) toilets in hotels are a thing of the past. I'm glad that diet sodas can be purchased in French restaurants (if only so that I don't have to repeatedly explain to my companions why they can't order them). I'm relieved that there's an ever-decreasing amount of cigarette smoke to contend with.

I really can only speak with a long-term perspective of one country, and I know my experiences are primarily those of a visitor. But that said, Paris feels safer to me than it did 20 years ago. And despite the recent unrest (of which I have no first-hand experience), I believe that French society is a little more culturally integrated than it used to be. (Just look at that French football team! And the wider range of movie and music stars.)

For me, the reason to take your children to Europe before it changes more is that American commercial ventures are eating an ever-wider hole in the European lifestyle: shorter lunch breaks and vacations, Gap and Starbucks joining McDonald's and Haagen Daz on many street corners. Don't get me wrong: this is inevitable, and has been going on for decades. Just the longer you wait, the less Europe will look like Europe, and more like an Epcot version of itself...

FauxSteMarie Jul 18th, 2006 06:21 PM

Every country is becoming part of the global marketplace. That means that American cuisine has become more European and McDonald's and Starbucks have outlets in Europe.

So, Europe has changed and so has the US. For example, in the US I tell everyone that in 100 years Blacks will be two shades lighter and Whites will be two shades darker and we all are going to look like we came sort of from Latin America.

In the next 20 years I am sure we will have a president of Latin American and/AfroAmerican heritage and it will be no big deal. Now that is one heck of a posititive change here!

I also predict that there will be more people who will be totally secular and more people resisting that trend by becoming fundamentalists as a reaction. The faiths in the middle will lose members. That is going to mean more polarization in the short run, but, in the long run this is going to be a more secular society with the national religion devolving into Shopping (with a capital "S") if it has not already. After all, the shopping malls are the temples, churches and main streets of modern society rolled into one!

You can all come back in 20 years and tell me I did not know what I was talking about. Of course, being the internet, you will all tell me right now.

kismetchimera Jul 18th, 2006 06:26 PM

Yes ma23peas,Europe is changing very quickly, I noticed it everytime I go back Home.

nessundorma Jul 18th, 2006 06:38 PM


Your dear friend sounds like quite a reactionary, but I suspect it won't matter what other people tell you. And I also suspect that if you go to Europe you'll see exactly what you've been set up to see. You won't enjoy yourself and you'll feel frightened and threatened most of the time because you will see many dark complexions in Europe now. I recommend you vacation elsewhere. Have you seen Wyoming and Idaho yet?

London is so much better than it was in the 70/s80s (during which time I spent a full year there) it is almsot impossible to describe the difference -- and at least 50 percent of the improvement is due to immigrants, and not only because of food, but that is nothing to sneeze at!

But what is really heartening is the prosperity that one finds over so much of Europe (which is what has attracted immigrants) and the willingness of Europeans to invest that prosperity in public infrastructure. While our public infrastrcuture gets worse and worse, Europeans are improve their trains, airports, public spaces and historic buildings in extraordinary ways.

Many people are shocked when they go to Europe to find out that people in Holland aren't driving ox-carts, Italians dress better than we do, that the French read more and have better health care, and that all these places are actively engaged in getting past an idea of nationhood based on heredity and racial purity.

gforaker Jul 18th, 2006 06:41 PM

My first trip to Europe was in 1974. Yes, there have been many changes, and like some have said, many for the better. I think the rate of cultural change started around 1900 and took off from there, but that is for an historian.

Oh, yeah, my favorite change for the better is most hotels now have all rooms with a private bath, not down the hall.

I think an argument could be made for there being greater changes in the US over the last 30 years. Globalization is making all of America alike and all of the world closer together. Some people in the Middle-East don't like that and are now fighting it. My wife hated going into a 500 year old inn in Kitzbuhel and hearing rock music blasting in the bathroom. But what is the alternative, turning Europe into a theme park? Imagine every one in Texas walking around in a big hat and saying "Howdy". There are still plenty of cultural differences if you look.

LoveItaly Jul 18th, 2006 07:02 PM

Hello ma23peas, as others have said, every location in the world changes one way or another. Sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worse but usually it is a little of both.

Regarding least Italy..I am so glad that I was able to visit sites and sights when tickets, reservations were not needed. Now when I go to Italy I don't have to hassle with that. I can just enjoy my "second home" without fussing about what time do I have to be at such and such place.

But the other side of the coin is that more and more people are able to travel and see other countries and IMO that is a good thing. Hopefully all travellers will gain a better appreciation for other countries, their cultures etc. Not all people will ever be able to travel of course but travel is something that is no longer assumed to be for the upper income groups.

If you took your children to Europe this year they will be telling their friends, children etc. in twenty years "oh England and Europe is not the way it was when I first visited". And that will be true. I hope you and your family will be able to travel together soon. Best regards.

brookwood Jul 18th, 2006 07:05 PM

To me, London has changed dramatically since I first visited there as a young man of 23. Today, some 50 years later, I have been back each of the last two summers.

The city always was expensive, but today it is virtually outrageous. The other aspect of London that still takes some adjustments I have yet to make is the huge number of people who do not speak English, or speak it as a distinctly foreign language.

We used a hotel in Bayswater last year and virtually all of the shops in the area were run by non native speakers of English.

Some things, however, seem to be the same. Londoners, of the native type, are still the most helpful people for out of towners who are having trouble finding their way.

I always use the bus when possible rather than the tube and, as usual, one night after a play, we were not sure where to find our return bus. Although we took the same numbered bus to the theater, we had to change and the first leg of the return route was not along the same street. We were soon put on the right path and got back to our hotel without further difficulty.

Don't get me wrong. I still find London to be fascinating and wonderful to visit. It is just that the changes that have ensued since my first visit have, in the aggregate, been huge.

Much the same is true of Paris but, because I am a non French speaker, the changes are not as obvious or as identifiable.

The city that has changed the most in 50 years, however, has got to be Berlin. I saw it when it was still occupied. Today it is not. Also, 50 years ago, war damage was everywhere. Today, Berlin is a marvel. I think the Reichstag building sums it all up for me. When I saw it first, it was still a burned out hulk. Today, it is a revelation just to walk through it.

The city I think that has changed little since I first saw it is Bern. It is still a charming small city - small when compared to the behemothic cities that are other national capitals.

ma23peas Jul 18th, 2006 07:53 PM

Thank you very much for your responses...I apologize for any that construed my intention was to find nations based on heredity and racial purity...not at all my intention. I am very proud of my country and when I tour the US I see a national pride and heritage (not heredity) that makes me know I'm amidst Americans.

In talking with my friend, I wondered why she would never want to return to Holland, doesn't she "miss" her homeland, their uniqueness, the community as a whole..and her response is always that it is not the Holland she grew up part of that may be due to the political changes and merge of various cultures...but America has always been a meld of cultures and still retains its identity as America.

I find it interesting to hear comparative analyses of those who have traveled the past 30-40 years and get a traveler's view. I traveled to England and Scotland in the late 80's....and we are returning in 8 weeks...I don't think I will see much difference in just these past years...especially from a history seeking tourist...all those sites pretty much stay the same...I'm sure the Tower of London is very similar and I may hear the same beefeaters take on it...

But my curiosity more rests in the distinguishing character between with the Euro and more Europe becoming one big America...or is Holland still uniquely different than France or Austria. Sure, the historic sites will distinguish the country...but has the "feel" of the country become less distinguishable across country lines.

We plan on taking our children (now ages 7, 8, 11) on a European/South American trip every 2 years...we have about 5 trips planned before the last one leaves the nest...I'd like to hit areas that are at a higher risk of they can compare when if they desire to return...change is inevitable and change is good...that's my way of looking at it..but I also like to use change in my approach to teaching my children....I was just fascinated by my friend's outtake and experience and wondered if it is easily distinguished by travelers or more an issue for natives realizing the change.


LoveItaly Jul 18th, 2006 08:56 PM

Tara, to tell you the truth all the people I know in Italy, and I know many which are from their 30's to late 80's complain about the changes in Italy much more than I ever do. For what it is worth.

frrodriguez78 Jul 18th, 2006 09:19 PM

Speaking as a south-american, I am certainly concerned for Europe and of the consequences of mass immigration into the old continent. I would hate to see crime levels explode, the rise of the far right, increased poverty, and the erosion of european cultural values. I am also greatly concerned for the falling birth rates in most developed countries, more than half of which are European. I think the issue of birth rates in these countries should be of prime importance and a feasible solution needs to be implemented immediately. I don't understand why it's happening either...most of these countries can support greater populations. Could it be possible that modern life is to blame, when an average human being is too concerned with consumerism, career, and entertainment? I would hate to see Europe transformed into another Brazil, where the divide between the rich and the poor is so visible and detrimental for all. Unfortunately, I don't see an easy solution. It's not as easy as investing in Africa for development and job creation...African nations are notoriously corrupt, and I'm afraid most financial aid granted to them will not be destined for its intended purpose. It's such a complicated issue...

baybee510 Jul 18th, 2006 09:37 PM

Hey ma23peas,

I guess I shouldn't be writing a reply since I'm only 24 but I just had to after reading your post. Your friend's sentiments are exactly identical to those of my Dutch boyfriend. He routinely complains about the lack of integration and what he considers the government's inability to foster a dutch national identity for fear of offending immigrants (which may be changing because of back lash). When he was here in the States he noticed that the American flag is displayed widely and that generally, most people who have settled in America identify themselves as Americans.

Of course all of this doesn't mean that Holland and the rest of Europe will all of a sudden become unrecognizable. And I personally think the influx of immigrant groups have in many ways benefitted their adopted countries. But just wanted to let you know that your friend's feelings are not atypical.

LoveItaly Jul 18th, 2006 09:44 PM

baybee, IMHO an opinion from someone who is 24 years old is interesting. You and your age group are our future.
You have as much right to post as any other age group, and whether others agree with your post is not important. Welcome to Fodors. I hope we hear more responses from you and others your age.

Dukey Jul 19th, 2006 12:44 AM

"A big reason I want my children to see London/England and Europe is that from what I hear it's changing quickly...."

I'm not sure some of the changes you are talking about will be all that evident to a casual tourist or traveler.

When I first went to Europe in 1970 I remember some folks saying that "things have really changed" and they were right.

A lot of those changes were for the better.

elina Jul 19th, 2006 02:36 AM

"I think the issue of birth rates in these countries should be of prime importance and a feasible solution needs to be implemented immediately. I don't understand why it's happening either..."

You mean why birth rates are declining? There is a reason that everybody usually agrees upon: Women are educated, and they also want to put their education into use. Nowadays majority (usually) of university students are women, and majority of those people who make a doctorate thesis are women. And at the same time women feel that taking care of children is mostly their job (yes, men do a fair share nowadays, but that responsibility feeling of women stays). Having half a dozen kids and a demanding career just are not easily combined in many countries. There is no free child care for everybody in central and southern Europe, and no free school lunches. In northern Europe where those things exist birth rates are higher. Women can have children and a career.

elina Jul 19th, 2006 02:38 AM

I forgot: A year long payed maternity leave (and a shorter paternity leave) are very important.

sansman Jul 19th, 2006 02:47 AM

Why is the decline of birth rate such a bad thing? In any given country, I guarantee there will be more people in ten years than there were in say the 1950's. Is it optimal that the population of a country or the world for that matter continually increases? I am not sure I agree with that. Just a thought.

Dukey Jul 19th, 2006 02:56 AM

It is much easier to talk about the birth rate when you aren't starving because of an increase.

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