Elections in France and Greece reflect the anger and disillusionment coming to the surface across Europe as an entire way of life is challenged.
The European landscape is undergoing profound change — from its sophisticated lifestyle to its cherished welfare benefits such as guaranteed health care and a secure retirement, to a sense among many Europeans of being the world's elite.
Here are some ways the continent is grappling with change in this time of economic crisis.
Six-week paid vacations. Retirement in your early 60s. Generous benefits for the sick and unemployed. The cradle-to-grave welfare system that was a pillar of European life for decades is being scaled back from one austerity package to another. Retirement ages are being raised past 65 in many countries.
Europeans are not about to give up on their fabled social model, but they can expect a slimmed-down version in the future.
“I don't think the social welfare system is being dismantled,” says Rebecca Adler-Nissen, assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen's Center for European Politics. “It's more about what we can afford in the future.”
Bon-vivants or loafers? When it comes to work-life balance, Europeans either got it totally right or lost their minds, depending on whom you ask.
But economic realities are forcing the most stressed countries to question some deeply ingrained habits. Long lunches are on the wane across the continent. Spain may take aim at the habit of employees turning up for work and immediately going to a coffee shop for breakfast.
Another sacred cow being targeted is the habit of making it a long weekend when a holiday falls on a Thursday. In Ireland, the crisis has affected legendary pub traditions. The Irish increasingly socialize at home, avoiding pubs where drink prices are much higher than what's offered by the German discount supermarkets proliferating in Ireland.
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