News / Europe

Scrimp or Spend? Europeans Do Both This Holiday Season

Shoppers visit the Christmas market along the Champs Elysees in Paris, December 3, 2011.
Shoppers visit the Christmas market along the Champs Elysees in Paris, December 3, 2011.
Lisa Bryant

Europeans head into a grim holiday season, as governments cut spending and recession fears mount for 2012.  Austerity is the byword in some of the countries hardest hit by Europe's debt crisis, but others are sending out the old year with a final, celebratory bash.

Shoppers crowd the holiday window displays outside the Galleries Lafayette, the famous department store in central Paris. Most are juggling shopping bags filled with holiday gifts. Thirty-five-year-old Alexandra de Brito is among the few who is bare-handed.

De Brito says she will not be buying any presents this Christmas time - even though she makes a good salary.  Instead, she will make her family a good Christmas dinner and buy them presents during the after-Christmas sales. That is because the cost of everything is going up, she says - everything except salaries.

Across Europe, citizens like De Brito are pulling in their belts this holiday season - in line with their governments, who are introducing austerity measures to combat the region's sovereign debt and banking crisis. In some of the hardest-hit countries, like Portugal, Greece and Spain, local governments have cut their holiday budgets and dimmed their Christmas lights.

But the picture is more mixed in countries like France, which are still teetering on the brink of the eurozone crisis. Thousands of people protested in Paris and other French cities this last week against new government austerity measures.

Twenty-five-year-old student Pierre Dubovatsky joined the Paris demonstrations.

"I am afraid for my future," he said. "I do not have enough money to live [on] ...  As things are difficult and I do not live with my family, I will just use the little money I have to get my family in the south of France, and this will be how I'll be celebrating Christmas.  There will be no presents, just getting together."

British tourists Paul and Anita Scotney, eyeing a window display at a Cartier's diamond store on the elegant Champs Elysees, are also worried.

"We are not here to buy anything really," he said. "It is just purely to see my son and to see Paris, because we have never been to Paris before."

Although Britain is not part of the eurozone, its economy is struggling, and the Scotneys are concerned.

"Depressed, mostly," said Paul Scotney. "Worried. I am retired so it does not really affect me but Anita is still working, so the job situation could affect us."

But other people - French and Europeans -  are opening their pocketbooks this holiday season. Throngs packed department stores during the last weekend before Christmas.  Analyst Philippe Moreau Defarges believes people are celebrating while they can.

"I think many Europeans and many French are becoming aware that next year will be difficult," he said. "That is why if we can have a last merry Christmas - let us take it."

As strollers admire the holiday decorations on the Champs Elysees, a young man called Gwele rings a bell for the Salvation Army charity, soliciting donations.

Gwele says the French are still giving to the poor and homeless  this holiday season - aware that they are the first to suffer in these hard economic times.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid