There used to be a Europe.. and don’t go to Italy

By Sara-May Leeflang

Giorgio and KasperGiorgio and KasperIn Berlin Joost and I crashed at the most touristy spot we could choose: the Alexoase at Alexanderplatz with our bags. We sat down in comfortable chairs and ordered a beer. We met Giorgio (24) from Rome and Kasper from Poland (23) who were sitting next to us.

They both were in Berlin for a two-week summer school in law and they had rented an apartment nearby. The two roomies had just met but they seemed to get along.

When we told them about our hitch hiking contest Giorgio became fascinated. He loves our attitude towards life. Go-with-the-flow and putting trust in other people’s hands. He is not sure if he would take such a “risk.”

Whether he feels like a European? “No, not now. Not in this economic system” he answers. I ask him if capitalistic values could also connect people in Europe. He answered: “yes, of course. But they are fragile and superficial. Way back, Europe could be called Europe. Now, Europe does not exist anymore, because our cultural values have disappeared.” Giorgio continues and celebrates European history by saying:
“I don’t feel European now. But I do if you look at history. We have a common history. Look at the Charlemagne period. There was one emperor who connected all the different areas in Europe. Or the Ancient Greeks who connected Europe with their Philosophy, or the Roman Civil Law and Catholicism.” That is now replaced by a financial system. By money. And money does not connect in the real sense, only at the surface.”

Giorgio lived all his life in Rome with his three brothers at his parents’ place. He still is. He feels sorry for his mother working every day, and getting up an hour earlier to prepare dinner for the five men that are waiting for food when she gets back home. Gender relations are an interesting topic in Italy I guess..

Giorgio is especially skeptical about Italians nowadays. He says to trust nobody in Italy. He does not trust any of his compatriots. According to Giorgio Italians pretend to be friendly, but eventually they are opportunistic and they will do everything to gain something from you. Especially the people in the south he says. Even he, who thinks of himself as a smooth talker, is mistaken when he thinks he beat a fellow Italian in a conversation. “In Napels for example they make you think you’re winning the conversation, but in the end they get you. And you are finished. In Italy they use you. Especially students. They ask crazy prices for student houses even though they can’t afford it.” I kind of get the feeling there seems to be a reason why Giorgio left home. I said it is the same in the Netherlands: they screw over students by asking horrible prices.

Kasper is pretty quiet. When I ask, he says he does not feel European in particular but he doesn’t feel not European either. “I am neutral,” he says. He prefers to work in the future for an International law firm. Because it would give him more opportunities.
Joost and I end up sleeping in Giorgio’s and Kasper’s apartment because we couldn’t find accommodation. We wake them up by making a picture and we wish each other good luck with Italy, summer school and hitch hiking.

If Giorgio will ever hitch hike? Yes, but not in Italy.