I flew to Zurich after leaving Tanzania in 2007. The contrast with the open air, four students to a desk, and no textbooks in the classrooms in Tanzania to the well-equipped schools in Switzerland is amazing. Here students have access to many computers, musical instruments, books, gyms and playground equipment. They come to school, not on foot, but by bike or scooter, train or auto. I visited two schools in two towns in the country—see photos. The countryside was just like the pictures with green mountains, happy cows with a big bell around their necks, snow covered peaks in the distance, very homogenous people in the country, while the city is more diverse, with some Africans, Indians, and Italians.
Tension about immigrants is an issue for European youth: The European Union reported 900,000 new immigrants in 2009.[i] For example, fueled by fear of unemployment, anti-immigrant sentiment is a youth problem in Germany, where neo-Nazism is embraced by an increasing number of youth.[ii] Some wear New Balance shoes, stating the “N” stands for “national.” In a 2006 survey, 69% said they were afraid of unemployment, 58% say fewer immigrants should be accepted in Germany, 39% are interested in politics, and only 30% believe in a personal God. Another survey found that most German youth are to the left politically and are concerned about protecting the environment, animals, the poor and elderly.[iii] They have a good relationship with their parents and are staying home longer because they’re in university longer. They’re success-oriented and prepared to work hard.
American consumer culture is an issue in Europe. A French newspaper, Le Figaro, ran an article in 2002 declaring, “American enterprises have disseminated veritable commercial traps for the young generation,” as firms like MacDonald’s and Nike sell “cultural rootlessness to European youth.[iv] A more recent article by Tommi Laitio reports that urban youth cultures that began with US imports like hip hop, have developed their local spin in music using local dialects, street fashion, and independent publishing and share on sites like MySpace, YouTube and Facebook.[v]“Foreign influences are thrown into the blender with the local concerns and peculiarities.”
[i] Sam Roberts, New York Times, July 29, 22010
[iv] Quoted in James Whitman, “Consumerism versus Producerism: On the Global Menace of ‘Consumerism’ and the Mission of Comparative Law” (2006). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 6.
[v] Tommi Laitio, “Superlocal Identities: The European in the Youth Experience, Eurozine, December 13, 2007.