Friday, 16 November 2018

Lisbon #3 - Portugal and the E.U.


I must write immediately about the conversation I had with a taxi driver on a 30 minute ride today. There were a mass of people waving red flags in front of the government buildings, causing some problems with orderly traffic. Of course I asked him about them. He said today it was the “cleaners” demonstrating, but that tomorrow it will be another group, perhaps taxi drivers. There followed a diatribe that was extremely interesting as a view of life in Portugal from the standpoint of ordinary working class people.

Their average income, he said was 500 Euros a month, but groceries, he said, are as expensive in Portugal as anyplace else in Europe. As members of the European Union should there not be a minimum wage for work done, the same in Portugal as in Germany or France? The Portuguese do not eat less, they need money for food and books... education... as much as the Germans or French... so why, he argued, should the Portuguese be expected to live on 500 Euros a month!

Countries of the European Union
Current Member Countries of the European Union
Why indeed? As an outsider, I assumed that when a country joined the EU there would be some leveling of the playing field. Apparently not.

As people who travel widely, J and I have noticed the vast disparity among EU members in standards of living. It is possible for a traveler to stay and eat exceptionally well in Greece, for instance, for very little money, but to have the same standard of accommodation and meals in Italy costs precisely twice as much. And if it’s Scotland, the traveler can expect it to cost double the cost of Italy for accommodation and meals at the same level. And I won’t even mention the cost of traveling in Austria and Germany.

And these costs to travelers reflect the states of the economies in those countries.

As to how I happened upon this interesting and very vocal driver, that’s another story. See my next blog.

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Blair McDowell