The European Dream

You can hardly see Vincent’s face. It is well-hidden in his hoodie, tightly tied around his head to protect him from the cold air that is blowing at the coast of Holland in mid-December. As an Australian, he is clearly not made for the chilly winter in Europe. “When I get some money, I need to buy more clothes,” he says while constantly rocking back and forth on his chair to stay warm. As far as I can tell from his bulky shape, he must be already wearing his entire wardrobe. So far, instead of gearing up for the cold months, he has been spending most of his money on beer and weed. He seems happy, full of energy and ready for action – in spite of visibly suffering from the cold. The key to his happiness seems to be the working visa that the Dutch government is granting young Australians like himself. Living in the Netherlands has been his dream since he came to Europe a couple of years ago. He sold his farm, left his animals with a friend, said goodbye to his family and came back to Europe as fast as he could, in the middle of the winter. “It’s only for a couple of months. I just have to sit through the cold and as soon as the season picks up again, I’ll have work.” I ask him what kind of work he will do. “Probably just work in hostels or bars, cafes … that sort of thing. There are mad jobs in the high season here. You have no idea what this place is like in the summer.” This is Vincent’s second time around in The Netherlands. Like many, he fell in love with Europe in the summer and decided to come back to live here. Europe. Vincent’is face lights up behind the hoodie when he says the word and you can see that it is not just a word or a place to him. It stands for all his hopes and dreams, and every single one of his passionate gestures seems to point at all the possibilities the continent holds for him. What is it, I wonder, that attracts him so much to Europe, especially The Netherlands? For the first time Vincent is at a loss for words. “Umm, I cannot explain it, really. It’s the free spirit, the charm of the old cities and the people … well, you’re European, you should know!” I do. And I don’t. For me, Europe is the place where I am from, my safe haven in a way, where I know that people are like me, because they grew up like me, with a similar mindset and a very similar outlook on the world. Even though I love Europe, it is for very different reasons. Europe has shaped me, it is my starting point, whereas for Vincent it is the place where he sees his future, not his past. Vincent has a big smile on his face now. He has come up with a more concrete image of his European dream: “I want to work on a fishing boat in the North Sea, catch crabs and marry a nice, Dutch girl!” A perfect European dream in a way. It makes me wonder: What other European dreams are out there? What is YOUR European dream? 

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