Humans of Europe

A week ago I had the opportunity to take part in this crazy cool program, organized by the Youth European Movement (YEM) all over Europe! Obviously I was contributing only to the part happening right here on London, but it does feel kind of meaningful to know that the same thing is going on in other places too.

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Anyways, I trust that most of you have heard about this facebook page called “Humans of New York”. If you haven’t, no worries. Basically the idea is that people in New York are stopped on the street and they’re asked to tell their story – so how they got to where they are now, or how they feel, or what kind of crazy stuff has been going on in their lives. You wouldn’t believe how insane some of their lives are, absolutely unbelievable! But all true.

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So, inspired by this, YEM has created a similar page called “Humans of Europe” – I trust the name to be quite self-explanatory. But since YEM largely works in universities and other academic circles, the questions asked from the people they stop are bound to be something more than just stories. They all have something to do with the EU: what it is to be European and whether there is a common European identity.

Maybe you can guess it already? Yes, I was stopping people on the streets.

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I’m sure everyone has come across people who stop others on the streets – for whatever reason it may be. But being one of them, that’s a whole another story. If you’ve ever had to do it, you know that it’s incredibly easy to lose all faith in humanity in mere seconds. We were moving in groups of two or three, all young and all well dressed – to  put it bluntly, we didn’t look like druggies or homeless people or any other sort of creepy. And we thought that people would be nice. Or even polite. I would have even taken a fake smile. But no no.

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“I am actually half South-African, half Middle-Eastern, but I was raised in Belgium. I think of myself as a Belgian, and it feels odd to go home to SA because I’m not from there, I am European.”

Look, I do admit that we might have come off somewhat odd in the beginning – it is surprisingly hard to try to spot someone suitable (not in a hurry, not in a big group, not likely to yell at you) without staring at them intensively for an extensive time when they walk towards you or vice versa. We might have spooked a few tourists, yes I am guilty. But after noticing our mistake and getting a good drive on, I think we looked very innocent! A bit naive maybe, but we weren’t selling anything, not tricking people, nothing of that sort. But the amount of people waving us off like we’d be an infectious disease, giving us these ridiculous lies and excuses, or just being good old rude, was astonishing. Admittedly this shouldn’t be surprising, and I may be culpable to some of these myself, but I promise, no more. Stops now.

 

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“We are both from Greece, and we’re studying tourism. We’ve definitely noticed that there is a common European identity, strengthened by open borders and increased travelling opportunities.”

However, I’m not all negative. We met some wonderful people who were genuinely happy to answer our questions and let us take a few pictures, and those people honestly made my day. It was also interesting to hear from these people, all over the Europe and outside, what they thought about the EU and how they perceived themselves. It was a great experience, and I would definitely go to the streets again.

Now after these few sneak peaks, go like the ‘Humans of Europe‘ facebook page for more!