Work-Free Sundays? Say It Isn’t So, Europe.
Way back in 1993, when I first arrived in Europe, the one thing I could never grow accustomed to were Sundays. I came with the Peace Corps to teach English in Hungary, at a secretarial training school in a small town in the west of the country called Papa.
Papa was a lovely little spot Monday through noon time on Saturday: the main street was full of life, people shopped and conversed with friends. Come 12 on Saturday, though, that all changed. Stores closed. The streets emptied. The town was bereft of life until Monday morning.
Most people in the town seemed to spend their Sundays at home; few, from what I was able to notice were in church. Everybody in the town was better off than I was during my first weekend in the town, for they all knew to get their shopping done in time. I, meanwhile, was forced to rely on some left-over bread and a few eggs in the fridge to get me by until the start of the work week.
Fast-forward ten years and the landscape of nearly every reasonably sized Hungarian town became dotted with a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week hypermarket – Papa included. Because of the hypermarkets, more stores in the towns extended their working hours; hence bringing more people to Main Street, and, needless to say, helping the local economy.
Now, a group of politicians in Brussels, anxious to score some brownie points with the socially conservative wing of the European electorate, are planning to re-institute the work-free Sunday, and take away not only their constituents rights to work when they want but their right to shop when and where they want.
If ever there was a reason Europe is lagging behind the rest of the world economically, then this is it. Moreover, this is seriously going to cut into people’s cartoon time on Saturday mornings.