Being a European in a rich man’s world

Being a European in a rich man’s world

I can say I am one of the luckiest persons in the world. Why? Because I live in the Netherlands. The Global Wealth Report 2015 shows us that the Netherlands is on the sixth place of wealthiest countries in the world.  We are privileged, but I have to warn you. Do not forget about the poverty in wealthy countries.

A lot of people have the idea that when you live in Europe you are wealthy and lucky, but poverty does exist in countries like the Netherlands. Oxfam did research about poverty in Europe and the numbers do not lie: between 2009 and 2013 7.5 million people lived in poverty, that’s about 1% of the European population. It looks small, but the most disturbing thing is that the numbers are increasing. The Dutch magazine Elsevier did a little research about poverty in our country. They found out that about 1.3 million people live in poverty or cannot keep their head above water. This is about 7,7% of the Dutch population. Fortunately, this poverty for most people is only temporary.

It might be an unrealistic poverty relative to poverty in Africa or Asia, but I can be just as traumatic for the people. How can I say this? Well, I lived in this poverty for years. I was about twelve years old when this poverty started and it ended the moment I went to university, but for my parents and a lot of other people it is still going on.

Being poor as a kid at primary school is not so bad, because people like you (or not) for the person you are. The moment you go to high school everything changes. People like you for the clothes you wear, for the bike you ride or for the lunch you buy at the cafeteria. I could not do all those things, because we did not have to money for it. I remember the first two months of high school not having textbooks, because my parents could not afford spending 250 euro for my books, otherwise we could not eat. It was such a humiliating feeling to tell this to my teachers. I had to lie to my classmates why I did not have books, because I did not want to tell them my parents had no money. Two years later we had to sell our house and moved to IJsselstein to live in a small rented flat where I had to sleep with my two sisters in one room. Then again I had to lie to my friends or classmates why I did not wanted to take them to my home or why we lived in such a small apartment. The moment I started my further education, I got a scholarship and could live a less financial stressful life. I pay for everything myself and that made me very independent.

When I look back at these years the hardest part was not having money, but having parents who felt sorry for us that they could not give my sisters and me a normal education and puberty. My little sister was too young to understand, but my older? sister and I saw how our parents had to struggle and we saw their hurt.

Right now I can proudly say that this poverty was just temporary and a really good experience for the future. You might think that European poverty seems irrelevant, but please do not forget that there are people in the Netherlands who also cannot provide (enough) food on their tables or have to tell their children that they cannot buy their textbooks for their education.

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