Ode to the Road Part 7 – The old Roman division

The old Roman division

South-north integration will be slow, if not impossible, but there is another, less pronounced fault-line in Western Europe: the watery ditch across it formed by the river Rhine, Lake Constance and the river Danube.

This is the borderline of the old Roman empire, to the south-west of which the stylish, soft Latin people live until the 5th century, and to the north-east the progenies of tough Germanic, Viking, Celtic tribes and further to the east, the similarly tough Slavs. On a particularly cold winter in 409 AD the weakened Roman army couldn’t resists the hordes of barbarians crossing the frozen Rhine, and by next year the “Eternal city” itself was plundered of its gold and slaves by the Visigoths, a sack to be repeated by the Vandals (unfairly, the tribe became the source of the word vandalism) just 45 years later. But some things stay the same, and the habits of the population instilled during the long Pax Romana are still there, clearly marking the descendants of Roman republic-just take a hundred kilometres or so away, which the invading “barbarians” have now influenced. There are multitudes of observations that will illustrate this division, to me the most obvious ones (especially to the northern end) are summarised in this table:





Sophisticated. Film roles are of writers and various artists first, some high-flying, smart professionals second-that’s about it.

Practical, matter of fact. The films are (not exclusively, but more so) about everyday people.

Aristocratic, hierarchical


Searching for easy pleasures. Wake up late, have a sweet breakfast, take long break to enjoy the lunch. Drink soft alcohol, like wine and beer

Finding pleasure in hard work. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Live hard, play hard, drink hard. Exercise in the morning. Eating is work that needs to be done.

Cars may be flimsy, small, full of dints and disposable but always stylish and comfortable.

A lot is invested in cars, they are shiny, big, powerful and fast

Music is quirky or feel-good

Heavy metal lives here.

Non-material achievements (attainment of knowledge, work of art, career, influence) is desired

Success is measured in more material terms.

Individuality in appearance is appreciated

Individuality of thought is appreciated

Looks and style are important, first impressions matter.

Evaluate people deeper, over longer term. Tattoos, piercings are more prevalent and tolerated as the “focus” is deeper than skin.

Violence is not a big part of the culture, what there is tends to be psychological (in words, or implied). For instance anti immigration manifests itself in “soft” measures like banning the burqa.

Violence is more physical and direct. Anti immigration movement dredges up strong threats and prospects of violence (skinheads, fascism)

Films, stories are whimsical, cute, and feel-good.

Even children’s stories can scare adults. Films are hard-hitting, depressing.

Clean shaven or short facial hair to imply that “we have nothing to hide”

Long beard, hair is acceptable, since not being evaluated on appearance alone.

Countries that are in financial trouble at the time of writing (2010): Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy, France. These countries know how to party, live for the day, and worry about the bad news when they come.

Countries with strong balance sheets and money to lend are Germany, Netherlands, whole of Scandinavia. People here save first, then start to party (if they remember how).

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