A quarter century on, who has reaped the benefits of the European dream?
Du pain, du vin, du Boursin: 25 years in Europe
Wednesday 22 January 1997
The same is true for all sorts of food, clothes, toys and other products such as computers, televisions and cameras whose instruction leaflets are in French, German, Italian and Spanish as well as English. The basics of shopping may not have changed enormously from 1972 to 1997, but the experience certainly feels more European.
t Many, probably most Britons still carry the stiff-backed black passport that was standard issue 25 years ago. However, it has become increasingly common in recent years to see the smaller, flexible, maroon-coloured European- style British passport whipped out at passenger control points. The newer passport, marked European Community on its cover and first page, does not transform a Briton into a "citizen of Europe" in any legal sense. But perhaps what matters most is the psychological effect. According to those who possess one, it alters one's sense of identity - by broadening it rather than by diluting it.
t Remember the old television advertisement of about 25 years ago that went "Beanz Meanz Heinz "? Today's equivalent is surely the one that goes "Du pain, du vin, du Boursin".
Commercials have been Europeanised, to the point where a few do not even bother to make their point in English. The use of sensual French actresses, majestic Italian music and romantic German scenery sends the message that Europe is sophisticated and so its products must be, too. Subliminally, such adverts are perhaps telling us something else: that Europe is home.
t Tastes in food and drink have shifted noticeably in a European direction.Britons drink more wine, more Continental-style lager, more cappuccino, more espresso. All sorts of cheeses, sausage, cold meats and pasta are found on British plates that would not have been there 25 years ago. Cities all over the country have restaurants, bars and cafes with European names. Quite a few have been opened by business people and restaurateurs from the Continent. Even in simple places, menus are set out in French, Italian or Spanish as well as English in a way that would have been difficult to imagine in 1972.
t Perhaps the biggest change of all: Britain is physically linked to the Continent through the Channel Tunnel. Travelling to the Continent, or at least the nearest bits such as northern France, Paris and Brussels, has been revolutionised by Le Shuttle and Eurostar.
Equally important is the flow of people in the other direction - it is much easier and quicker for other Europeans to get to London and the rest of Britain. In 1972, the old joke about "Fog in Channel: Continent Cut Off" could still be told. Not now.
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