The following was originally published online on Tuesday November 4th, 2008.
So as everyone knows, ever since the middle of September, there has been nothing but doom and gloom all over the media about the consequences of the financial crisis. CNN waxed lyrical about falling shares, stock prices plummeting, and interest rates slashed in such cunningly globally synchronised methods so as to wonder if these central bankers are really international superspies.
But what does all that mean to real people? The news paints this as a global disaster, yet the only images we see of people hurting from this are stock brokers weeping in each others arms around the world. I’m not from Iceland, Ukraine or Hungary. I dont have a mortgage, and my (Irish) government was the first in the world to guarantee all my (non-existant) savings. All through this melodrama, I never felt any real fear that any of these events could effect me in any tangible way. I was wrong.
As some of you know, I have been living and working in Barcelona since the middle of September (I actually started working the day Lehman Brothers collapsed). Barcelona is a tourist city, and like any other is dependent on the spending power of incoming tourists. This is especially true of Barcelona’s night scene, where its hundreds of bars would not come close to breaking even if they had to depend on local business.
The past three weekends I have seen a notable drop in tourists at the weekend. While you could make the argument that the summer season is over and no one is going on holiday at this time etc, Barcelona is a year round destination thanks to the low budget airlines, and I am assured by locals that the absence of stag parties on La Rambla in October is unusual. So therefore I am assuming that this drop off in tourists is because people aren’t spending money on luxuries because they’re worried about the consequences of the credit crunch.
One good point of this is that bars have to become more competitive in order to get business. When on a night out, it is impossible to walk down the street without being dragged into a bar and free drink offers shoved literally down your throat.
Barcelona’s night life isn’t just bars however, and the drop in tourists has shown me a whole new part of the city that previously was hidden. Its never really taken into account, but a significant portion of visitors to this city are actually sex tourists, who come just to avail of the local prostitutes. But alas, sex tourism is not recession proof, and therefore their absence has instantly severely altered the ratio of prostitutes:unwilling punters. I am one such unwilling punter.
Previously after a night out, I could calmly walk down the street I live just off La Rambla, not a care in the world. Now, without fail, I have three or four prostitutes fighting over me while I’m still showing no interest whatsoever. And whats more, they seem to be getting more aggressive in their propositions. When I first noticed this change in my neighbourhood, a simple shake of the head would make them move on to some other poor bastard, now as the weeks have gone on, when I say ‘no thank you’ or simply keep on walking, I get abused on a crowded street by a very young Nigerian prostitute who is shouting obscenities at me. And once I’m out of earshot, another one comes over and the whole process starts all over again.
So, as you can see, none of us are safe from the effects of the financial crisis. I never would have thought when I read that Lehman Brothers collapsed, that the net result would be me getting endless hassle and abuse from a never ending stream of African prostitutes.
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