The answer to the question “What does “Europe” mean” can give different kinds of responses in Armenia. I just will give an example from my country’s perspective, and will try to compare my perception of it.
As one of the South Caucasus country they have a bit different opinion about Europe. Some of them may think, that Europe is the way to reach development, while some of them would think that expect of democracy it is damaging the national values.We can separate the question to several kind of answers for this. Let’s start with teenagers.
If you meet teenagers in the street of Yerevan and ask him/her what they think about Europe and people who live there, probably most of them will say, that Europe is better, people are more polite to each other, etc. Because in school, they are studying about European values, that there are human rights which are protected by governments and everyone. This mindset is also supported by the huge influence of literature and media by considering the fact, that we are getting the information about Europe through the media, especially through films, TV shows as well.
For young people Europe is box of capabilities. That they can find various opportunities to self-realization, to master professional skills, to enhance their worldview, to have freedom as personally, as professionally. These perceptions can explain the large stream of youngsters to Europe.
For elders Europe is a source of developing economy. They will probably say that there is corruption in Armenia, despite in Europe it can be excluded. Or they may think, that there is monopoly in Armenia, but in Europe there are free market relations. The other view expressed is that Armenia it’s not European country because it is different in its culture from all civilizations and need to continue to develop as a separate historical space.
Here it is necessary to consider the fact, that the post-Soviet generation is in terms of its behavior, appearance, and interior characteristics closer to “Europeans”; than the Soviet generation, and this is due to free borders, exchanges, tourism, a free media environment and the Internet availability.
Growing up in this society I had a different and controversial perceptions about Europe and European society. By analyzing all of these competences, I just want to compare my perceptions before and after coming to Europe. To be a volunteer here probably gave me a new view/perspective on the topic or let me say figure out, what Europe is.
Does it the same, that you listen from different views, or it isabsolutely different think?
I don’t want to say, that there are no manifestations of democracy in Armenia. But I would say, that quite often we don’t have the most effective acting strategy. We know, that cannot exploit the rights of ailing, during the consultation in hospital, but quite often we collide to unfriendly attitude of doctors. This is one of the simple examples. And the reason why I am showing you this example, is because at list we are associating the medicine especially with Germany. And most of Armenians think, that quality of medicine has to be like in Germany, to have a good service.
The one of important point, that stands out for me, is role of personality in society. I think, community influences and rules in Armenian society more than individuality and personality. There, more often the rights of individuals are not protected. The appearance of people, behavior, homosexuality are the things that can associate with Europe, if you have a such kind of stereotypes in your environment, which will not allow you to see the other sides of the Europe. I am glad, that in university I had lecturers, who provide the opportunity to choose several points of perceptions about Europe.
In Armenia most part of the youngsters are the holder of traditional views, but at the same time most of them are not conservative. They have normal approach with such kind of phenomena, that I mentioned above. But of course it was not the same like 10 years before. And one of the reasons for this change is the developing relationship with the EU. And also the youth exchanges and programs, that allow you to get to know Europe yourself, and then you can just analyze and have your own conclusion about all of these changes, values, behaviors, that you meet every time being in that environment. And such kind of opportunities like volunteering provides you the platform, where you can create your own space with various perceptions.