In these times of globalization, our consumer behaviours are becoming more and more standardized and our cultural differences more and more eroded. We consume more or less the same things, and buy more or less the same goods. This is particularly the case in the European Union where cultures and borders are becoming increasingly permeable and interlinked.

Consumption remains a local reality

However, a closer look reveals that the existence of global products is an illusion. Beverages like coffee, beer or wine don’t have the same taste and are not consumed in the same way and the same proportions in France, Belgium, Hungary or Spain. Even in a globalizing world, consumption remains a local reality. According to our culture and our nationality, we don’t spend our money in the same way.

In the Great Region alone, there are important differences. For example, Germans have proven to be quite exacting when it comes to shopping. They have very strict selection criteria depending on the kind of goods they want to buy, don’t hesitate to compare prices, are sensitive to sales promotions and often go to discounters. On the opposite, French people consider buying to be a pleasure, tend to spend more on leisure and cultural goods and give priority to quality over quantity. Long considered as being some of the best savers in the world, Belgians are price-sensitive and keen to obtain the best value for money spent. Residents of Luxembourg take advantage of the small size of their country to go shopping in the neighbouring countries of France, Germany and Belgium.

Accelerated transformation since the financial crisis

Of course, many of the descriptions above are stereotypes that don’t apply to all the citizens of the countries mentioned. The Great Region is a melting pot of varied cultures, starting with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the population of which boasts nationals from more than 170 different states!

Moreover, the financial crisis has triggered a change in consumer patterns, especially in the most affected social classes. In Southern European countries, a large section of the population has lost its purchasing power and has had to adjust its spending patterns. In response to the financial crisis, Italians are trying by all means to reduce their expenses, including delayed purchases, paying a lot of attention to prices and increased second-hand shopping. The Portuguese have radically changed their purchasing habits by reducing their consumption, focusing their attention on pricing and switching from alternative purchases (second-hand and online shopping, etc.) to the sharing and exchanging of goods and services. Economic constraints have also pushed Spanish households to modify their consumption behaviour, boosting the resale of goods as well as online shops and supermarkets.

On the other hand, in Central and Eastern European countries where future economic prospects are better, the middle class is spending more time shopping. Thanks to an increase in purchasing power, pleasure and indulgence have become considerable factors in their consumption patterns.

Different attitudes towards loans

 The attitude towards loans is not the same among European citizens. If people from Southern and Eastern European countries are rather reluctant to take out personal loans, this is not the case for Northern European people. Like Americans, Brits have a ‘buy now, pay later’ culture and are increasingly living on credit. More than 70% of EU credit cards are held by British consumers. The figure is both impressive and disturbing, because it emphasizes the risk of indebtedness that many millions of British households will face in the near future…


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