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European grandparents give advice to youth of today

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1 October marks the ‘international day of older persons’. Between optimism, not being choosy about jobs, settling down (or not) and ambition, members of cafebabel's network asked their Italian, Polish, British, Slovenian and French sets of grandparents for their little pearls of wisdom 

‘Live life to the full, grab every minute of it - not like me this afternoon, I watched Shaun the Sheep. Take each day as it comes and enjoy it. It's nice to have some savings but I don't think it should be the be all and end all of life. Get married when you feel that the time and person and circumstances are correct - don't do it for the sake of it.

You've made me philosophical and I ain't a philosopher. Something that puzzles me quite frequently is why people have children - not family-wise but world-wise - the world in many respects is not improving. Communications are easier these days but not necessarily better. The government knows too much about what we are thinking and doing. Making me use my brain on a Tuesday afternoon...’

John, 75, England

‘In principle, the privilege that the youth have is in their health and energy. Use this energy to try to get ahead in life.’ Here is a dialogue between a lad from the south of France (PF) and his grandma (M).

PF: ‘What is success?’

M: ‘Grab your chance when you get it: work hard to keep it.’

PF: ‘And if the opportunity does not arise, what then?’

M: ‘Do not lose faith. Keep dreaming and it will eventually come. Remember ‘I have ​​a dream?’ It came true didn’t it?’

PF: ‘Are we all equal when it comes to luck?’

M: ‘Yes, so roll up your sleeves’

PF: ‘So it means more work?’

M: ‘Yes, but do what you love, enjoy nature, beautiful things...’

PF: ‘It’s a beautiful recipe Mamie, but i don’t know how to cook it.’

M: ‘So what? Learn! Don’t forget the key ingredients - integrity, commitment and respect for others.’

PF: ‘Mamie, have you not heard of the crisis?’

M: ‘Yes of course, I have not quite turned deaf yet in my old age. Since the world began, how many crises have we had anyway? Perhaps you may be needing a revolution, but you definitely need optimism.’

Marcelle, 79, France

‘Be educated, never stop broadening your mind and learn from everything that happens in your life. Do not underestimate school. I wanted to go to school, but I was born in Poland during the war and I grew up under the communist era. A farmer's daughter, I didn't have access to education, I had no choice. I always wanted to become a teacher, but I couldn't.

Have your opinion no matter what they say. Saying what others say and trying to be invisible will make you miserable. Have fun, enjoy life while you're young. Later it will be harder, though not impossible.

Do not change partners every six minutes. It's not worth it. Better make an investment in a man you trust. Get married and have children! (You are 25; you are already old). How long do you think I can wait for my grandchildren? I won't live forever.’

Wanda, 70, Poland

‘The youth of today is spoilt. We live in a world filled with technology and where everything is much more at reach than in our times. Young people are often too ambitious and becoming ever more arrogant: even towards their own families. Youngsters should think about finding a good job. Nowadays it is the starting point for social life. Without a job there’s only space for suffering, which the young generations of today aren’t able to stand anymore.’

Annunziata, 77, Italy

'I'll shoot off the top of my head. Be honest. Don't take drugs. Don't be a drunkard. Accept any job that is offered to you. Respect your parents and grandparents.'

Kristina, 77, Slovenia

Story by

Matthieu Amaré

Je viens du sud de la France. J'aime les traditions. Mon père a été traumatisé par Séville 82 contre les Allemands au foot. J'ai du mal avec les Anglais au rugby. J'adore le jambon-beurre. Je n'ai jamais fait Erasmus. Autant vous dire que c'était mal barré. Et pourtant, je suis rédacteur en chef du meilleur magazine sur l'Europe du monde.