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Martin Varsavsky

Martin Varsavsky

Posted February 15, 2009 | 03:28 PM (EST)

The Spanish Solution to the Global Crisis


I live in Spain. I used to live in America, Manhattan to be precise. I moved to Spain because this country has an economy the size of California but interestingly people here both work less and worry less than in California, not a small achievement. While in Spain I built two telecom/internet companies that are now national brands, Jazztel and Ya.com. Both were worth over half a billion euros by the time I sold my shares. But even though I had previously been an entrepreneur in the States as well building companies such as Viatel and Urban Capital, I noticed a big difference in Madrid. As they like to say in Spain people over here work to live and not live to work (trabajar para vivir). Shortly after moving from NYC to Madrid in 1995 I adopted that philosophy.

Currently both USA and Spain are experiencing spikes in unemployment and the Spanish stock market and real estate markets are as bad its American counterpart. But even though many of my Spanish friends are doing as badly as my American friends I see that the Spaniards have come up with a unique solution to the global crisis. What is it? Sorry to disappoint you but it is not based on doing anything specific to the real economy nor to their personal economy. Instead my Spanish friends solution is simply emotional. They focus on family and friends and worry less about the crisis. As we all know we don´t really experience reality but instead we experience our perception of reality. And it is at this level that my Spanish friends so effectively act. Concretely I spent last weekend in Manhattan going to dinners parties and all I could hear was how badly the economy was doing and how poorly Obama's presidency had started. Instead I spent this weekend in Madrid going to dinner parties and people... just had a great time. If anything talking about the crisis is seen as poor taste. It is not that people don´t worry over here. But at work they worry about work, at night they just want to disconnect and have a good time. And in my view, if there´s something that Manhattanites have never learned is to disconnect.