30 May 2014, 12:10
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Collecting Perspectives: Interviews with Yerevan's Europe Day Visitors

A few days ago, the Europe Day Information Week celebrations, during which our city hosted artists from all around the world, came to a close. Never one to miss out on a tremendous opportunity like this one, ImYerevan's team chased down some of the city's guests to ask some penetrating questions. Their feedback is both positive and negative, but either way, demonstrates the value of gathering different perspectives from across the globe as a vital part of Yerevan's transition into the twenty-first century.

Our first interviewee was Daniel Waples, a musician from Great Britain. When we asked him about his initial thoughts on the city, he admitted he found it “calm and comfortable.” He continued,

“I travel a lot, so believe me, there are lots of cities where finding a café with wifi is an issue, but here, you can find Internet connection everywhere; even phone booths have it! I was lucky to come here in spring. Everything around me is so green, fresh, the nature is everywhere, and the landscape is beautiful. It’s been three days that I’m here, and I get only positive vibes from the city. The only thing I’d change would be a little coast added to your city. That would make it even better.”

Waples also commented on the high level of English spoken by many locals. However, he made some critical remarks about the state of Yerevan’s tourism. Waples admitted that there weren’t as many tourists as he’d have hoped, and it would be better for the city’s economy if more people visited.

 

DJ Pixie, from Germany, says it’s his third time in Armenia. He discovered the country back in 1999.

“I was in Leipzig, studying journalism, English and Russian. In order to earn some extra money I worked as a translator at a trade expo. I was connected to the Minister of Urban Planning of Armenia. He seemed to like me and invited me to live in Armenia for a couple of years. I agreed to come to Armenia, but only for three weeks. Next time I appeared here was in 2008. I came here with a German rock band that was on tour in Armenia and Georgia. That was when I went to Nagorno-Karabakh. Actually my band was not popular in Germany, but they definitely were stars in Nagorno-Karabakh. The audience greeted them with applause, huge banners and screams. Yerevan is becoming more and more European each year: you have free Wi-Fi everywhere, nice boutiques, and cafes. The city is clean, tidy, and the people are nice, which is actually not European, it is Armenian.”

Some of the German’s criticisms included the construction works in the city. Regarding them, he said, “What I see now is very wild and insane. You’d better control your territory and who can buy what.”


 

 

Luka Nizetic, a pop singer from Croatia, felt extremely positive regarding the city. A fact that may seem strange to some locals, he failed to come up with even one criticism.

 

“Before coming here I had no idea what Armenia would be like, therefore, I did not know what to expect. Now I feel overwhelmed with everything I see. The people are so nice to me. Everything here is extremely artistic. It reminds me of Barcelona. I have been there five times and I have the same feeling both here and there. Everything seems so easy in Yerevan, people stroll around, are active, always involved in something. I spent two days here and I cannot remember a single thing that I did not like.”

 

Petra Hultman from Sweden, who was visiting the country for the third time, was perhaps most critical of our city. He had the opposite reaction to the Croatian we interviewed before him. 

“As Armenia was the first country in the region that I visited, everything here seemed very new to me, there were things that I did not know how to react to. When walking around the city I felt that people were staring at me, but when I smiled back, they just turned their heads. It made me think that people in Yerevan are not friendly. Now I understand that it is a sign of shyness and not being rude. Later I learned a little Armenian, and our communication became easier.”

Most of all I like looking at people having evening walks in Yerevan. One cannot see such things much in Sweden; kids playing in the street like they do at Freedom Square.

He was also critical of another part of Armenian society that many outsiders can agree is not particularly welcoming: the reaction to unfamiliar physical appearance. Hultman admitted that although he felt quite safe in Yerevan, when walking alone around the city, the stares he received made him feel very uncomfortable.

“I feel unwanted attention towards me. I would very much like it to change so that I could have more private space.”

 

Guillermo Rojas, Spain
came here in early January and until last week, lived in the Bangaldesh district. He was one of the Europe Day visitors that saw value in the city’s architectural relics of its Soviet time.

“I loved that neighborhood. In my opinion, only in these regions can you feel the essence of the old city. Even in the center of the city, I try to find hidden corners. All that construction going on in your city, all those Russian imperialistic style – huge buildings and broad roads, I don’t like that.

I hope next time I come here, some things will be different: I hope to see people more open-minded, ready for changes. The government also, it would be great if they would make taxes easier for people. And you should take care of your own city.”

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