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The Rave of Europe : Meet the 'Eurokids.' They're brash, young and so cross-continental. They love Barcelona style, Belgian tech music and satellite MTV.

February 03, 1993|JEFF KAYE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LONDON — These are the Eurokids.

They wear clothes from Chipie, Naf Naf and Kookai of France, along with other European brands. Levi's are what their parents wear.

Barcelona is their style capital--"the new European L.A.," it is called. Tapas are trendy. The bars and nightclubs where the Eurokids hang out are increasingly sporting the colors and designs of Spain.

Often fueled by the drug Ecstasy, they dance to rave music from Italy, Belgium and Great Britain. They are linked by international style magazines and satellite television channels--primarily MTV Europe, which beams its Euro vid-jocks and Euro-weighted playlist into 43 million homes.

The United States remains a powerful cultural force in their lives, but they're losing interest. Japan is the faraway land that produces things new and exciting.

And while their elders, split by national identities and widely differing tastes, continue to haggle bitterly over formation of a united Europe, they already are creating their own Pan-European identity.

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The only new thing to come out of America in the past few years has been grunge rock. What a joke.

--A 19-year-old man in Dusseldorf

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Into the 1993 Euro-blender go the young of more than a dozen nations and out pours a homogenized youth culture dubbed "Eurokids." The name comes from an eponymous report just published by the Pan-European advertising group Alto, which found that, increasingly, youths from Lisbon to Berlin and Stockholm to Athens have more in common with each other than with older people in their own countries.

They are bound not only by shared tastes in fashion, music and food, but also by lifestyle, attitudes and values.

Says advertising executive and report author Simon Silvester, who interviewed groups of under-25s in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Dusseldorf, London, Milan and Paris as part of his research: "You tend to think, 'God, these are almost the same people sitting in the room from country to country.' "

Even the pronounced cultural chasm that separates northern and southern Europe is dissipating. Young adults from Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy are breaking the traditions of their parents in everything from their hunger for fast food to the breakup of the extended family.

Catching up to established patterns in northern Europe, southern European youths are moving out of their parents' homes at an earlier age and are waiting longer to marry and have children.

"Thirty years ago, the youth agenda varied enormously from country to country," says the Eurokids report. "Today, young people around Europe all worry about the same things."

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In Spain, they never sleep. They finish work at 9 o'clock at night and go out and party until 2 or 3 a.m. It's one big party.

--A 22-year-old woman in Paris

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Cheap foreign travel, Pan-European media and increasing numbers of youths who understand a common foreign language--particularly English--are cited as the main reasons behind the breakdown of cultural borders.

Young Europeans travel abroad far more than previous generations, says the Eurokids study. Aided by substantial youth travel discounts, they take 40% more foreign trips than the adult population as a whole. The figure increases to 60% in southern Europe.

A large proportion of Eurokids want to live and work in another European country, an aspiration that is becoming increasingly easier to realize with the emergence of the single European market. Topping the list of where they'd like to live are France, for its lifestyle, and Great Britain, for its rock music scene.

Although language remains something of a social barrier, even that wall is crumbling as more and more Eurokids learn English.

"English teaching is now so widespread and to such a level in Europe today that the vast majority of under-25s in all European Community countries now speak English," says the report. "English has now become the lingua franca of European youth."

MTV Europe, a major force in creating commonality among youths from the Continent's disparate cultures, is broadcast in English--but it is specifically designed for viewers who don't speak English as a first language. The channel's VJs, who come from Holland, Germany, Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom, speak clearly. And simply.

But it's not just the VJs and their speech patterns that mark the difference between MTV Europe and its American counterpart. The programming also is helping carve out a European identity for its viewers.

"We've tried to make it home grown," says William Roedy, managing director and chief executive of MTV Europe.

In music video terms, that means adding a heavy dose of European artists to the playlist. "We are working very hard at breaking European groups," says Roedy. Regulars on MTV Europe include Clousseau from Belgium, Ten Sharp from the Netherlands and Dr. Alban from Sweden. German rappers Die Fantastischen Vier are in high rotation on the channel.

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