Chocolate? Cars? Hairdressers? Books?

Europe is divided over what’s essential during the pandemic.

Everyone agrees food markets and drug stores should stay open, but what’s allowed in one country could be verboten on the other side of the border, the Associated Press reported.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed out the only fair thing to do would be to close everything but admitted that’s not “perhaps not the most practical” solution.

“If people are only satisfied when everything possible is shut down, then that’s a view which naturally doesn’t make economic sense,” Merkel said.

So, Germany is keeping car dealerships open after closing them in the spring hurt its huge automobile industry.

In Belgium, chocolate shops are staying open — and who can argue with that?

“Chocolate is very much an essential food around here,” said chocolatier Marleen Van Volsem at the Praleen chocolaterie south of Brussels. “It has to be. Because chocolate makes you happy.”

How crucial hairdressers are depends on the country, however.

In Italy, they’re deemed essential.

Pedestrians walk in front of closed shops in Milan, Italy.
Pedestrians walk in front of closed shops in Milan, Italy.AFP via Getty Images

“Italians really care about their image and about wellness,” Charity Cheah, the Milan-based co-founder of TONI&GUY Italy, told the AP. “Perhaps psychologically, the government may feel that going to a salon is a moment of release from stress and tension, a moment of self-care, that citizens need.”

But in England, it’s a different story. Anyone who didn’t get a haircut before new restrictions went into force last week had better buy a pair of scissors and a good blow dryer.

In France, books and bookstores are an integral part of the country’s fabric. No country has more Nobel Prize winners in Literature, and millions loved “Apostrophes,” a book review program on TV. But the famed bookshops of Paris are closed.

A person holding a coronavirus sign in Germany amid the lockdown.
A person holding a coronavirus sign in Germany amid the lockdown.AFP via Getty Images

Sylvia Whitman is angry about how giant online shops are eating up business while her famed Shakespeare and Co., on the Left Bank, is shuttered. Her sales have dropped 80% since the spring lockdown.

“I find it really tiring that the bigger you are the more you can ignore laws, you can avoid taxes, you can find loopholes,” she said. “The smaller you are, the more expensive and the more complicated things are.”

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