Walking in the center of a Greek city. 10 small stories describe the actual “psychology” of the Greek society
(to read part 2, click here)
I go to Greece every 2 weeks more or less. My basis is my hometown Katerini, close to Olympus mountain and the sacred city of Alexander the Great, Dion (yes, also next to Paralia Katerini, the famous destination for Romanians). Here I know most of the people. During my stay, except talking over the phone and working for Romania 80% of the time, I also walk around the center, meet people, discuss, listen, try to understand. Why do I listen and try to understand? Because I want to know all the 3 realities that exist about Greece: The one of international media, the one of the Greek ones and the reality that Greeks face in their daily life. How relevant are these 3? Not much…
A sunny morning last week…
I woke up and switched on my favorite radio as usual. The journalist was commenting on the new package of austerity measures. Was it the 5th one? The 10th? The 90th? No one remembers anymore… Every single day, every single week, Greeks are bombarded by threats about more measures…
TV was boring as always. Three quarters of the morning news shows blamed the government, the foreigners (who want to destroy Greece) and praised the rights of the taxi drivers, the public servants and other parts of Greek society. Just two shows present the other opinion as well (“we also made some mistakes”), but as Greeks get more and more upset lately, they try not to be very… aggressive with their opinion.
1. Across the school…
I left my home and walked to the center of the city, but just a few meters after I had reached the pedestrian walk to reach the school across the street, 2 mothers were waiting for the light to turn to green, one of them knew me:
– “Ilia, this year they didn’t send us books, just cds and photo copies”
– “Yes, I’ve heard about it, there was a problem in the auction for paper…”
– “They don’t care about us and our children, this is unbelievable”.
When they crossed the street, a guy who was passing by commented smiling “so when your children had the books on time, they really couldn’t stop reading…”
2. In front of the Chamber of Commerce
In my opinion my city has a president of chamber of commerce that we are not proud of, this is why I always walk on the pavement across its building. But a good friend of mine waved at me.
– “How are you, Romanian guy? How is your country?”
– “I am also Greek, you know…”
– “No, not really. You escaped early… Now we are doomed and I don’t know what to do…”
– “I know, it is quite hard…”
– “I didn’t gamble at casino, didn’t pay for prostitutes or drugs. I just invested my money in my business, in order to make it better. Now I see that everything is gone. When I finished the army, I waited 2 weeks and then I started working. My son finished the army 6 years ago and I can’t even keep him in our shop. Not to mention the unpaid bills, despite my hard work”.
3. Close to the church
I continued walking to the center, it is just a straight line till the central square. A few meters before the city’s main church, a good friend of mine, a successful businessman, stopped me.
– “When do you see us handing over the keys to the Germans?”
– “Are we going to hand over the keys and leave, or we will stay and work for them?”
– “You already left, so this is our problem to worry about”
– “So you expect them to bring foreigners to run parts of the Greek public sector?”
– “We stole our State, built illegal buildings, did all impossible things, exceeded our limits. Now the only solution if for the Europeans to restore the order by bringing their own people, we failed in creating an efficient State”.
– “Do you see us collapsing?”
– “No, I just see us surrendering”
4. Inside the bank
I entered in the bank to pay something. It was quite weird. I used to see tens of people in the queue, now there were just a few. In less than 10 minutes I was talking to the bank clerk.
– “What happened today that it’s so quiet?”
– “It is not just today, this is usual nowadays, except the end of the month”.
– “So people don’t come here anymore?”
– “Usually they come, but not for this queue, they ask to “re-profile” their credit. Didn’t you hear? More than 700.000 credits were re-arranged”.
– “This is all?”
– “No, don’t forget that a big part of our society simply does not have money to pay anymore. 20 – 30% of people don’t even pay electricity”.
5. Close to the fiscal administration
The bank teller asked me to modify something in my fiscal profile. I had made that in March but “it does not appear in the system”. So I had to turn back and walk to the edge of the city, where the fiscal administration is located. I did what I had to do there and then I left, but needed to buy something from a shop. I chose one which is located very close to the fiscal authority and entered. The person served me like someone in his family had died (no mood for smiles…) and he did not give me a receipt. I reminded him…
– “You have not given me a receipt”.
– “The amount is small, Ilia, it’s ok”.
– “Aren’t you afraid of a control? You are so close to the fiscal inspectors”.
– “Let them come, I am dead anyway”
PS. All the above stories are 100% real
Tomorrow, Tuesday 13.09: Another 5 small stories plus the overall conclusion.