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How expats experience “three years Greece in the crisis” (Part I)

Two days ago, I wrote an article to “celebrate” the anniversary of then prime minister George Papandreou announcing that Greece had to ask its rescue from international lenders, especially from the international Monetary Fund.  The article “23 April 2010 – 23 April 2013: Greece under IMF – Not saved yet?” got positive feedback and I requested expats living in Greece to write their impressions from the crisis. Keeping this blog for three years, I have come to hear quite a number of personal stories, whether by Greeks or expats. I know that the majority of us is suffering.

Together we have experienced the IMF-shock, the income cuts and tax hikes, the shortages and the long queues. The massive job losses in the private sector. The one loan agreement following the next. And the many protests and strikes. We heard politicians’ promises before two elections rounds and tried to look at them right in the eyes…

The financial crisis affects us all: locals and foreigners alike.

Below is a story submitted by Phillip:

“I haven’t been shielded from the crisis, but I might be fairing better than others. At least I have work. I lost my job in March 2010 but started freelancing straight away, and although I’d like to have more work, I have enough to pay the bills, even the added expense of making my own TEBE* contributions as a self-employed person, which is almost as much as my rent. I’ve seen my savings erode somewhat, but I think I might be able to recoup my losses eventually, if I can hold my breath long enough.

That said, my partner works for the public sector and has seen his salary slashed 40%, and as a result, we can’t go anywhere or do anything, except cook at home, watch films, go for picnics, go to local crowded and usually not-clean Attica beaches in the summer. It could be worse, it could be better.

I celebrated my 40th birthday in Corfu last fall, and that was nice, but because of my partner’s salary cuts, I had to foot most of the bill. Not that I’m complaining about paying for my partner, but because the government cut his salary, I’m having to pay for what we would normally be able to fund together, and it’s getter harder for me to do it alone because of taxes and lost income from the lack of domestic freelance work (I survive on international work alone).

It gets depressing, having to decide if we’ll go out for dinner this month, or to the cinema, or maybe out for drinks…but not all of the above. It doesn’t seem fun anymore, but I’m holding out for better. I feel like it might be around the corner if I listen to Stournaras on replay a hundred times.”

*TEBE is the social insurance fund (health care & pension) for self-employed.

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  1. Interesting to read this article, I have been living in Greece since 1987 mainly on the island of lefkas but also for 3 years in Athens. I am working in the tourist industry servicing foreign owned yachts and also in the charter business, our industry has suffered due to bad press frightening tourists into coming to Greece. I come from what you might call a middle class family, my parents met after the war and lived in London. They had to save like hell to raise the deposit for their first morgage, all their lives it was a struggle raising 3 children. My father was a white collar worker and my mother worked in an office, they never had a new car ! holidays abroad. In last 26 years I have lived in Greece life changed so much and fast, in 1987 dinner in a local taverna 300 dracmas. I guess the point I am trying to make is people have been living way beyond their means, I do feel sorry for people who have lost their jobs. I have experienced unemployment in my life too, so understand all too well what it like like to have no money. I think it is time for people watch the pennies, eat at home, grow as much food as they can. Return to their villages and enjoy a more simple life, there is no shame in doing manual work !

    • I think it is time for people watch the pennies, eat at home, grow as much food as they can. Return to their villages and enjoy a more simple life, there is no shame in doing manual work !

      That’s just what is happening for the last year around where I am now. We saw an influx of people to our villages from the cities. Family homes are being filled with relatives. Pieces of land that have laid barren for years are being cultivated again. New trees are being plant on plots previous cleared for sale. Old olive groves are being cleaned and cultivated again. Even high up in the mountains fields are being used again.

      • keeptalkinggreece

        of course, there is a major problem in the whole idea: you have no village to return to.

        • That’s the main flaw, indeed. And there is something like the Pol Pot factor… They forced that policy in Cambodia on their own people and it resulted in the killing fields…

  2. I agree 100% with Neil. Unfortuantely, for years, Greeks snubbed their noses at manual jobs. I remember over 30+ years ago when I first came to Greece for a summer working in the fields and loving it!! And Greeks couldn’t believe that an American from a fairy normal background could be working in the fields in Greece. I taught a few of these Greeks back then that hard work builds character and that those who thought NOT would one day reap what they sow. I suspect some of these 1 Million managers, Lawyers, and other softies without work wished they could plow the fields like I can (If I need to) LOL…

  3. I come to Greece as a tourist every year, sometimes twice. I love the country and the people so much I have even been learning the language. However, I know it has become part of Greek culture, the strikes. Fourteen different Maritime Unions alone! It is rather stressful and something that you don’t want to have to worry about for your holiday.