Kat de Naoum | Contributing Writer | Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Greece Debt Crisis: What Is It REALLY Like Living In Greece Right Now

Greece Debt Crisis: What Is It REALLY Like Living In Greece Right Now

The Debrief: 'So, what’s going on in Greece then?' This is a question I get asked a lot from people not in Greece.

'So, what’s going on in Greece then?' This is a question I get asked a lot from people not in Greece. 

They mainly want to know if I'm rummaging through rubbish for my dinner. Once I confirm that I am not (yet), 'do you want to leave the Euro?' is usually the next question. I live in Greece. Out of choice. I've lived here pre and post Euro and pre and post crisis. I love it here. The country, the beauty, the sea, the people, the weather, the sights, the life, the atmosphere... I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. 

I’m not a big fan of watching the news. I try to keep away from anything depressing unless absolutely necessary. After having a typical Greek Friday night which consisted of countless shots and dancing on tables, I woke up around noon on Saturday, put on my sunglasses and went out to get a much-needed coffee. On my way to the café, I walked straight into a ma-hoosive queue at an ATM and thought, 'why the hell is everyone here on a Saturday and more importantly, can they move out of the damn way so I can get a coffee before my head breaks'. 

Greece Debt Crisis Bank Queue


 I don’t remember how far into my hangover I logged into Facebook and realised that the shit was hitting the fan at breakneck speed.

“What I admire most about the Greek people, is the calmness in which they panic.” - www.humor.gr

Greece Debt Crisis: The Initial Set-Back

The Greek crisis of the past few years has been tough, to say the least, on the Greek people. The image of a well-dressed, clean, normal looking elderly lady, asking for money from a stranger at the airport because she was hungry, perfectly sums up the situation.

Perhaps a lesser publicised fact is that over 5,000 people have committed suicide because the financial measures imposed upon them were just too much. 5,000 people took their own lives because of the crisis. How many others want to do the same? How many others will?

And now, lucky us! We have a decision to make.

Greece Referendum: Freedom of Choice?


Did you ever play that game when you were younger, the 'which would you rather choose' game?

‘If you had to choose between eating shit or licking your dog's balls, which would you rather choose?’

‘If you have to choose between never-ending austerity and instant chaos, which would you rather choose?’

This is what we, the Greek people, have been kindly told to decide by Sunday. A rock and a hard place, or, eating shit vs. dog's bollocks, if you will.

It seems to be common belief that Greeks are being asked to choose whether we want to stay in the Euorzone or not. It may come as news to some but not all of us are anarchists and most Greeks are all for peace and unity and would love it if Greece could stop being the smelly kid in the class and just fit in with the cool kids already. But that’s not the question we are being asked to answer. The Greek people on Sunday are being asked to decide if they accept the new measures of austerity suggested by the Eurozone for countless years to come, in order to pay back its debt.

Via www.wetrade4you.com

Via www.wetrade4you.com

Our prime minister, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza (The Coalition of the Radical Left) thought it best that he didn’t answer this question himself otherwise he would be faced with a yes/no conundrum of his own: (a) vote 'yes' (Greek: ΝΑΙ) and be hanged in Parliament square by his own party mates, or (b) vote 'no' (Greek: ΟΧΙ) and be impeached immediately... and THEN hanged in Parliament square. Instead, Alexis went with (c), leaving it to the Greek people to decide since no one is going to hang them. If the worst comes to the worst, they’ll only hang themselves.

What the actual hell...? Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi

What the actual hell...? Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi

(Side note: the referendum may not even take place because we are being asked to decide on SUNDAY if we want to accept the Eurogroup’s proposals which expire the previous TUESDAY. Just in case it wasn’t clear, this is the level of 'fucked-up' we are talking about here.)

31-year-old Athenian, Michael, works two jobs, 7-days-a-week. 'No one really knows what a “yes” or a “no” vote actually means. We haven’t been properly informed. Most people who want to leave the Euro and go back to the Drachma haven’t got a clue what this really means for Greece. With that in mind, how can we vote?'

Maria, 33, a banker from Athens says: 'Thousands of teens have come of voting age this year. There are 108,371 new voters, most of whom don’t have a clue what voting either way actually means, with the future of Greece in their hands. By law, a referendum is a clear-cut question. Have you seen the ballot? It’s a complete joke! The government is supposed to make the best possible decision for its country. This is why we voted for them but now they are just throwing the ball to the people, knowing full well that they are not equipped to make such a decision.' The crux of the matter is that, either way, yay or nay, no one is going to be happy and misery will abound.

Greece Referendum: What do 'YES' and 'NO' really mean? 


Greek Debt Crisis Nai or Oxi


Well, no one actually knows for sure. 

 Sofia, 35, retail assistant

'I don’t know if it’s because I’m pregnant, but I’m really getting emotional with all this. What world am I bringing my child into? Greek politician Theodoros Pangalos said that we all had a piece of the pie. I hated him for saying that since I believed he was part of the reason we got into this mess. But in hindsight, perhaps he was right. Some may have taken a piece of the pie with a teaspoon and others, such as Pangalos, with a ladle, but at the end of the day, we all had a bit, so now it’s time to suck it up and pay it back. But does anyone actually ever say ‘no’ to pie? Why are Greeks being penalised for this? It was offered up and available to us, and we accepted.'

Peter, 38, broker

'I’ve felt the brunt of the crisis since it first started. I can’t tell you how many times my salary was delayed for months at a time or my bonuses and holiday pay cut. I want Greece to stay in the EU. The news is so messed up you don’t know what to believe so I only read a few trustworthy websites. International clients often ask me why we don’t want to stay in the Euro. People think that we are all anarchists and don’t want peace. I’m scared that if we leave the Euro, other countries will do what they want to us. We will have no support. Turkey may invade.'

Antonia, 44, unemployed

'People who want to vote 'no' haven’t realised that they won’t be able to have their creature comforts anymore. They are used to having all the latest gadgets but when they won’t be able to afford the new iPhone because it will cost way more because of depreciation when we print Drachmas, what will they do then?'

Lena, 33, accountant

'People who have taken their money out of Greece already, including the very same politicians who have put us in this situation in the first place and tell us not to panic or take our money out of Greece, are not bothered at all if we go back to the Drachma. They will just become richer and come and buy half the country.'

Tasos, 23, student

'I have two professors on totally opposite sides of the fence. One will be voting ‘yes’ and the other a big fat Greek ‘no’. But they both say the same thing; Greece is not at all ready to leave the Euro yet. At least one year of planning is needed for cultivating food among other things. If it all happens immediately, this coming winter, people will die.'

Dimitris, 27, mathematician

'Today there was a rally in the centre for the 'Nos'. The next rally will be for the 'Yesses' and I'm very afraid that this will be the start of a civil war.'

“NO” (a.k.a. 'Kiss my ass, Merkel')

Greece Credit Crisis No Oxi


NO to being forever in debt, sold into slavery, being Merkel's bitches and forever kissing the EU's backsides. Well, this is what this group is trying to avoid, anyways.

Stefanos, 27, waiter

'When the austerity measures started, everything was being taxed. The only thing that they forgot to tax was how many times we went to the toilet and/or flushed per day, but I’m sure that’s next on the list.'

Yianni, 68, pensioner

'They are threatening that we will have no money if we say ‘no’. But if we say ‘yes’, we will have money… Money that will go to taxes. If you don’t stay in the euro you will starve. Okay, so what do I need to do to stay in the Euro? Starve. I don’t know about anyone else, but this doesn’t sound so great to me.'

 Pavlos, 51, mechanic

'The Eurogroup are telling us to stop spending. In order to stop spending, over 1,000 people who work in the public sector, and the families they support, will be out of work and possibly on the streets. This is not the easiest thing to do and Tsipras refused. He’s not having any of it. Mao Tse-tung says, 'Politics is war without blood, while war is politics with blood.' This whole debacle is to their benefit. You can’t just throw people out on the streets, letting them starve and commit suicide. They say they want to help but what are they doing? No one is investing in Greece. We have become Europe's court jesters.'

"Save Europe; drown a Greek!" via http://charliehebdo.fr

'Save Europe; drown a Greek!' via http://charliehebdo.fr

Antonis, 26, unemployed

'Samaras, the previous prime minister of Greece, totally sabotaged Tsipras. He knew he would get dethroned, so he left it to the last minute for the elections, and Tsipras only had 3 days to come up with a proposal for the EU. Samaras cut off Greece's nose to spite its face. There has always been competition between Samaras and Tsipras but this just shows the kind of government we had and how they got us into this mess in the first place. It was never about the people for them. Despite a clear communist streak in him, Tsipras seems to care more about the people.'

Rena, 36, laywer

'Iceland left the Euro and are doing much better now. But in order to do this, they joined together as a people and made agreements and sacrifices. For a whole month, the people of Iceland worked for free and were provided food. This was a great idea and really helped them. Are Greece prepared to do this? I fear that the Greek people don’t stand united enough to pull something like this off.' 

Saying ‘no’ to austerity doesn’t mean that Greeks don’t want to pay their debts or taxes, or that they are lazy. Greeks need to stop being penalised and being viewed as a people who want to be let off the hook and have an easy way out. The thinking that we are in this situation because we are bad people has generally got to stop. On the other hand, saying ‘yes’ to the measures doesn’t mean that we are kissing Europe’s butt. It just means that we are choosing the seemingly slightly lesser of two evils. Greeks have their reasons for leaning towards a certain vote, and unfortunately, but not surprisingly, they are based on each one’s personal circumstances instead of what would be best for the country as a whole.

Conspiracy Theories

So, is this all a big charade? Is Greece the scapegoat? Are they just jealous that we are so fabulous and are trying to bring us down? There are a lot of conspiracy theories flying around. 'I’ll never forget when the big financial crisis hit the USA,' says Spyros, a 44-year-old taxi driver from Patra. 'About a month later, all of a sudden, in all of the papers: "Greece is in crisis". I don’t think it’s a coincidence. This is all one big game; a game where people unfortunately die.'

Greek Debt Crisis Monopoly


Housewife Konstantina, 39, says that the EU want Greece to exit on their own. 'They are making our lives as difficult as possible so that we leave of our own accord. They want a Grexit and they want the Greeks to take the fall for anything that happens in the future. There are many theories as to why. Perhaps they want to make us the China of Europe. Or perhaps they realise that we will only end up spending what they give us and always end up back in this mess over and over again.'

'The Greeks have to be humiliated,' writes journalist, Zoe Williams, 'because the alternative – of treating them as equal parties or “adults”, as Lagarde wished them to be – would lead to a debate about the Eurogroup: what its foundations are, what accountability would look like, and what its democratic levers are – if indeed it has any. Solidarity with Greece means everyone, in and outside the single currency, forcing this conversation: the country is being sacrificed to maintain a set of delusions that enfeebles us all.'

They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our humour

I inevitably ran out of cash yesterday, and had to unfortunately join the masses and queue up at an ATM at 11 pm to get my daily allowance of 60 Euros. Rumour has it that this amount is to fall to 20 Euros any day now. Whoop. I made friends at the ATM. We were all laughing and making jokes. 'Sure, storm the ATMS,' said one fellow queue-er, 'but why are you storming the gas stations? Will you be driving out of the Eurozone?' Cackles of laughter ensued, but I have a feeling we were all trying not to cry.

Scrolling through Facebook this morning, though, had me in stitches of laughter at how much we can take the piss out of ourselves. Greek humour is unmatched. This is not to say that we don’t take the situation seriously. Don’t get me wrong, there is a thick air of doom, gloom and despair… which is made a little lighter with our twisted sense of humour.

“They never did forgive us for winning the Euro in 2004.” - www.humor.gr

Before I Grexit...

I know that patriots of every country love their country - but Greece truly is special. And contrary to popular belief, its people aren’t lazy. We are passionate. And we love working. And creating. And teaching. And having people over. And sharing. And treating. We may see a pay check once in a blue moon but we will always treat.

Whatever happens, and however much the many have to pay for the sins of the few, the grossly tainted reputation of Greece and Greeks has to change.

We are a proud people and quite rightly so as we have a lot to be proud of. Greece has so much to offer citizens, tourists and businesses, both in terms of tourism and produce. The concept #SelfieforGreece was started in order to bring awareness to the thousands of amazing products Greece has to offer and encourage people to buy Greek, thus helping its economy.

Greeks are worried. They are stressed out, depressed and upset. It's generally not the most pleasant time to be a Greek citizen. As a Greek living here, though, I have faith in us and am certain we will get through this. We always say, "Την υγειά μας να έχουμε" (at least we have our health) "δόξα τω Θεώ" (thank God). But that's my positive-thinking-little-view from the inside.

So, what's it like from the outside?

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Follow Kat on Twitter @SuperKaterina

Pictures: Getty

Tags: World News Wednesday, Politics, Money worries