Greece’s ‘bankruptcy’ reflects its culture

Maria Kalaitzandonakes

It’s a scary word to call a country, and Greece is right on the verge. Their current bail out package is now put to a public vote, which has sent even the most seasoned of investors crying for their “mamas.”
Jobs cut, houses foreclosed, banks shut and food prices raised – along with mass panic.
Or one would think.
My cousin, Giorgios, who lives on an island in Greece, has been unemployed for over a year. He is not homeless, hungry or unhappy.
He has taken this year as a government imposed vacation, visiting the Greek islands by cheap boat or bus service and happily eating up his savings account. He no longer goes out every morning for coffee in the town square; instead, he and other unemployed friends go to one another’s homes and drink filter coffee.
He is not homeless because he never borrowed money and neither did many of his friends. It is not frowned upon in Greece to live with your parents until you get married, nor is it odd to rent a small apartment until you can afford to buy a home without credit.
He is not hungry because he knows all of the people in his small city. If he eats out, many times, the owner will pick up the tab. If he eats at home, he’ll make soup for lots of friends and invite them over. If he gets desperate, his family is always there to support him, and many of them live near by.
He is not unhappy because, in general, Greeks are not wound up as tight. When faced with unemployment, he turns to his beaches. He turns to his conversations. He turns to his family.  His country may be bankrupt, but his life is not. There are things that red tape cannot touch.
If this same situation happened in America, the haunting images of The Great Depression would be tripled. They would be homeless, lying on the streets with no family for miles around to take them in. People would be hungry, with no plot of olive trees in the family and no local guy to give you a break. People would be unhappy because without a job to drive their day, they wouldn’t know what to do.
In America a job is what you circle your life around. This is not because we are obsessed with money; it is simply a different mindset. Americans like having something to motivate them. When faced with unceasing unemployment, the person rushes to apply for a job at other places. Giorgios felt no such need.
Greece is not America, and Greece doesn’t treat its bankruptcy in the way America does.
As money flows from worried Germans and the rest of the world looks in with baited breath, the Greeks sip their afternoon coffee and sing an old song about the government, “Watch your pretty throat … for you are unfit to rule us.”  Unemployed Giorgios and his friends discuss, with lively passion, their government.
By Maria Kalaitzandonakes