Posted by: tabliope | June 17, 2011

Flat broke.

So, what’s it like living in a bankrupt country?  Right now it feels as if we are personally paying off Greece’s debt through direct taxation.  Thanks a lot for that, George.  I always believed that you couldn’t really be taxed on what you didn’t have and people who moaned about paying tax should  get a grip and I lived in Germany so I know a lot about paying tax.  Now I’d like to back-track on that a little.  Along with the direct taxation we’ve already been paying the ‘dumb, stupid foreigner tax’ through inflated rents but I suppose we get the benefit of being able to bale out of here if it really goes wrong so I shouldn’t moan about that (but I do, every single day).

Greece still runs on a bazaar economy where cash is King and no one wants to bother with stupid paperwork like receipts.  Not if you want the very best price, my friend.’  Trying to explain to the average Greek that this has contributed to the desperate state of the economy is like explaining anything at all to Sarah Palin.  There’s a bemused stare, a nervous laugh and we all move on to a different subject.  Joking apart, there are a lot of very poor people here who have had their future financial security pulled from under them, mostly by the people they elected to run their various governments.   Equally, there are still a huge number of BMWs, Mercedes and Porsche Cayennes jamming the roads paid for with money that the tax office knows nothing about.

From my point of view Athens is not at a standstill and it’s not unsafe to be here although I wouldn’t want to place myself right down in Syntagma on a general strike day.  For the last three weeks there has been a peaceful protest by the Indignants but it’s hardly been reported because there was no violence or petrol-bombing.   For the average Greek it probably is more difficult to live here because of the cuts in services, the strikes in the public sector and the steep climb in taxes and prices whilst having to take roughly a 20% salary cut.

From a personal point of view I’m noticing a lot of expats leaving – a few of my friends leave in July.  There are rumours that a very large foreign company is about to pull out of Greece which will see more of my friends go.  People are still arriving but not in the numbers that they were previously.  Up here in the northern suburbs a lot of shops are closing; not the large chains but the smaller, independent retailers who haven’t been able to survive the downturn.

Greece is still beautiful, she just blew her money and is now flat broke.




  1. Much of that makes me feel rather sad. I hope the situation improves soon – for everyone there.

  2. I agree – I think it’s going to take a long time though

  3. Last time I was on Paros the old couple that owned the apartments I was staying in were telling us they were going to sell up as they reckoned they wouldn’t make any money if they started paying tax on their income from the rentals. I wasn’t all that sympathetic as according to the official notice on the back of our apartment door, they were taking the tax off us as part of the rent – and not handing it over. Your point about the average Greek’s failure to understand the link between this and the country being broke is well made, from what I saw there …. I still love the place though.

  4. Well, at least you have nice weather to go with your bankruptcy. It rained all day here today.

  5. I feel so sad about all this. I love it there too even though the apparent lack of understanding of cause and effect (both by politicians and by the public) is pretty surprising.

    I think it is everyone’s duty to get themselves to Greece and spend as much money as they can on food, booze, jewellery and Acropolis snow globes. It’s the only way to keep the country afloat.

  6. KE: and holographic magnets of kittens on motorbikes.

    • My memory is that there was only ONE holographic magnet of kitties on motorbikes in the whole of Athens and we had to look in a lot of tat shops before finally going back and buying it from where we first saw it.

  7. My collection of lighting-up Acropolis snow globes has dwindled from 2 to 0, so I’ll need to stock up on them again shortly. If I find any holographic magnets of kittens on motorbikes remaining in the Athens shops you can be sure I will snatch them up immediately, as they’re obviously very rare and valuable.

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