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.