Posted by: tabliope | October 27, 2012

The foreigner has a problem.

This piece byPaul Mason is an excellent description of what parts of Athens are like at the moment.  I’m not going to mention the name of the political party that is causing so much alarm because they have a history of googling themselves and then, at best, trolling your blog or, at worst, publishing your address on line.  Before the second election a journalist wrote an editorial saying why people shouldn’t vote for this party and   she was told that they knew where her children went to school and she was being watched.  It’s just one small detail of what these thugs are getting up to.  Last weekend they were leafleting in the area in which I live and although I don’t think I’m one of the foreigners that they’re too concerned about, nevertheless they frighten me.  

It’s not just this party that’s dragging the country down.  There’s the unemployment, particularly for the younger people, the reduction in pensions and salaries along with the increase in taxes.  Yes, of course someone has to pay for what went wrong but most of those who got it wrong have taken their money and left.  The people cleaning up aren’t necessarily the ones who had the party in the good days.  Now many people who still have jobs don’t really care too much anymore.  If they’re going to have their salary cut by 35% then they’ll give you 35% less in return.  Amazingly enough there are still health workers and teachers who turn up at work and some of these people haven’t been paid at all for months.  

But despite the hard times, the fact that many businesses are operating on a subsistence basis there’s no sense of encouraging customers to spend money with them.  I know that no one ever came to Greece for the customer service but it’s got worse in the couple of years that I’ve been here.  Two years ago I didn’t actually believe that this was possible but it is.

Last week I went to the supermarket and when the cashier couldn’t scan one of my purchases she simply put it under the counter and told me that I couldn’t have it because there was a problem.  When I first arrived I’d probably have accepted that, albeit reluctantly, but it would have given me something to blog about at least.  Now I’ve realised that you just stand up to it and say οχι and refuse to move.  It made me unpopular with the queue behind me but they encouraged the cashier to do something about it because they saw that I wasn’t going anywhere.  A supervisor was summoned and she was told that there was a problemo with the xeni – a problem with the foreigner.  At least they weren’t calling me crazy rat lady so I could live with being the foreigner although I did hanker after Waitrose and how they’d be handing this particular problem.  The supervisor told me the same as the cashier that there was a problem and I couldn’t have it so I still stood my ground and finally they had to get the manager in who with much eye-rolling and huffing finally worked out how they could find a price for the item.  

Later that day I went to a kiosk to buy the English language paper, Athens News.  They hang each newspaper they sell from a high wire so that the customer knows what’s available and then you hunt around various piles of newspapers to find what it is you want.  I couldn’t find it so I asked the kiosk attendant where they were and she told me they had none and that they’d all been sold.  I pointed at the one hanging from the wire and asked for it and she told me ‘no’ and did the head tilt combined with a shrug to underline that she really meant it.  It would have meant her moving from her seat and standing on some steps to reach it but she wasn’t going to do it.  

I feel protective towards Greece and her people despite the above.  Although we’ve been affected to some extent by the financial crisis, it’s nothing compared to what the Greeks are going through.  They deserve better than they’ve got.  They deserve better than some of the politicians that they have and they know that.  I just hope that when they try to get rid of the current ones that they don’t bring in the wrong group.






  1. If a foreigner who looks like them is treated like this, I can’t bear to think what the foreign-looking ones have to put up with. Because it does sound as though – even given the Greek propensity for being unhelpful – as though there’s more of a point to this.

    I went down a different road in our neighbourhood the other day and out of nowhere I came upon a little Greek shopping corner. There was a deli, a butcher, a greengrocer and a pizza place, They had 18 different kinds of feta and many vats of kalamata and thousands of cans of those manky little beans and I couldn’t read many of the labels and each shop was called Nick’s this and Pete’s that. I loaded up my basket and got up to the counter with a big grin on my face, to tell the Greek cashier: “Wow, I’m really pleased I found you here!”

    She grunted, said “That’s all?” without looking at me, and chucked my veg into a bag. It was like being back in Athens again.

  2. It’s astonishing to hear about this because the effects on normal people’s day to day lives just aren’t really reported over here.

  3. Does your typical Greek know or care at all about “customer service”? Or are they only concerned with the product, with price and quality? Perhaps they are completely inured to “bad”, i.e. no, customer service and can’t imagine it being any different. Perhaps they’re like my friends in Brazil who are given the most inconvenient itineraries imaginable by their travel department but don’t understand me when I urge them to protest, resist, and change the system. For them, this is the way things are done, things are intractably thus, and it’s impossible, nay, unthinkable, to change “the process”. Good customer service after all is about being responsive. Are the Greeks generally fatalists?

    • I think that this is it exactly and I’ve even been told that Greeks are far more polite to foreigners than they are to each other.

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