To be sure: I am fully aware that Greek unemployment exceeds 20% by now (with about 50% unemployment among the young). I am fully aware that Greeks have experienced brutal austerity with incomes going down and expenses going up. I am fully aware that this kind of social cost is absolutely unacceptable in a country of the First World.
Having said this, our trip is baffling me. We have seen nothing but busy and bustling life in the cities. The coffee shops and tavernas are full and everyone seems to have at least one smartphone. People are in good spirits as far as a stranger can tell.
We had lunch at a taverna in the Zagoria. The weather was bad and there were only a couple of other guests. My Greek wife felt like she had to talk with the owners to brighten up their spirits. When a young girl, their daughter, came along, my wife probably remembered her own modest upbringings in a village and picked up the iPad from the car to show it to the girl. The girl said “oh, that’s the old one; I already have the new one”. My wife then asked for the bill which came to 23 Euro for 2 stuffed tomatoes, 1 salad, 1 water and 1 beer. She paid but didn’t get a receipt. My wife then told me that she never wanted to go back to that place…
I later chatted about this with the waitress in the dining room at our hotel (140 EUR/day; compared to Vienna or Salzburg, that’s ok when considering that breakfast, dinner and 5 stars were included; but still not a give-away in times of crisis). The lady told me to forget what I saw. Yes, the Greeks may be sitting in cafes and, yes, they may all show off their iPhones but those Greeks don’t have money to eat. Why do they do that? Easy, she said, they are Greeks.
Whatever the case may be, for a society where so much proven suffering is taking place, I see far too much good living, be it fake or real. I am reminded of Europeans criticizing the USA for not having universal health insurance (“what kind of a society is this when they are so wealthy but do not offer health insurance to everyone?”).
What kind of a society is Greek society when there are still so many people quite or very well off while so many others are in most dire straits? Where is the solidarity of those who have wonderful homes in Panorama, Chalkidiki, Spetses, etc. with those who don’t know how to get food on the table the next day?
I don’t have answers to these questions but I feel pretty certain that ancient Greeks would not be happy if they could see the lack of solidarity in modern Greek society.