Living in crisis
Neos Kosmos Greek edition journalist Claire Gazis gives us her impression of Greece in crisis after her holiday
During my recent trip to Greece, I came across many discussions around the present economic crisis originating from followers of all political parties who essentially agreed, that one of the main reasons Greece has gotten where it is today, is the political system. Everybody stressed that the poor performance of the current system of governance is responsible for the pain caused to the average citizen and the lowering of their standard of living. And although they accept that those who run the country must be punished, they continue to tolerate them but do not trust them.
The average Greek citizen doesn't think much of the country's politicians whose unfortunate sayings, or frastikes gafes as they're colloquially known in Greece, often become the topic of many discussions and feed many jokes that spur those in the 'street parliaments' known widely as cafeterias. In the meantime, and keeping in mind that the everyday products and essential services in Greece are dearer than those offered in other country members of EU, it is easy for anyone to understand why so many Greeks seek to migrate to other countries.
So, wherever I went, as soon as Australia was mentioned, they wanted to know more about the cost of living, the working conditions, wages, the health system and so on. Australia, which for their parents and grandparents represented many years ago the distant unknown, it seems has become familiar to the younger generations of Greeks who on many occasions said they would choose it as an ideal destination to build their lives.
f course I never mentioned that Australia is the Promised Land. But the fact that it has a steady and healthy economy with an average income of $27,000 per annum, that unemployment is less than 5 per cent, that the health system is regarded as one of world's best, and that Australian citizens seem to trust their political system (95 per cent voted during the last elections), the claim cannot be disputed. One aspect of Australia's society that surprised Greeks was the multicultural nature of the Australian community. It seemed that the concept of multiculturalism is relatively unknown and not well understood by our compatriots. They were taken aback by information relating to the multicultural face of Australia - a country that consists of 22.5 million people who speak more than 80 different languages, originate from more than 200 different countries and follow 116 different religions.
Personally, I am against young Greek professionals migrating to Australia. I believe Greece needs its young professionals, and they are those who should, during these difficult times, help the country to build a better future for themselves and their families. Marching in the streets and employing unorthodox methods to protest, refusing to participate or remaining bogged in an endless blame game about their leaders who they did, after all, vote for, will not solve the problem.
They should start their own creative revolution using their skills and, most importantly, their aspirations of how they see their country 10 years down the track to fuel such change. At the island of Lefkada, I spoke to young Australian-born and educated, men and women, who now live permanently in Greece.
They all agree that the economic crisis has affected their families one way or another; they blame the huge circulation of plastic money (credit cards), the banks, easily issuing loans with high interest rates, Greece as a member of the European Union, the euro, and so on. But, although they admit that the sociopolitical issues and the economics alike have affected their lives, there is no plan to return to the Antipodes. They agreed that even though Australia is at the back of their mind, they are optimistic that they will make it in Greece and they remain faithful to their adopted country.
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