Athens: Les Greeks Miserables

Posted on April 20, 2006

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oedipus.jpg

by melinda elliott 

Ti kaneis?/How are you?

I remember the time I could ask that question and hear a simple "kala/fine" response or ‘mia hara/great". Lately, I noticed it’s been quite awhile since I heard anyone tell me they’re doing great. So much so that I’ve become wary of even asking the question in case I don’t have enough time to hear the litany of complaints from people.

Parents bemoan the fact that their sons and daughters can’t find jobs. It’s the rare person who tells me that their kids are doing just fine in the job market. Business people tell me that they’re thinking of closing their businesses unless they’ve closed them already, which means I will hear how much money they lost last year and the effect it had on their families.

University graduates tell me that they’re going to Chicago/London/Toronto to go live with a relative there in the hopes of getting a job. Relatives have told me that after 5 years of studying abroad, their kids won’t be coming back to Greece since they’ve found better jobs in other countries.

Greeks from abroad can’t remember why they moved here in the first place. For every immigrant that has just arrived, it seems I know two more who are leaving. I hear these complaints at my stores, at parties, in the lineups at the tax or health fund offices, and from our friends.

The most common question I’m asked when people hear my accent is "Where are you from?" followed immediately by "Why would you leave Canada for Greece?"

There was a time when my stories of romance, great weather, beautiful scenery and love of Greek history would meet with approval. Now, if I mention those things in response to their question they will tell me that I can’t live off scenery and history and it’s time I start thinking about my son’s future if I don’t care about my own.

Is it just a case of the winter blues or are people really that miserable? Or maybe I hear more from disillusioned Greeks than the average person by virtue of my foreigner status or because I ask this question a hundred times a week, it stands to reason that the percentage of negative responses are that much higher than if I was working in an office cubicle?

Maybe I just need to change my greeting to a simple "yeia sas/hi" so I can take a break from the doom and gloom conversations that emanate from "ti kanete". If I don’t, then I might just be inspired enought to write the Greek version of Les Miserables.

Photo via litmuse