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Saturday, December 03, 2005 

'Tis the Season to Be Penniless

Last night, while driving back from Ygeias Hospital in Maroussi to my neighbourhood, we must have passed, literally, a thousand stores. From Kifissias Ave. to Vassilisas Sofias through Syntagma I made a very disturbing observation. All the stores were well lit, fully stocked but shopping customers were nowhere to be found inside them. In fact, the only people on the streets were those waiting for the bus. I could understand if it was a Wednesday night in the middle of November but this was a Friday night at 7pm--less than a month away from Christmas and only a day or two after most Greeks receive their monthly paycheques. I thought that maybe it was the weather and everyone was having coffee enjoying the unseasonally warm temperatures. But no, this didn't seem to be the case either since even the coffee shops were empty. That was even more strange since coffee and Greeks are synonomous.

I first noticed this phenomenon back in July when my husband and I were out for a coffee at one of the main squares in our neighbourhood. Normally, it's jam-packed with people and we are so accustomed to morphing into table vultures (the act of spotting patrons leaving a table and moving in fast enough before anyone else gets there) that when we saw the empty square we thought it must have been a long weekend and no one told us.

Our stores have had a noticeable drop in revenues from last year and we had assumed it was because a lot of the migrant population had left the city after the Olympic Games and that it would pick up again like it usually does by the end of November. However, that increase hasn't happened and from what I saw last night, I doubt it will.

Greeks just don't have money anymore. Both friends and customers are complaining about it. It's no wonder since Greeks have been borrowing money for unreasonably high mortgages; using credit cards like they were free money and the Athens 2004 employment bubble burst. When every second store has a "for rent" sign on it and every third car has a "for sale" sign on it, you just know things aren't going well. I don't need a status report from the Economy Ministry to tell me otherwise. The proof is on the streets and in our dwindling store profits.

2006 doesn't look very promising from where I sit.

While incomes have plunged and overborrowing is killing families left and right, we also forget that the government can't print money any more, like in the good ol'days. There's shortage of cash everywhere. I went to the bank the other day to withdraw several thousand euros for transfer abroad and I was told I had to give the bank 24 hours notice because they do not "usually" have "so much cash" at hand. And this is not some backwater branch, this is central Athens, a stone's throw from the Bank of Greece (!) The euro is killing us, no doubt, but also the whole cycle of business is deflating rapidly... "It's consumption, stupid" but with what cash?

Hi Seawitch,

Great post as always!

It's not just Greeks without money. Even my someone decent American residuals don't keep me in the style of life I'd like. I may have to start selling "hartomandila" soon.

The economic situation tends to grow worse and worse. Last friday 4 of my colleagues were retrenched. It is not good timing to be out of a job with Xmas season upon them and their families. Another 25 are scheduled to undergo the same treatment in February.

It looks to me as if we are all in for a sleigh ride in the coming year.

But we NEED more immigrants to do the work Greeks won't do. Isn't that the mantra? I hope people are beginning to realize the precarious house of cards the west is basing their entire foundation on. This untenable ideology can only move forward with native prosperity, because it is that prosperity that lulls the natives into indifference towards the immigrant.

Had to smile at the comments about the banks. Reminded me of when we recently took a lot of coins in to deposit. First branch “didn’t have a machine” to count them, so we were re-directed to a second branch. Where the machine was broken. Back in the UK, my reaction would probably have been, “Well, if you don’t want my money I’ll find a bank that does” But, hey, this is Greece! Hm, what happened to counting coins by hand? It wasn’t as though either branch was busy. Maybe the banks are making so much money on interest rates they just ain’t interested in small change.

Seems the stores in the UK are bracing themselves for a lean Christmas but, over there, internet shopping is getting the blame. Guess that doesn’t apply here.

One (of the many)things I like about Greece is that Christmas isn't so 'in your face' as it is in the UK.

Whatever the real reason for the lack of money in circulation, where I am it seems the Euro is getting the blame.

Lots of Greek acquaintances of mine are moving to London since they can't find jobs in Athens, or those who do don't get paid more than 500€ a month. I think that would deserve a full post of its own so I'll stop here.

(Steelheart)

Ted and Mike...the only consumption is happening on the credit cards...and consumers now have to pay for their overborrowing as you rightly stated ted. While they're busy paying the banks, they have no money left over for shopping. The banks are posting record profits. I sincerely doubt any of those profits are staying in Greece.

Thitza...you personally know of 29 people who won't have jobs within the next two months. I know of at least a dozen who will be in the same boat. I suspect that once the state layoffs begin, many more will be added to the unemployment lineups. Will these numbers be accurately reflected in the unemployment stats? Θα δούμε.

Phantasmak...And I wouldn't blame them in the least if they did leave. We have an employee at one of our stores who is a certified electrician and works with DEH. He had to take a job with us because his net pay each month is 650€. He told me yesterday he'd like to leave Greece if he had a chance because there's no one way he can get married on his salary here. I also know many of our clients are married, both spouses have jobs and the husband has two. No wonder there are only grandparents at schools to pick their kids up. The parents are too busy trying to pay for the mortgages on the overpriced houses they bought and furnished on credit.

Scruffy...I know a retired US army officer here who has seen his pension cheque who has 'lost' 100€ a month just due to the American dollar's drop against the euro on exchange. I haven't seen him in awhile, maybe he is selling hartomandila already.

Seawitch,

I hear ya. I'm already scoping out corners near my house, but most are already taken, so I'll have to reconsider my "hartomandila" location.

lol, sorry guys, double-posted and only just noticed. Phantasmak - how the hell can anyone live on €500 a month anywhere in Greece, let alone Athens?

Interesting article in today’s eKathimerini

My brother and I lost our jobs. My brother is a qualified electro engineer. He was employed by Siemens, but he has been withoult a job for a while. He is willing to work in anything and at anything, never mind if it is 500 or 300 Euros a month, as long as he lands a job.

I am 25 and was dismissed by my company when the branch in Drossia had to lay off employees.

I am also willing to work in any legal industry, doing whatever legal jobs are available.

I have to agree wholeheartedely with Ethnocentrist's point of view, it seems that we Greeks are even being overlooked for the menial tasks available, because these menial tasks are "reserved for the Xenos".

Are they telling us that because of the Xenos we can not find jobs and that we must leave our country. ? Almost all our friends are unemployed, hoping and waiting for better times, or underemployed.
Never mind the money, kati dulia, kati dulia.

If we can not land jobs before March, my brother and I will try and find something elsewhere, unless we resign ourselves to accept our present condition .

I can not understand how situations like mine are a source of meeriment and humour for others. Maybe if Mr Scruffy really starts selling "hartomandilia', he might become less sardonic.

Christina,

Sorry about your situation. Not my fault though. I don't know why you would single me out for my comments. I don't think they were insensitive at all. I agreed with sea witch about the situation in Greece and merely used the "hartomandila" example as a way to cheer up my post at the end. If you want to be miserable and "doom and gloom", that's your choice.

However, I choose not to be. I know it's fashionable to blame America and Americans for everything, but I assure you it wasn't my fault you can't get a job.

Regarding your comments about Xenos getting all the jobs. Well, I'm sure Greek businessmen are just like businessmen all over the world. They take the better deal, and go with tried and tested. Maybe they find Greeks non-productive, and unmotivated compared to the Xenos. That's what I've heard anyway from several British friends of mine here who employ mainly (legal) Albanians. Darn good workers! Most foreigners work harder, and for less money. Just economics, my dear.

Hi Christina. I truly understand how you feel and since you're female, your employment opportunities and pay rate are about 2/3 of what your male counterpart's are. However, I don't believe that migrants picking olives or mixing cement are what's keeping you unemployed. Corruption, bureacracy, inadequate laws and reforms in this country are largely to blame for your unemployment right now. I'm not familiar with your education or experience so I can't comment on your own personal qualifications for employment.

In the 5 years, we've been running our stores here, we've had many young people looking for work. The majority of them were unhirable due to their lack of computer training. Of all the ones who came to us looking for work, NONE...not ONE had even so much as a curriculum vitae to show us. We had to fire 5 of them for theft and/or laziness. Migrant workers had nothing to do with their ability to be hired and stay hired.

I have a client in one store who is also 25 and has a bachelor of education degree and she cannot find work. She asked me why I didn't hire her at our stores and I told her that it's because she cannot type, she has never used a computer let alone the internet, and doesn't know the difference between a Playstation or XBox. She's a lovely person and I would have no problem hiring her but she simply lacks the skills we require to run our business successfully. I told her that if we both applied for a teaching position at a public school, she would definitely get the position over me just because she is qualified in education and I'm not.

Basically, my point is that no one is entitled to a job. Job applicants must have the appropriate skills necessary to get hired and then the work ethic needed to keep that job.

One last thing, Scruffy was not trivializing your unemployed situation. Please don't take it personally. I wish you all the best in your job search efforts. I certainly hope both you and your brother will be able to be back in the employed sector in the New Year. Good luck!

Hi Seawitch,

You are so diplomatic and said what you said perfectly!

After writing my last post, I did wonder if my comments would inflame the situation more, but unfortunately, sometimes emotions flow faster than reason.

But, yes, you are correct, I wasn't triviliazing her situation. We all have our financial worries in one way or another.

I'd like to close this post by saying peace be with us all this Christmas (I mean Holiday SORRY) Season.

:)

Scruffy,

At what point during her post did Christina blame you personally, Americans in general or America the country for her lack of work? You jumped to that conclusion all on your own. It sounds like you've got a chip on your shoulder.

You also mention that your friends employ "mostly" legal workers. You summed it up well though, they work for less money. Doesn't make it right though does it? If you wanna employ a legal worker than fine but don't pay them less because of their nationality. You should tell that to your friends.

Saying that, I don't believe Scruffy was trivializing in his original post. I also believe it's unfair for you to blame foreigners for your inability to get work. Certainly not a legal foreigner anyway. If you want to blame anyone, blame people like some of scruffy's friends who employ illegals because it's cheaper.

John,

As an outsider just observing, it also appeared to me that Christina was singling out Scruffy as an American. I've been on other blogs that he posts on and they usually jump on him for whatever he says. It's an unfortunate part of being an American these days. Jealousy is a wicked emotion!

As for his comments on "mainly (legal) Albanians. I took this to read that his friend hires mainly legal Albanians and other unknowns (not necessarily illegal Albanians). For that matter, he could be hiring legal Pakistanis. Who knows? You say "Tomato" and I say "Tomatoe".

Oh God yeah Melanie,

As you said: It's an unfortunate part of being an American these days. Jealousy is a wicked emotion!

You are soooooooo right, it's the first thought I have in the morning and the last one at night... It must be a complete b*tch that the whole world is jelous of you because your American nationality(!)

Poor you!!!

(I am joking by the way, dont be offended)

"The majority of them were unhirable due to their lack of computer training. Of all the ones who came to us looking for work, NONE...not ONE had even so much as a curriculum vitae to show us. We had to fire 5 of them for theft and/or laziness. Migrant workers had nothing to do with their ability to be hired and stay hired."

Just to add my 2 pence worth. A friend of mine (she is greek)is doing a computer course so she can get back into the job market. She has realised that the few years she has had to take out to bring up her children, has left her behind in the skills she now requires. It is a government scheme that pays her (a small sum) to take the course. I have helped her write her CV because she realised she needs one these days. The point is, she sees the situation in the job market has changed. She is not blaming the xenos, she is getting on with updating HER skills and I for one wish her all the best.

Christina,

Sorry to hear about your situation, which I hope it improves. Can I ask you please, are you Greek?

Diva...that's the type of person I'd really be impressed with if she came to us for a job. The fact that she recognized she had to upgrade her skills and did it speaks volumes about her as a person. I would think she would also be the type of person who wouldn't be opposed to learning new things on the job either. I keep telling young people who come into our stores looking for work that even if they have no experience, tell the employer WHY he/she ought to hire you. Show us why you deserved to be hired over someone else. That's what CVs are all about yet very few people seem to know how to write one. Good luck to your friend Diva! I wish I could see a resume like that come across my desk sometime soon.

Spyro

Of course I am greek.

Mr Scruffy,

I don't think that all americans are like you ,with a cynical, an arrogant air of superiority and a bargain basement humouresque .

I did not blame you for not finding a job.

If your british drinking pals enjoy establishing businesses in Greece in order to employ cheap Albanian labour, they should go an open businesses in Albania and provide employement for Albanians there.

I am not blaming anyone for my condition.

I merely pointed out some observations which I encountered in my search for employement. This difficult situation was taken lightly and in a humourous way by Mr.Scruffy.

I wish he would find himself in a similar situation in the not to distant future,so that he may experience it in his own condition, then Mr Scruffy's mockery will fly out of the window together with his hartomandila.

I am sorry I posted. It won't happen again.

Merry Christmas to all.

Another good post dragged down by a person with only one level of ‘conversation’.

MelaniePoo, I agree with what you said there. Scruffy does seem to get jumped on and yet I’ve never found him to be offensive, certainly not deliberately so. Seems some people have a problem with America (OK, perhaps understandable), but let’s not take it out on individual Americans.

Christina, merry Christmas to you. I’m sure your comments are welcome here, but you do seem to have twisted what Scruffy said.

Legal immigrants are here quite within their rights, so let’s cut any racist crap here and now. And it takes two to tango, so people who employ illegals should also be condemned, especially where they are exploiting them for their own profit and to the detriment of others who have a genuine ‘going rate’ for the job. Paying foreigners less is completely unethical, benefiting neither the immigrants nor the vast majority of Greeks.

Thanks (Seawitch, Mike, and Melanie) for the show of support! Some have said that I'm a bit offensive, but I really don't try to be. It's just I'm a direct person and don't believe in coddling people who either attack me or put out "gobblygook" posts. I certainly don't use profanity or abusive language, but directness can be taken the wrong way.

What's funny about Christina's last post is that she refers to me taking her situation in a light and in a humorous way. Actually, I posted my first "hartomandila" comments prior to Christina's initial comment, so herein lies the fallacy. I suspect that "Christina" (if there really is a Christina) is merely a caricature following me from one of the other blogs I post on.

If Christina, or anyone else wants to debate me in this way, that's ok, I don't mind. However, I generally don't just lay back and take it. I will certainly continue to answer back until I get bored as I am starting to get now. Maybe we should just move on, or as the Greeks say "Say-Cola". By the way, I've been called quite the cunning linguist in my time when it comes to debating.

Special note to Sea Witch: I just added your blog to my list of favorites (on my blog) and I hope you don't mind!

Let's not forget that Greek employers hire migrants to do menial tasks because migrants will settle for less and employers will pay less daily wage and save social security money. Illegal, yes, but they do get away with it nonetheless. Migrants are the last to blame. They are only looking for a better future and left their homes for it. I've been here in London for 1.5 years and no one has blamed me for taking their jobs. There is an equal opportunity policy, competition and you have to keep your skills at cutting edge if you want to be ahead of competition at all times. Of course, migrants here do mostly menial tasks also, but still there are those who made it good . Equal opportunity may not be so equal as white British people are still preferred to fill in career vacancies (naturally, they don't want to have all government and corporate echelons filled in with us foreigners only, and since there are a lot of uneducated white British, they would give more chances to those who are educated), but lots of foreigners who are here have made it and I've got five times as many chances to build a life here than in Greece. There are many things I don't like but you can't have the cake and eat it.

Another good post dragged down by a person with only one level of ‘conversation’. - Mikey

Obviously directed at moi.

Awwww, Mikey and has ilk have created and heaped this catastrophe upon us and NOW, he's just too bored to discuss it. Too bad Mikey. It surely isn't my fault that you have nothing of value to add to any of these discussions, which even YOU can clearly see are of interest to MORE than just me, right?

But please, do continue to entertain us with your colorful "yeah,your rights", "way to go's", "you go girls" and "LOLs" which add tremendously to the inane banter you seem to be more comfortable with.

Hmm, I see my comment did not make it, so lemme repeat it. There is no such thing as "kati dulia" in Greek. Not even Jacek Gmoch of 10 years ago would dare use such an expression. And while we're at it, there's no such thing as "Xenos" either. Why use this word instead of "foreigners"? I cannot see the point of it.

Ethno,

You've been holding out on us my friend. Here all this time, you said you didn't have your own blog because it's too time consuming and takes too much energy. You big "fibber" you!!!

Well, by chance, I happened to come across a blog that is very similar to Ted's Phylax blog. Little did I know that this blog's posts read almost verbatim with many of your posts, and voila the author's name on this blog is "Ethnocentrist". Further, I even clicked to read some comments, and then the "proof was in the pudding". You answered one of your reader's posts with your (tell tale Blue colored link) ETHNOCENTRIST. Gotcha!!

Ethno, Are you too ashamed of us (your online friends) to invite us to your "blog". Even with your (registered users) protocol, you still don't want us poking around there?

Well, the jig is up my friend.

As a courtesy to you, I won't post your blog's URL here, but rather will let you do it yourself.

Unless of course, you wish to publicly state we are not welcome there!!!

Mike, are we going to let this stand? You remember how we grilled him on Devious Diva's blog about why he didn't have his own blog.

for the past years I take few months off from work and spend it here in Athens. Now last month I really feel the pinch that my hard earned euro is not stretching as it was.... it looks like I might be leaving soon...

the only consumption is happening on the credit cards...and consumers now have to pay for their overborrowing as you rightly stated ted. While they're busy paying the banks, they have no money left over for shopping. The banks are posting record profits. I sincerely doubt any of those profits are staying in Greece.

sounds just like back the US!

The heady days when anyone could afford what it wanted and spend it today and worry about it tomorrow are gone with the wind.
Hardships,and a daily slog to eke out a living is what us plebeians will get from the future. A few of the rich will get richer and richer,a political internationalized shapeless mass of pettyfoggers,eurocrats and "all is fine" papagallos will thrive, the middle class will be squeezed in a pincer movement and will have its vitals taken out. Welcome to the internationalized, globalized , mamom whorship, alien tyranny.
Jobs, the youth in Greece better forget about finding jobs and look forward to the future to create a way of life more attuned with Greece's natural propensities and capacity. The economy has reached its ceiling, and no blubbering with any govt. puppets will transform this fact. Tighten your belts and stop dreaming.

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