Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Thank you for a peaceful demonstration


More than 10,000 peaceful demonstrators crowded Syntagma Square last night and stood silently before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honor those who lost their lives or were left homeless by the spate of deadly wildfires this past week. The protest was organized by bloggers, text messages and mass emails.

Most wore black as a sign of mourning or held black flags with non-political messages. Leftists carrying political signs were booed by the crowd, and a small amount of unrest by this same group was handled quickly by riot police.

Thank you to those who were able to come join us. :)

Readers: As I’ve not slept for more than 72 hours straight, I hope to be back tomorrow to start posting on three things: a checklist of what needs to be done, the future and my last thoughts.

Photos from the Kathimerini


  linda skountzos wrote @ August 30th, 2007 at 16:08

I’m very happy to have found your site quite by accident tues night just having arrived home from 26 days in southern pelloponesus . I’m married to a Greek immigrant here in the USA and always have conflicting feelings coming and leaving, but this time with a slightly more bitter taste in my mouth( and not just from the smoke). So it was nice to find a voice of reason after 3 weeks of hearing from almost all that no jews died in wtc, the 9/11 attacks were planned by the USA in addition to otherwise intelligent people saying that throwing a cigarrette out a car window can’t start a fire.

  greekamericaningreece wrote @ August 30th, 2007 at 17:06

Well, it is official now. Returning back to the States. .I absolutely had more than enough here. To all that ever wanted to come back to Greece before retirement age (as I did for several years), please do, but leave a door open to return as you wlll be entering the twilight zone of Greece where anything can happen and you are always unprotected and at fault.

CaliforniaKat see you next summer(?) on my vacation. Goodnight and good luck.

  graffic wrote @ August 30th, 2007 at 18:25

Geia sas :) Of course the goverment couldn’t stop it. And people died… but I bet that if this happens in any other country, they’ll obtain the same results.

I’m angry with the people who created the fires (very angry), and I’m angry with the people who want to benefit from the fires (political parties).

What happened yesterday was blame the goverment because we don’t know how to blame. I’m sorry, I don’t blame the ones that try to stop the fire, even if they made mistakes.

But please, choose the right guilty ones.

In Spain the same thing happened before the elections. 200 died. There was a big demonstration against the terrorists. The goverment made mistakes, of course, like here. But something bad happened: the people started to meet in the officies of the leading party. That divided the country, and since then, it’s divided.

  PIC wrote @ August 30th, 2007 at 19:15

Linda: You are not alone.

I choose to live in GREECE, and have learned to put up with the conspiracy theories and nuttiness because there are some nice things about Greece.

I find it therapeutic to know that I’m not the only AMERICAN who lives in GREECE who has to walk the gauntlet of conspiracy theories, half-truths, and just plain nonsense.

“Semi-Knowledge is worse than NO knowledge.” Views from the Cafeneio become truth and then repeated like some bad internet urban legend.

Linda–you are not alone. At least we have a blog (Kat’s) where sensible minds prevail.

P.S. Wait til they tell you that GREEK was almost the USA’s official language but it lost by one vote. (another urban legend)

  λ:ηρ wrote @ August 30th, 2007 at 23:22

The problem is not so much who started the fires. Arsonists, enemies of the states, aliens from outer space or (more likely) trash thrown everywhere, poorly maintained high-voltage lines, etc.

The issue is the delayed and (more importantly) incompetent response of the state.

In Greece first responders are poorly trained, if they are trained at all. They are in their jobs not because they desired to become FRs but because they had no other career options and some relative spoke to some politician who spoke to someone else and, as a favor, someone got the job.

Two months ago, three forest firefighters burned alive in Crete because they ignored the very fundamental rules of firefighting.

Neither the victims nor their supervisors seem to realize that the operation was taking place against basic fundamental safety rules.

When all is done and settled I believe that we will learn that most of 64 victims in the recent fires died as a result of incompetent crisis management. That should be the focus of our rage: the collective incompetence of the state. An incompetence which has grown thanks to our addiction to nepotism and cronyism.

This is a self-inflicted incompetence; thus it is easier to blame others for our misfortunes than to accept responsibility for our deeds and start fixing things.

  Kat wrote @ August 30th, 2007 at 23:35

Linda – Nice that we found each other, if by accident, and that the site is appreciated. I’m happy to have you as a reader and hope you’ll feel free to comment in the future.

GreekAmerican – I’m not sure how much longer we’re here for — we were supposed to leave by Jan 2008, but things are happening in our lives that may have us dividing our time between countries or delaying the plan. Who knows! Be glad to still have your readership and see you next summer :)

Graffic – I don’t think this country will divide itself, though I’m sure the good people of Greece would like to divide themselves from the government.

PIC – What’s that saying, “it’s great being a one-eyed observer in the land of the blind.” I heard that from one of common friends.

The only time I enjoy nuts is in my Rocky Road ice cream. I’ve learned to laugh and roll my eyes at the rest.

Dealsend – Hey there, I’ll do the translation and post, it goes without saying that I’ll give my support — but I can’t do it tonight, entaksi? I’ve been awake almost 72 hours, keep nodding off while writing my next post and my fiance says I look like I’ve been hit by a truck. I’m pretty sure that’s not a compliment.

Leo – I and many others agree with you. An article from the Guardian that details the Greek government’s negligence and incompetence.

  Dennis wrote @ August 31st, 2007 at 00:45

PIC: You should read this book: The English-Only question: One language for Americans. Yes, it is an urban legend and yes there was never a vote, but its good to know what may have been the trigger it and how other countries/languages are involved.
And by the way many urban legends are present in every society. Here in the US we have many of our own, from the down right silly to big distortions of historical events. However we continuous to believe them because we it either makes us feel good as a country or because no one told us other wise or because the line between urban legends and propaganda in very thin.
Example: a large percentage of US population still believes Iraq was behind the 9/11. Guess what the rest of the world thinks of us when we tell them that??

  cheryl wrote @ August 31st, 2007 at 01:08

I just want to say that you’ve done it again Kat, Great work! Thank you.

  susan mavros wrote @ August 31st, 2007 at 04:53

I think Americans should show a little humility when it comes to commenting on other countries natural disasters. It was only two years ago that the kind of society America is was exposed by Hurricane Katrina. I’ve been moved by the heroism of firefighters in Greece and the pride and dignity of villagers in the Peloponnese and Evia affected by this calamity. Unlike Americans in New Orleans, Greeks did not take the opportunity of breakdown to loot, rape and kill each other. I think this says something fundamental about the Greek way of life and the American way of life, which is, presumably, why you choose to live in the former and not the latter.

  PIC wrote @ August 31st, 2007 at 08:24

Dennis: I’ve never (personally) met an American who believes IRAQ was behind 911. I have heard that some do, but living off and on in the USA from 2001-2004, I did not encounter anyone with that view. By contrast, I hear conspiracy theories in Greece daily. Apparently, other Ex-pats do as well. I think conspiracy theories are more accepted here. I know in the states, the sensible (average) American will shrug off conspiracy theories. As Americans, we are generally not “Tin-Foil Hat Wearing–Black Helicopter Groupies” like our local hosts here in Athens.

SUSAN: You make a good point. Many of us ex-pats (me included) live here and enjoy relative comfort and safety compared to many areas in the states. Fortunately, the Greek fire crisis was mild compared to what happened in New Orleans. Limited Disaster Preparedness was the problem in both places. God help the Greeks if they encounter a disaster similar to New Orleans. You don’t know what any person would do in that situation. Trust me, there are bad people in Greece too. However, it’s just “social stigma” that keeps em in line for the most part. But, throw in a major catastrophe that lingers on and let’s see how they behave?

  Kat wrote @ August 31st, 2007 at 08:54

Dennis – Thanks for the suggestion. And also, it’s safe to say that people with half a brain know Iraq is a huge lie.

Cheryl – Thanks. :)

Susan – The motivation behind moving my life here 10 years ago was naive in many senses, and has not been valid for 2 years. You do not know me, and therefore are not fit to judge who I am, why I’m here or what I stand for (although it should be clear from previous posts and the vision of this site, but I realize some choose to not see the obvious).

If I’d been in New Orleans, I would have done the same thing as I did here — both help people and hold those accountable for what they did. Do you even know what my day job is or why I’d been awake for 72 hours straight? I’m in the trenches every day while you sit in the UK, safe and sound, surfing the net at 2 a.m.

As for the raping, killing and looting — who is to say what times of desperation push otherwise decent human beings of any nationality to do? A hurricane and fallout of that magnitude is apples and oranges when it comes to comparing Katrina to Greek wildfires, although they share one element. Government neglect.

I’ve lived/suffered in this country for the past 10 years, paid my taxes and been a good little immigrant. I’ve every right to comment on what I see fit, and my voice represents those of many — Greeks and non-Greeks alike. Do I not have an obligation to use my position to give these people a voice?

PIC – Thank you my brother.

  buruburu wrote @ August 31st, 2007 at 13:29

Though I might not be your average Greek manolis (joe), I do have one thing to say about peoples right to comment/criticize. Just like any mature adult should accept criticism and apply it constructively if he/she deems it to be valid, so must we as a country. Only insecure individuals take this personally and respond with personal attacks. This extends to countries. Of course a line is drawn at intentional ill-motivated disinformation and racist type attacks or plain stupidity. I know Greeks tend to take criticism very badly from foreigners, but that’s just a reflection of mass inferiority complex as a country. Hopefully one day we will grow up.

  ein Steppenwolf wrote @ August 31st, 2007 at 20:21

susan mavros wrote:
Unlike Americans in New Orleans, Greeks did not take the opportunity of breakdown to loot, rape and kill each other.

Unfortunately the prices of hotel rooms reached again exorbitant levels, as it usually happens after earthquakes, floods and other disasters.

Doesn’t this also “say something fundamental about the Greek way“? I’m afraid many people will attribute this behaviour to the notorious “astuteness of the greek race”.

  Kat wrote @ August 31st, 2007 at 20:53

To everyone – I don’t like where this thread is going because it covers the same ground as other comment threads I closed. There’s nothing interesting about it now.

First, when someone personally criticizes me or says something ridiculous, I have the option to answer. It isn’t about Greeks vs. Americans or Britons or whoever.

Second, it’s implied when someone says Greeks or Americans or whatever nationality, that it doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone so don’t get all uppity and accusing. I’ll give you an example.

My fiance is Greek. He criticizes Greeks all the time. Is he talking about himself? No. If he is, he’ll admit it. If someone says, “Greeks are this…” to him, he’ll assume it doesn’t mean him if it doesn’t apply and he’ll laugh because he knows it’s true. That’s called maturity (as Buru rightly said). That’s awareness and acknowledgment. Get it? If you’re in denial, well that’s fine.

May I remind everyone that the original post was about solidarity and peace?

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