Living in Greece

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

Three guys, two girls and a hamburger joint in Athens

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The other night, my Greek partner and I were talking about how something 10 years ago in Greece is no different today and likely won’t be in the future. This same topic came up yesterday morning with a friend visiting from Canada, who remarked that she sees virtually no change from her last visit several years ago and expects her next visit to be exactly the same. Things don’t change.

Later, Vassili and I were talking about how on one hand, there is a lot of goodwill here — people accepting a lesser salary or doing something for free with the belief that if a few people work together, it will benefit everyone. But on the other hand, there are too many ready to take advantage and exploit that goodwill.

With these discussions about change and goodwill fresh in my mind, it was easy to advise my fiancé to set some boundaries last night when a friend called for a favor.

His friend FG wanted him to come to the club and discuss something, so my fiancé blindly agreed without asking questions. I told him to call back and ask why he should spend time, toll and gas on something his friend doesn’t have the decency to disclose. Supposedly, it was a business arrangement that would benefit the both of them, and money couldn’t be discussed on the phone.

I’ve only known FG for a year, but I know enough to understand he’s cheap, full of bull and a terrible businessman. He wants to charge 5 euros for a tiny bowl of peanuts and 50 euros for a bottle of wine, as if his tiny nightclub is a huge venue on Posidonos, yet the tables are so close together that it’s more like a bouzoukia club in Psyrri but without food, service or kefi. He won’t spend money on promotion and only wants to pay 25 euros and no IKA for a girl to serve coffee 8 hours a day. Not surprisingly, business is slow.

I told my Greek partner to not go or, if he goes, don’t agree to anything less than X amount. He was hopeful, but there’s a fine line between hope and denial, so away he went to waste 2 hours of his life to learn FG wanted him to work three nights a week for nearly no money and no promotion. It’s like I said at the beginning, things don’t change. You can only change yourself.

And as if my counterpart hadn’t taken enough lumps for the evening, he was mistaken for being a homeless person at McDonald’s.

A well-meaning man thought he was only making up the story about forgetting his wallet in his good work pants to save face at the cashier (even though it was true), so he insisted several times on paying for my partner’s food because he “must be hungry.” My fiancé thanked him for his goodwill, didn’t accept, got in his car and came home.

Who knew simply being unshaven and wearing ripped jeans reclassified someone as homeless? If that’s the case, more than half of Greek men are homeless because that’s how they look every day. Damn northern suburbs! ;)

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9 Comments »

  tsevdos wrote @ October 23rd, 2007 at 18:52

hehe beautiful stories ;-) Once again, it’s Greece dear!!! Harry Klin once said : “Neo-Ellinas is the one who has 2 cars, 2 pair of underwears changes and 2 thousand drachmas (about 6 euros) at his wallet! ” ;-) So sad but true

  yiannos wrote @ October 23rd, 2007 at 20:12

^^^we laugh, but it’s actually pretty sad. it’s good to laugh, but sometimes it’s just too stupid to laugh at. it gets on my nerves.

i can tell many personal ‘unshaven’ stories, mostly resulting in embarrassment for the person on the other side once the realisation occurs to them that i’ve got more money in the bank for my ‘stay/extended trip’ than they legitimately make in 2 years.

the illusion of prosperity is one of the saddest things about modern Greece. it breeds insecurity, and crazy distorted ideas about what signifies wealth.

again, i have more than a dozen stories but i choose not to share them. i’ll just say that Kat’s article rang true for me in more ways than one.

  arammos wrote @ October 23rd, 2007 at 22:04

Neo – Ellinas also is the man who works for vacations…

  photene wrote @ October 24th, 2007 at 01:37

The sad thing is, this is true of greeks around the world – I live in Chicago and FG sounds exactly like a family friend with the exact “nightclub, internet cafe, diner” combo – so much so your story made me giggle.

His only form of promotion is the badly spelled, incorrectly aggrandized email that he sends to everyone he knows, which becomes the email that we send to each other laughing. Do you think this man would take one piece of advice from anyone who’s actually making money? God forbid – the greek knows better than anyone.

As for the illusion of prosperity, being a greek female has different drama – it doesn’t matter to anyone in my family in Athens or the xorio that I’m successful and quite happy. I’m obviously a failure because I’m unmarried and don’t have kids – I just hide my depression with “shows of wealth”.

There’s always rampant speculation that I’m either a lesbian or barren and depending on the day – I’ve said I’m both.

  Athena wrote @ October 24th, 2007 at 05:00

Unfortunately the quality of people that have manned the tourist related and club sector leaves a lot to be desired. Uneducated, former construction workers or shepherds decided to shift into the service sector without having the manners, the abilities, the know-how nor the education. The result is what you have described.

  Vassili wrote @ October 24th, 2007 at 10:16

HAha, reminds me of a car I saw, an Audi A3 with the bumper sticker ‘Big Dealer’ … yeah, right i wonder if Onassis had a similar bumper sticker

  EllasDevil wrote @ October 24th, 2007 at 23:52

The McDonald’s story is sooo funny. I can symphathize though because I have friends who don’t shave and they get the whole ‘cool stubble’ look. Me? I don’t shave for a couple of days and I too have people throwing coins at me and assuming I’m homeless. The only difference is… I’d have let the dude pay for my food! Ahahaha!

  gia1 wrote @ October 25th, 2007 at 15:49

I think you have described Greeks down to the last detail, and it certainly hit home, as I have a few good stories like this of my own. It does make you think about how some people have managed to perfect the art of “something for nothing”. Great insight!!

  Kat wrote @ October 25th, 2007 at 21:25

T – It’s Greece? Hey, no kidding. Was I not the one who warned my fiance…and he knows better!

Y – I never judge a book by its cover; sometimes the pretty packaging is a disguise for something ugly inside. I always wait until he says something stupid, then I walk away. Haha!

A – LOL! :)

P – Here, they send badly spelled sms as well. Whenever I offer to correct something to make it look more professional, I’m always poo-poo’d away with ‘is Greece, we don’t care.” Okey dokey, then.

Isn’t it funny how being smart, happy and living life as a woman is seen as something other than successful? I think being an unmarried woman over 25-30 is viewed as “pathetic” by many cultures, not just Greek culture. Sad. After graduation, a friend’s aunt said to her, “oh, all you have to look forward to now is marriage and kids.” My response was, “well she might as well kill herself now then.” Of course, I was the one who was rude and shunned after that.

A – I think a lot of people don’t understand the idea of cause and effect, in addition to attracting a large crowd for a median price as repeat customers, instead of a small crowd being ripped off with high prices and not coming back.

V – Maybe his said “Big Daddy.”

ED – Bad boy! Btw, where’s the line between cool stubble and being homeless?

G – Ela! After 10 years, I finally got something for nothing from a pizza place and instead of being grateful, I was suspicious and confused. I’ll apparently need to get deprogrammed when I leave. ;)

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