Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Constructive criticism of Greece: Members Only!

So there you are, sitting around with your friends at a cafe and the conversation turns to the state of a) Greek roads, b) Hospitals, c) Politics, d) Insert Other, and everyone in the group starts to add their horror story... "20 minutes in traffic... thats nothing, i ran over five potholes in a row and was stuck in traffic for 50 minutes" And if you're a foreigner or a Greek from abroad, poor naive you, not wanting to be left out of the conversation you add your story to everybody else's. Big Mistake!

All of a sudden you find yourself in the middle of a maelstrom of accusations. "But things are worse in (insert your country of origin here) I know. (insert problem area here) are worse there" Or some third country gets dragged in and accused of being worse. Which is why I want to travel to Uganda one day, and find out if things are really bad as they claim. But i suppose that would be unfair seeing as one is a third world country and Greece is first world with all the benefits of EU funding.

In the meantime, while you are listening to all this, somewhere in the back of your head you're saying to yourself "but all i did was agree with them, they started it". But of course who started it has nothing to do with it. Nor do the facts, because while everyone in Greece recognises, for example, the roads are in desperate need of maintenance or that things need to change in (insert problem area), its not for you, the outsider to say.

The average Greek raised here seems to operate on the assumption that Greece is just an extension of their family, and therefore, we don't mention the family's faults and shortcomings to outsiders. And they also assume that if they don't mention it, well, no one will find out how bad the roads are. So its fine to talk about our problems amongst ourselves, but no problems exist when talking to outsiders.

Of course i have to note that some 'outsiders', as well as some Greeks, base their criticism simply from a position of elitism. You know the kind of people, the ones who compare Greek taxi's to limo services. With those guys, yeah i too want them to be quiet, because they don't offer constructive criticism, all they want to do is show off.

But of course i am not talking about those few. I am talking about the average person, who decided that they wanted to live in Greece, and they too want to see Greece enjoy the same luxuries that other countries have, such as good roads. And when it comes to these people i would like to see them being able to share in these conversations like equals, and not being brow beaten because they spent their youth in another country. Till that happens however, if you are an 'outsider' all i can say is, be prepared. No it doesn't always make sense, but as they say here, Min to psahneis (dont look for it).


Anonymous said...

This really hit home for me.

After some disastrous conversations I have learned to express my displeasure at Greece almost subliminally when in the presence of Greek Greeks.

If I want to vent about Greece comfortably I only do it to a Greek-something! :)

bollybutton said...

I've just stopped bitching about Greece, even if i'm repeating the same things that Greeks are saying. I've learnt my lesson. After weeks of knowing something was not right but being assured by Greeks that all was well in Greece, I started my blog. That's now my forum for analysing Greece's flaws without having to hear "And I suppose the HomeCountry was much better, was it? Well?"

By the way, I consider Greece 2nd world not 1st world. It's not quite there yet.

Unknown said...

I want to visit Uganda as well! I'm sure they have less traffic but worst hospital and public services - although I believe that we are pretty close!!!

Anonymous said...

I learned my lesson too but then that's why I blog. I have to express it somehow!

JOHN said...

Excellent site. I'll keep coming back.

Nightboat said...

Oh, I've learnt this lesson the hard way too. I went out for a few drinks with some Greeks in Cardiff once, and the conversation turned to TV. They started complaining about the quality of British TV. I thought this was a bit rich, given that Greek TV is the worst in the world, and said so. Although they couldn't tell me to go back to my own country if I didn't like it (since I'm a UK Greek, and we were in the UK), their deathstares slayed me and they blanked me for the rest of the evening. So I left them to it.

CaliforniaKat said...

Sounds like a conversation we were having ;)


Anonymous said...



Vassili - Mike said...

This has been a long time in appearing, and something i have said a lot to many of my friends. Being Gutless i forgot to add, That i bet that Uganda may be the way it is, but it would like to be better, I know, lets give them the EU funding and see what they do.

Rositta said...

I have just returned to Canada after 7 weeks in your country. Whenever I commented negatively about traffic, noise, roads etc. When my 81 yr old MIL has to wait half a day for blood tests and then go back later for the results I figure things are really bad. I was accused of "not liking greeks" by my husbands family. Not true, I just don't like the system. I gave up, not worth the aggro but I'll tell you something, nothing changed from ten years ago, nothing got better but probably a got a lot worse. They think it's great, good luck to them. If the youth don't make changes nothing will ever change. As a friend said to me "yu get to go home, I have to stay here", sad but true...ciao

Paul Diamond said...

Great post!

But remember - no one likes being criticised!

We are in Greece now and we have our own views on the place (see our blog!) but when we lived in Scotland, there were always plenty of foreigners mouthing off about Scotland's bad points.

Scots love to point out our faults to each other but as soon as visitors join in I always used to think "If you don't like it - clear off".

Hearing someone having a go when they don't really understand the country brings out the patriotism.

This is just me being honest and I think, as guests in their country, we should act accordingly - i.e. polite.

However - it must be said - they can be a very touchy bunch. Don't mention the medieval lunatic asylum on Leros which was closed in the 90s after being exposed to international outrage! They don't like that stuff...