It almost doesn’t seem possible that the fate of Europe’s, and potentially the World’s, financial future may be riding on the Greek economy. Like many, I’ve been watching the recent news coverage eagerly hoping restraint and austerity combined with German generosity would lead to a reasonable resolution of the EU economic instability. With the news of a potential Greek vote on the loan offer (and its subsequent dismissal), I was wondering if an anxious Europe had had just about enough of Greece. What do other Europeans, bound by a collective economic and political system but different cultures, think of the nation that clearly seems most incapable of pulling its own weight? While I don’t think I know the answer, I saw a little bit of personal opinions surface while in Greece.
In September, we had dinner at a small restaurant in Kardamyli along the Southwest coast of Greece. One of three couples there, we were essentially dining on the front deck of our Head Chef/Head Waiter Gregory’s home. He was incredibly hospitable and entertaining making jokes the whole time. The food was of course amazing – I have been craving zucchini fritters ever since that meal! In chatting with Gregory after dinner, we learned that he had been a school teacher in Athens who retired a few years ago at 50 and moved home to start a restaurant. With his government pension, he was now halfway through building this home/restaurant and was enjoying following his dream on the rural coast of Greece.
After we were all served courses of amazing food and pitchers of wine, the British couple was the first to finish and head out. As they were presented the bill, Gregory announced that they owed 40,000,000 Euro. They laughed and handed over 45 Euros promising to be back the next night. The Belgian couple finished next and was given their bill for 35,000,000 Euro. They were not nearly as amused by Gregory’s joke.
“Didn’t we already give you people 35 million Euro?” the man responded. Unphased, Gregory reiterated how good the food was, how lovely the sunset had been and how perfect this evening beach air was for strolling. “Surely this evening is worth 35million?” he quipped back, not dropping the joke’s pretense.
“No,” the diner replied. “It is not nearly worth that much.” Leaving 35 Euros for dinner, the Belgian couple departed.