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Monday, 6 July 2015

Let Greece's Economy Be - And Here's Why...

I have had a few conversations recently about Greece's economy and feel like I have given thought provoking points that were also valid. So let me share a seasoned traveller of Europe's perspective of the crisis.

Let Greece Be
The view from my farm in Greece
Several years ago I worked on a farm in the classic beautiful countryside of Greece. It may still be the best 3 weeks of my life (blog here): lovely Swiss-German farming family, amazing food, 10 cats, 4 dogs, goats and chickens, Mediterranean view and olive trees galore. Oh, and distant snow capped mountains to boot.

We picked olives together with a Greek neighbour. He was by far the laziest of our group, which also included myself, my farmer, one French and one Dutch farm helper, like me. My Swiss-German farmer used him to characterize most of the Greeks in the countryside: lazy.
Headlining caption: lazy Greek! Truth: content, easy-going Greek
Eventually I came to realize that though, yes, they may be lazy, they are lazy because they are content. They have everything they need right where they are: great food, warm climate, and sunny beaches. What more can anyone need? And if the economy fails they still have all that, and they can still feed themselves, and that's all they need - that is enough for any humble being.

This relationship between climate and contentedness can be seen across Europe and the entire world. In France, Italy and Spain, which round out the Mediterranean countries of Europe, I witnessed similar cultures which orbit around their agreeable climate and amazing food. They also happen to be the countries struggling the most economically in the EU.

That's because the people there are content and laid back. We in North America can only dream about taking siestas during the work day! They have everything they need right where they are. This garners the people from these countries the reputation of being proud and sometimes snobby. And, yes, people from these countries tend to travel less than other European countries, with the notable exception of France.

Conversely, the economically strong countries in the EU are in the north and centre. Similar to Canada, they have a generally colder, less favourable climate, and cannot grow food all year long. Thus, their people become economically oriented in order to make money so they can travel to the countries that have it all, like the Mediterranean countries. I also wrote about these observations several years ago (link here).

If today's world is moving towards open markets and global homogeny where the strongest economy wins, if I were Greece, I would want no part in it. Because I would not want to play in the economic game. I would rather live a simple life, tend to my goats and chickens, harvest my olives, then go to the beach, relax and read a good book. And even if farming is hard work, it toughens me up and is more rewarding and enjoyable working outdoors (anyway, it didn't seem like hard work to my Greek neighbour.)
Harvesting olives in February 2013. Mmm, the olive oil was unbelievably smooth
Sure, lots of Greeks do want to take part in the globalized economy. But those are mostly city folk, and they're vastly outnumbered by the agrarian folk. Unfortunately, the city folk are the ones making the policies, which is why farmers tend to get left behind, not just in Greece, but all over the world.

As a traveller, it would suck not to use the Euro currency in Greece, but I would rather suck it up - it's only an extra currency exchange. Greece doesn't need the Euro.

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