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    Posted June 17, 2012 by
    Drobezisi2
    Location
    Penteli, Greece
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    What does it mean to be Greek?

    More from Drobezisi2

    What it means to be a foreigner living in Greece during the crisis

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Drobezisi2 moved to Greece with his American family five years ago in order to take care of his wife's aging parents. When asked if he made the right decision he says it is a difficult question to answer. 'From an economic and career perspective, the whole thing has been a disaster for me personally. I have had major financial losses, and have been derailed from my career as a result. But there were personal and family considerations that were really the driving force behind our decision,' he says. Although the country is going through an economic downturn he still says it is a wonderful country. 'The people there are not all deadbeats and tax-cheats and loafers as so many would like to believe. But by and large, the people there are cheerful, vivacious, optimistic, and hard working,' he adds. He says despite the New Democracy party victory in the June 17 elections, the crisis is far from over for Greece. 'The Greek people can only be pushed to the edge of the cliff for so long before they push back,' he says.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    As an American living in Greece for the past 5 years or more, I have had a front-row seat on the amazing spectacle which has been playing itself out on the world scene. Some of it has been heart-rending, and some of it has been inspiring. But the common denominator for the average person living in Greece these day, whether native Greek or foreign transplant, is a sense of great loss, disappointment, anger...and in the end, resignation.

    I relocated to Greece in 2007 with my family, in order to be closer to my Greek wife's ageing parents and to give our then 5-year old son a sense of connection with the Greek side of his family, and also (as we thought at the time) a better place for a kid to grow up. And in some ways we have not been disappointed. My wife has certainly been much happier to be "home", and Greece is certainly a kid-friendly place to live.

    However, not long after we got here, the financial crisis began in the US and then spread to the rest of the world. Greece, which at first seemed to shrug off the West's financial crisis - its numerous cafes and hotels and restaurants still crowded and lively - soon also began to feel the pressure. As an independent financial consultant, I was able to hang on for a while, but one after another my customers and my opportunities for future work began to dwindle.

    By 2010, it was a real struggle to keep my business afloat, and I had to start expanding into other areas - like helping a small non-profit redesign its website - which paid very little and had nothing to do with my field of expertise.

    Fast forward to the fall of 2011, and by that time I was in the unfortunate position of having to leave my family for months on end to return to the US to look for work there. The idea of finding steady employment in Greece was a not-very-funny joke, and moreover, things in daily life were (and are) steadily deteriorating. My brother-in-law, for example, who is on anti-seizure drugs after brain surgery a few years ago, cannot get the basic medicine he needs. And I pay into the national health system month after month with what's left of my savings, but cannot get doctors to accept our public insurance because they are afraid they will not get reimbursed by the government.

    Many people we know are either unemployed or severely underemployed. My father-in-law's meager pension has been cut almost in half - and at 75, he still supports four grown children who cannot find full-time jobs. Gas costs upwards of 10 dollars a gallon, sales tax is over 23%, and new taxes are added "out of the blue" all the time.

    Speaking of taxes, one thing which I find incredibly frustrating is the notion, which seems to have gained not only popularity but blind acceptance among Americans and Europeans, that Greece is in the mess it is in simply because people "don't pay their taxes". While there is enough blame to go around, both inside and outside of Greece, and while it is true that some people in Greece - particularly the wealthy - have long avoided paying their fair share of taxes, this is not the cause of the crisis. The majority of Greeks pay their taxes (there are many forms of taxation here, not just income tax), and if you look at statistics from the OECD, the average Greek actually pays more as a % of income in taxes than does the average American.

    Personally, the situation is a difficult one. I have spent 6 of the past 8 months away from my family, and today - Father's day - I am alone in the country of my birth, looking for work, while my family back in Athens waits for me, hoping to see me (figuratively) sailing back with white sails (for anyone who remembers their Greek mythology). But it appears that more hardships are ahead, even as Greeks go to the polls today to decide whether or not to reject the punitive austerity measures that have already caused so much damage to the country, to Europe and which I fear are poised to cause more damage to the entire world in the months ahead.
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