Friday, May 10, 2013

So, what do they do with their free time?

That was the very question I received from a friend, as a reaction to my previous blog about labor ethics in Greece and the West. He also gave part of the answer himself. "Do they go to the beach and enjoy a drink and a swim?". That is certainly an answer with a large cut in the statistics piechart if one decided to perform a gallop. But they also do a lot more. Especially the men. Hanging in any of the dozens bars for hours in any downtown of any city, large or small. Visiting my birth-town of Alexandroupolis in the North East of the country in October 2010 (so, a lot later than summer vacationing), I was walking at 10 am on a normal weekday on the city's main-street (Dimokratias), and I was shocked to find all bars packed with young people, sipping with noise their Italian style coffee and a variety of liquor beverages. At 7-8 euros a pop, mind you! I asked my Greek companion, a longtime acquaintance still living in town, 'who are these people?' and 'how come they are not at work, spending so much money in leisure when the country's collapsing?'. Visibly embarrassed, he tried to 'justify' the 'obvious'. He thus gave me the most incredible excuse: "Some may be unemployed, some are students, and some might be working shifts, like policemen or so (there's no industry in the area)". I thought he was convinced I was simply born yesterday, and took me for a moron. I pretended I agreed and simply 'forgot' the matter, there was no point arguing. Be sure, another huge piece of the time spending piechart goes to 'lazing around and hanging at bars and coffeeshops'. Wasting time, like the song goes. At least Redding was only sitting at the 'dock of the bay'. Only 'time wasting'. No 'money spending'.

How about sleeping time? I don't know about that. I certainly know of people sleeping more than 12 hours a day, and lazying for the rest of it, criticizing each and every man in their step, predicting the demise of the country. Of course, how can a country's economy advance if all were like them? Thankfully there are not too many obsessed souls like this, I hope. The cases I am aware of are quite exceptional, and, by the way, Paris, France is also full of likewise cases too. They call them there clochards. Or homeless and vagabonds, elsewhere. However, I don't believe Greeks sleep more than the rest of us. Those who work for themselves and want success, work really hard, like the rest of us in the West. Especially in the region of Attica, around Athens that is, the microclimate is such that you don't need much sleep anyway. I spent 5 years in the capital forty years ago studying at the Polytechnic and I remember I didn't need more than five hour sleep each day. And still felt fine. So, sleep, with some exceptions must still be a thin slice of the pie.

Recently a growing pastime appears to be quite conspicuous and emerging. Spending time online, surfing the internet, reading blogs, posting 'likes' on Facebook. Yep, Greeks adopted the internet big time. Most don't have a clue yet finding their way thru, like a cousin who once admitted the only thing he was able to do is surf to a homepage with real time coverage of tennis games (in his sixties he was an obsessed player and a pro-game fan, believe it or not). He seemed to be intrigued by the iPad, when I demoed one to him, but he felt he wouldn't be able to handle it. Too complicated, he said. Could he still watch his tennis games? I doubt it, I told him, as those obscure sites he watched are used to show TV clips on Flash technology, at which point he switched off. Despite their online fluency or lack of it though, blogging and commenting on blogposts is a great pastime for Greeks. Facebooking too. The one thing you can never blame a Greek is lack of knowledge of technology trends (iPhones and Cayennes by inhabitant ratio the highest on the planet), and what is also trending in terms of popular brands at any time. Social networks are extremely popular too, as the proverb about "opinions are like a-holes, everybody's got one" especially goes to Greeks, and this from the times of Democracy in the Athenian Agora 2500 years ago. So, having an opinion about everything is so embedded in the double helixes of the Greek DNA. This represents a huge slice of the gallop pie. Commenting and blaming all but oneself, that is.

Another not too surprising time spending in Greece is anything related to a form of cultural activity. The country bursts with artists in any color and shape, visual, performance artists, writers and poets, concert performers, actors, movie directors, etc. Preferably most belonging to a leftwing party. A way to be considered 'cultural' or 'cool' is to support Karl Marx's ideas. Regardless whether you ever read the dude or not. The cultural bit is a national tradition, and an average Greek is far above anyone else I have known in Europe and the US in terms of cultural awareness. Of course it takes a lot of time to read and watch, and this is a large slice of the pie too. For many however, cultural social events are the place to be only to be able to show-off nouveau-riche acquired goodies from known or fake popular brands, as the cultural dimension of the events they attend wouldn't wake-up their cultural ignorance if it even slapped them in the face.

How about sexual endeavors related time spending? Say what? Naaaay! Greek population only grows with immigrants these days; the obvious correlation between sex and new-borns justifies my answer. Besides, with a crisis like in recent years who can think of shagging? That's only for horny tourists arriving during the summer. I don't believe that's any different from anywhere else, although Greek male population think of themselves as the greatest lovers around, like Italians and French, that is. They are probably more active than the Swiss, but then, every single male on the planet is more active than them Swiss. Buying condoms by the dozen, one for each month... They work too many hours to think about sex, anyways. As for Greeks, take a small to medium slice here.

So, in conclusion, I believe the not-too-scientific response to my good friend from Vegas, concerning Greek free-time allocation, is: enjoying the great weather, hanging on bars and coffeeshops for socializing downtown, attending shedloads of cultural happenings, maybe some napping and lightweight shagging here and there, and a lot of social online activity.

If you have a different opinion, lemme know. Comments are free and unregulated.

1 comment:

Phil K said...

Found your blog accidentally while Googling images on humility to send with spiritual text to people struggling to live. Like most americans i know I'm quite parochial in my outlook. Thanks for your refreshing vistas. PK