By On June 21, 2011
Prejudice against Greece has taken on grotesque proportions. Seriously, the Greeks work harder than anyone else!
There’s only one word that adequately describes the majority of Dutch media reports on Greece right now: a witch hunt. Of all the arrogant stupidity, full of gut feelings of Dutch superiority, De Telegraaf takes the cake. ”Boom, kick them out of the eurozone. Our citizens no longer want to pay for these wasteful Greeks,” was this newspaper’s headline on May 19, following the results of a Telegraaf survey of over 11,000 participants. Or what about the following headline, on May 13th: “Again, billions of euros thrown into a bottomless pit.” Apparently this kind of nonsense works. By now, 58 percent of Dutch people are opposed to ‘giving’ even a penny to Greece.
For what it’s worth, the average Greek retirement age is nearly 65. Some Greeks that I know who take up their retirement funds early, usually receive between 200 and 600 per month. At that point, sitting on your ass is not even an option. These people have to immediately find employment elsewhere, usually more than one job. After the first round of cuts last year, a high school teacher now earns an average of 800 euros per month. 500 euros of this goes to rent and other fixed costs. You’re left with 300 euros to live off. As a teacher, you simply can’t start a family. And what do you do if you’re a kindergarten teacher or a hostess with a salary of 650 euros per month? A Greek widow (my 94-year old neighbor on Hydra) lives off 400 euros a month. That’s not even enough for her diapers and medicine. She manages to pull through under appalling conditions thanks to her family and neighbors. I don’t know any Dutch person working three jobs to make ends meet, but I do know dozens of Greeks who work three jobs just to survive. Yes, there are Greeks benefiting from high and early retirement. They are an exception, not the rule. By the way: on Hydra, there’s a retired Dutch teacher, a carefree baby boomer, who retired at her fiftieth, never having to work again and enjoying Greece for the rest of her life without any financial worries. Not a single Greek colleague of hers could do that.