The reactions i get when i tell people that i am moving to Malmo fall into two easily discernible categories.
One is Greeks who, in order, ask me if i have found a job there, ensure me that it is nice there and better than Greece and sometimes ask how long I’ll be away or when I’ll be coming back.
The other is non Greeks, who ask me if the situation in Greece is what drove me away and when i’ll be moving.
I find it amazing how consistent this behaviour is.
Let me put it another, much more subjective way. The Greeks assume it as a necessity because of how bad things are in Greece, are convinced of the superiority of Sweden as a country even though most i’ve spoken to have never been near Scandinavia and some not even out of their motherland. The non Greeks try to fit that picture in their distorted view of Greece as presented by media but seem to not consider it a big deal.
Now, of course my sample is skewed, as all those people have in common that i have chosen to speak to them. I further wallow in statistical sin because my sample of non Greeks consists mostly of my colleagues who are predominately English and Swedes. I’m going to ignore all that, because every conclusion I’ll reach is meant to be purely subjective and as such it is expected to be drawn from personal experience.
Searching for the reason for this difference in attitude turned out to be a nice excuse at an introspection. Fear not however, as I’ll save you my internal quandary and instead try to focus on the specifics of the Greek culture that i think explain this phenomenon.
It seems that the main difference between the two groups is that Greeks have not traveled extensively or lived in a foreign country. They lack the experience of setting up a home or putting up with the obstacles of not communicating in your native language, of getting used to different bureaucracy, discovering a new system and understanding a new culture. I think that they assume that other countries are like Greece, only better. They are, of course, sorely mistaken. As a parallel, but not really, they consider me to be an economic immigrant who has left until things at home become better and then i can move back to the One Country (TM) being “richer”, “less tanned”, but they seem to ostensibly leave out “wiser”.
The non Greeks, on the other hand seem to think that since the state of Greece is as sad as understand it to be, then it is perfectly reasonable to want to move out of it, since it makes sense. Immigrating is not a big deal, especially if it happens within the Western world. And, truth be told, my timing and the admittedly poor fiscal state of Greece strongly hint at such motives. But, as a perfect antithesis to Greeks, they seem to think that “jumping ship” as it were is reasonable and, in my case, long overdue. They are, also, mistaken.
You see, while I cannot deny that the circumstances gave me the final push in that direction, this whole thing for me is nothing short of a triumph, the latest climax in a struggle against a mountain of prejudices, financial hurdles and cultural misfittings. Discovering the effect of being exposed to a foreign culture on myself, was pretty much a shock. I had to fight against my feeling of safety, nurtured by a society convinced of some unspecified superiority and comfortable in the natural resources offered by a beautiful, rich land. In short, Greeks have no reason to travel, and have had none for ages. They don’t know how to do it and how it can broaden your horizons. It is not encouraged and generally considered not worth the risk. Greece is viewed as the destination of every journey, even if it starts from it.
That is where you are wrong, my fellow Greeks. I did not leave because i had to. I left to become a better person, something that generally is not a motivation in our culture. I do not blame you, for it is reasonable to feel safe in our land. It is welcoming, warm and you cannot possibly imagine how forgiving. But it has made us lax and that perhaps is the root of the current predicament.
As for you, friends from abroad, do not underestimate the difficulty of Greeks joining a foreign culture. Greeks, actually all the Balkans and near Eastern people are not, have never been and probably will never be Europeans, or perhaps even Western. It’s the weather, perhaps. But there is a huge gap, and closing it takes more effort that you probably have expended in similar attempts. I do not underestimate your experiences, not even close. But it is hard to make a comparison between the mental state of the two cultures.
Closing, an anecdotal piece of evidence. There are some Greek friends which have lived abroad. Those did understand, without trouble, what it meant for me to leave. They did mention the experience acquired and the wisdom that follows. Keep that in mind before judging the above.
Thank you all.