Greece Matters

Spending time this summer in a village by the sea in northern Greece (great weather), my eye has been caught by a number of matters that may be mundane to Greeks but unusual, to say the least, to a visitor from South East England.

There is the fact the Greeks continue to have to live with the weekly €450 cash withdrawal limit. That is the maximum amount of cash they are allowed to withdraw each week. This has been the rule for over a year. It has led to a massive growth in card payments when before their latest economic crisis Greeks would use cash to pay for everything. Even the “peripteros”, the cornershop kiosks Greeks use to buy sweets, newspapers, soft drinks are gearing up to have card machines. There is stiff resistance in some quarters to the card machine. In our village, a taverna that is due to entertain 170 guests after a baptism this weekend refuses to use the card machine. Cash is king. And there is the other point that cash is not as traceable for tax declarations as card payments.

In a village with no street names, where does the postman go to deliver the post? Answer: he delivers to the village square where a row of locked boxes is set up with numbers. Each house owner has a key. We have a box too but alas, no post has been delivered to it since Christmas. It transpires there is a new postman and rather than spend time delivering to the individual boxes, she has been delivering all the post to the local doctor’s house.  It speeds things up for her. This means there is a pile of post to sift through if you are interested in finding out what your latest bills and taxes are and how much they have gone up by.

Cars have to pass an MOT every 2 years. Our car, which dates back to the 90’s, only has 3 working doors (out of 4), no radio, no aircon (unless you count having the window open as aircon), no rear seat belts, duly went off to face its test. I was fearful of how matters would pan out even though we carried out certain key improvements like a new starter motor before we set off. I took along my Albanian friend. We went to the MOT place where he said he had a friend and his own car had passed.  The car happily passed. This was despite my Albanian friend, unbeknown to me at the time, trying his best to persuade his friend to accept a small gift of money if he would pass the car. His friend refused not least because he wasn’t the one testing the car.

We had a roller blind fitted to the balcony. The cost was €450. I paid a deposit and asked for a receipt. The salesman was horrified but wrote something down on the back of a business card. The shop came to fit the blind, the balance of the money was paid but nothing further in writing was supplied. If something goes wrong with the blind, I am confident the shop will put it right even though I have no paperwork.

Tom Redfern