Looking for readers from Greece and Spain to share their observations

Adam Taggart
By Adam Taggart on Tue, Aug 7, 2012 - 10:08am

Do you currently live in Greece or Spain?

We're looking to hear first-hand observations from those with "boots on the ground" in these countries:

  • Has daily life changed since austerity measures began? If so, how?
  • What impact is the high rate of unemployment (especially on younger workers) having?
  • What are the most common sentiments expressed by your neighbors? The media?
  • How are your elected leaders perceived?

These countries are bellwethers for how events will likely unfold elsewhere in the Eurozone (and eventually the US, as well).

Essentially, we're interested in any observations you deem relevant to share.   Please use the Comments section below to do so.

cheers,

Adam

,

16 Comments

dchrys's picture
dchrys
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 6 2009
Posts: 20
Life in Greece since the recession began

Hi, I am a CM reader from Greece since 2008 and saw this request from views from  on twitter some minutes ago. Here are my 2 cents:

- Has daily life changed since austerity measures began? If so, how?

The recession here really started in 2008, while the austerity measures began after May 2010, when the insolvency problem was made public and call for EU and IMF supprt help was made. Every goverment here, and as long as I can remember, claimed that will fight tax evasion which is a plague for our finances. What they end up doing lately is applying more taxes to the 40% that do not tax-evade and horizontally reduce wages of pentioners and public servants. 

Daily life becomes harder by the day: as I use a lot of public transportation I have witnessed first-hand the increase of unoccupied shops around Athens and also the increase of beggars, criminality and general misery. Me and my wife are still employed in our early forties and haven't suffered much yet, although I had to cut down summer vacations to save for tax payment (I had already paid taxes for 2011, yet the government decided for every loyal greek citizen to give one more salary to the state !!!). Price of gas is ridiculously high (around €1.80/lt - should be around $8 per gallon or so)

On the good side, traffic is a lot thinner these days in Athens and a lot of "bullshit" shops were gone ("Cheese boutique" anyone ?)

What impact is the high rate of unemployment (especially on younger workers) having?

Younger people are the real victims of the recession and austerity: jobs are scarce for them and the most talented are leaving the country to seek a better future in othe places in Europe or Australia. There are some initiatives for them to saty and invest their effort in agriculture (once an important wealth-generating activity in Greece that was ruined by EU subsidies). The good thing here is that families in Greece are really suportive for the youngs - most of the colleagues that are in their 20s and 30s are still living with their parents.

- What are the most comment sentiments expressed by your neighbors? The media?

Everybody here has a sad story to tell: how they lost their job, how their salary or pention was cut or how they had to go out of business because of the recession. The media does what they do best: selling fear and uncertainty to support the austerity agenda of the government. I stopped watching the news on TV some months ago and took on hiking and trail running, having a great time since I did !

- How are your elected leaders perceived?

My opinion is that both the coalition government that are pro-austerity and the leftist opposition that want independence from EU (and return to the drachma, although they may openly deny it) are unrealistic in their claims. I mean, how can more austerity initiate the economy which is in a recession for the 5th year in a row ? A return to the drachma on the other hand will bring very high inflation for sure. There is a lot of mistrust to the public about the performance of the politicians as none of them seems bold enough to go on with their agenda, whether it is to reduce public spending, counter tax evasion and negotiate with EU/IMF lenders.

There are more things to write here but have little time today.

My regards from Greece :-)

Dimitris

SingleSpeak's picture
SingleSpeak
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 30 2008
Posts: 431
Enlightening

Dimitris,

Thanks for the report. Hearing the situation from someone living it, without a government or media slant is 100x better than what we otherwise get. Hope the site continues this feature from where ever the SHTF.

SS

joemanc's picture
joemanc
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Joined: Aug 16 2008
Posts: 834
Good idea

To hear the boots on the ground observations...I wouldn't limit this to just Spain and Greece...Portugal, Italy, Ireland, etc...and if you didn't catch it, our own Erik Townsend on FSN a few weeks back gave his take from Spain.

My dad is currently in Italy...I'll pick his brain when he gets back next week and add anything of interest here...

Travlin's picture
Travlin
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Posts: 1322
A well done report

Dchrys

Thanks for your well done report.  More of these would be welcome.  I agree with Joemanc that reports from other countries would be good too.

Travlin 

HelenaV5's picture
HelenaV5
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Joined: May 9 2012
Posts: 12
Ireland observations

I just thought I'd chuck some observations in, although from Australia, we recently visited family in the west of Ireland earlier in the year. 

We stayed in a small town, surrounded mainly by agricultural land.  About a third to half of the shops in town were closed down.  We heard this was the norm in all towns, with the younger people saying almost every week another shop was shut; they were particularly gutted when their favourite pub closed it's doors! The house we stayed in was in a housing subdivision built in the boom - I would say half the houses were empty, we got to stay in it for free as the owners just wanted them lived in.  What we found out was due to the constant damp and cold conditions, once the houses are left disused they fall into disrepair.  Our house had buckled floorboards and doors that wouldn't shut because the damp gets in when the heaters are not on and soon the houses all become worthless - which they already are as there are no buyers for them.  There was talk that some of them may need to be demolished - brand new houses never even lived in! 

Most of the younger generation in our Irish family are professionals (doctors, physios, pharmacists, teachers) and had moved to other areas for work, some of them Dublin or London.  The teachers have all had their pays cut, my second cousin who has been a teacher for 11 years said she's back on her starting pay, earning now what she earned as a new graduate.  A lot of young people live at home.  The older generation of our relatives are farmers living on land passed down from family, so they are doing ok.  They did speak of losing a lot of young people to emigration to other countires for better opportunities.  In Australia we have a lot of young Irish workers here trying to get into the building industry (trades) which is still reasonably strong due to our strong mining industry riding off the back of China's previously strong growth.

Everyone was still continuing on with life there, very scathing of the governemnt who they believe got them into the mess they're in, and particularly the greed.  I think like everyone though, there's a sense that after the rough patch things will start to pick up, that was the sense I got, that things were a bit stuffed now but in the long run it'll be OK.  I think until you hit things like the CC that's what we're all programmed to believe.

That is the general sense I get here in Australia as well, although to be honest we've had no hard times where I am, but we get brief and intermittent news of other countries' troubles (blink and you'd miss it) but she'll be right mate, China's boom will last at least another 20 years....right?

ScubaRoo's picture
ScubaRoo
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 18 2011
Posts: 38
Coming here soon bbc documentary Greece, Ireland and Japan

Hi Adam,

This series from the UK BBC is worth viewing...

see link for Ireland other links for Greece & Japan

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DzCWpGvnE3Nc&v=zC....

Cheers.

SR

RJE's picture
RJE
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Joined: Aug 31 2008
Posts: 1369
Are things as bad as this?

As part of this request Adam I am reporting from here, our home. I visited while going to last nights Tigers game a city, my birth place, that is stripped of its street light wiring, read daily stories of bodies (murdered) from out side the city limits and within being dumped in empty garages, open fields, and abandoned homes, 12 in total just in a month. That's just dumped bodies and not what occurs daily during normal activities, living life. The neighborhoods are non existent, no one really walks the streets, crime is out of control, drugs on every street corner and no police did I see during my visit except for outside Tigers stadium. I did not drive the freeway to the game but took the heart of the City's road, E. Jefferson, Detroit.

This all from a city that had 1.5 million people in 1970, and that's not long ago folks believe me. The fabric of this city was torn apart in early 1970's and now lays waste to decay. Maybe, maybe 500,000 live in the city today. Of those I would be shocked if  75% is not on some welfare or government assistance. The city is without question left for dead, no hope, a battle zone. 

While very sympathetic to all human beings I think we look at Detroit, Vegas, Miami, California, Baltimore, and so many hundreds of towns and cities all over this country and maybe we focus only on ourselves. Time really to save ourselves from ourselves.

Folks, have you never been hungry, for days, ever had your heat turned off, water, electricity, been able to work and yet can't get a job? Have you ever been sick and couldn't afford treatment or been refused? Have you ever been a parent, had kids and the weight of all that when times are tough?

Have you ever worked for free because the things you were doing were too important?

Life is a bitch, it's hard, and while I feel for everyone I just want to focus on the good ole USA for now.

Tigers won 6-5 against the Yankees and while that is always a delight the world around us are all ready to hit the twilight zone and are unaware. Get ready for these type discussions only we will be reporting from our small towns and city's USA. If the wires haven't been stripped from the poles and we have power for our lap tops!

Let me give you a visual, military being used as police in our cities, they will be instrumental repairing our supply chain as workers and truck drivers won't work because they aren't getting paid. How crazy is that thinking. People will go thirsty and hungry within 3 to 5 days and they will be bugged eyed for these items and if you have them they will attempt to get them. You may have to ride shot gun, literally, to safely get your Dad or Mom or Wife or Husband to work if there is work for a loved one. You will do this because street thugs will want the gas in your car, the money in your purse. People are going to beg, barrow and steal and you better get mentally prepared because it is coming, no question about that. We will delight in martial law and curfews just from a peace of mind and safety perspective. Honestly, these things will happen and you will not mind the intrusions.

We all know tough times are ahead, math don't lie.

Some will scream about our freedoms and all that shit, look, history has always been dotted with these type happen stances and everyone on this site will beg themselves when hungry, beg for protection when everything you have is stripped from you because you lack the will, and are too fearful to raise a weapon in protection of what you have from people just trying to survive. These won't be criminals folks, they may be your own family members. Their hungry, thirsty and have the means to take what you have from you, and will. Get real and prepare for all eventualities. 

As an exercise how about we report what is happening in our own towns USA too. Really stop and look people, there are folks out there that are professional people, educated people, and people no matter their lot in life who deserve our assistance, they did nothing wrong. Yet are going to really get hit and harder than they know because just getting by, to no assistance at all, is a long way down, and is in fact a whole different story. It is a desperate time where you will do just about anything to survive, no question about that. Last I looked 50 million Americans are on food stamps, many millions more will need help too, and you take that away, and the streets of America will EXPLODE!!! Guaranteed, and this assistance may just go because we can't afford it. Crazy, just crazy.

Folks that you know will approach you with one hand out, a smile on their faces, and warmly greet you and then sucker punch you so hard that your face will hurt for a month just to get what you have in your pockets. I have seen this too many times, and you must really prepare for this, you MUST! As you prepare for every eventuality you have to understand that people normally of good intentions will strip you of everything if in need themselves as you try to explain that you only have enough for YOUR family. Good luck with that.

Yes, I know hunger, no heat, electricity, no work, food stamps, government assistance, military on my street corner and curfews, violence in protection of body and home, and all that jazz. Still, the world, this life, is worthy of giving it all you have. It is why I prepare today to help as many as I can. I owe so many, I have no idea, so I will help as many as I can, and I will need help so that the sharing is managed as best as can be,  and someone has my back. I have those type Men and Women in my life. 

You will take one peanut butter and jelly sandwich and cut it 10 ways to feed equally 10 people when that is all there is, you will, and survive the next hour. Sliced pickles on two pieces of crusty bread, topped off with a combination of ketchup and mayo makes for a feast when that is all that is in the refrigerator. You will take log cabin syrup and mix it in water and visualize a nice glass of lemonade when that is all there is. Your body craving calories. Has anyone here ever eaten cow tongue, duck blood soup, dandelion soup, and other delicacies? You will.

Respectfully Given

I wish you all well

BOB

RJE's picture
RJE
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 31 2008
Posts: 1369
Adam, I wanted as my subject

Adam, I wanted as my subject line to ask my Brothers and Sisters in Spain and Greece if " (are) things as bad as this..." Is there a way you could edit this for me? Thank you... BOB

[Adam: no problem, Bob. Done.]

John Lemieux's picture
John Lemieux
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 2 2012
Posts: 224
Heart breaking post

This post is one of the most compassionate and heart breaking accounts of what the breakdown of the economic system looks like in America. I have read accounts written by people that have lived through the turmoil in places like Argentina and they sounded very scary. But this piece actually brought tears to my eyes. Reading this post helps to me appreciate how difficut will be to find a safe and secure place to live in what sounds to me like a kind of post-holocaust environment. And it's important to note that this kind of economic and social decay began decades ago in places like Detroit. The war correspondent, journalist and writer Chris Hedges has just written a book with illustrator Joe Sacco called Days of Destruction Days of Revolt. He visited four of the poorest communities in America and his observations of the conditions in Camden New Jersey, Immokokalee Florida, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the mountain towns of West Virginia  also provide a startling preview to what could be coming in America's near future.  

Nervous Nelly's picture
Nervous Nelly
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 23 2011
Posts: 209
UK BBC Series

Thanks for the BBC series . Watched them all. My mother used to tell stories about how bad things could get during the Great Depression , the second world War and it's all coming back but we've been spoiled. It's difficult wrapping our minds around all that... like it's far away until it arrives at our doorstep.

I'll send this to my son. He's part of that generation that feels screwed.

Sonya

RJE's picture
RJE
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Joined: Aug 31 2008
Posts: 1369
Thank you Adam

Thank you Adam

chm's picture
chm
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: May 28 2011
Posts: 46
Hunger in Spain

I don't live in Spain, but my mother just returned from a trip which included Spain. She had visited before but she had never seen so many people living on the street with their belongings in Barcelona as during previous visits or visits to other countries. Also, some new 1 year old appartments there (Spain, but not in Barcelona I think), which were originally priced at 145000 euro, had been sold there now for just 55000 euro.

There was also a small segment on a newsshow on Flemish public radio titled 'Hunger in Spain' last friday. The direct reason for the piece was this raid on some supermarkets by people who took away food to distribute it amongst the poor, but the correspondent, who lives in Spain, also gave some other interesting pieces of information:

The hunger problem is very bad in Spain. Unicef figures say that 17% of spanish children live below the poverty line, 25% of spanish children are malnourished. This year, 2 million spaniards are eligible for the 67 million kilos of food aid of the EU, which normally would go to Africa but will now be sent to Spain to supply soup kitchens which are rising up like mushrooms. Next year the spanish railways, airports and seaports will all be privatised which will result in even more unemployed people. Some economists forecast that the number of unemployed people in Spain will increase from 5 million to 6 million next year, conditions which are untenable. Since the current government came to power (six months now), 400000 jobs have been lost and no new jobs have been created. Many local commentators forecast an autumn of unrest because more and more people are losing hope. The government fears that the situation might run out of control. Link (dutch): http://www.radio1.be/programmas/vandaag/honger-spanje

I also learned from someone I know who returned from a holiday there, that food from belgian food banks is being sent to Greece.

KugsCheese's picture
KugsCheese
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 2 2010
Posts: 723
BCC Series

I sympathize somewhat with Occupy but the fact is they do not know why they are angry.  To paint the whole banking industry as corrupt is naive and dangerous.   Civil War?  World War?

This series adds nothing to the understanding and is more an entertainment piece.

chm's picture
chm
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: May 28 2011
Posts: 46
More and More Spanish Migrating to Morocco in Search of Work

About a month ago there was a segment on a newsprogram on the Flemish public TV broadcaster about the fact that more and more Spanish were emigrating to Morocco to try and find work there. Two women in their 20s were interviewed who were living and working in Morocco now. Both worked in a kind of call center selling stuff. One of them earned around 350 euro per month and the other one about 430 euro per month. The latter one could not afford to visit Spain. She only travelled to Spain once a year for a medical treatment that she needed. She could not really afford this but it was payed for (trip + treatment) by her family, whom she said could not really afford it either.

A Moroccan owner of one of the call centers also showed a sizeable stack of CVs of Spaniards who were looking for work, they were often very well educated with Masters degrees (e.g. telecom engineering) and even one professor as well if I recall correctly. The CVs were also very extensive because the applicants had lots of experience with multiple pages devoted to this.

One man in his thrirties was also interviewed, he'd had his own telecom shop on the Canary Islands but went bust. He was now looking for work in a Moroccan city were he rented a very small room. His mother sent him money so he could survive till he found a job.

RJE's picture
RJE
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 31 2008
Posts: 1369
Adam, I came across this

Adam, I came across this today. As things get worse this is an expectation we must contend with.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/economic-crisis-triggers-wave-of-suicides-in-greece-a-850129.htm

l concern myself with everything because I have seen these things. Just go downtown in any town/city U.S.A., and people survive on the garbage and trash of others for sustenance. It ISN'T sad so much especially if you slip them a $10 dollar bill but it very well could be us through a looking glass at some point in the future!

Respectfully Given

BOB

Magnum03's picture
Magnum03
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 14 2012
Posts: 31
Downsizing

Just a small update from Spain.

One of our friends is looking to downsize her apartment. She planned to do this at the end of this year, because her son is leaving home this summer. But it's become urgent for her to downsize now. 

Housing in Spain built after 1980 is mostly rubbish, especially, when it comes to insulation - it doesn't exist. So you need aircon in the summer and heating in the winter.

Besides general inflation, electricity prices have gone up significantly, twice within the past year, due to new taxes and fees imposed by the government.

Now she can't keep up with the cost of electricity, so she is looking for an apartment that is better insultated. Because she knows, she can't pay the bill for aircon this summer.

/Magnum

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