Greece, the UK, the EU Referendum

**Warning: Swearing in this post – plus some honest opinions you may not like**

Thank you.

She stepped up to me and embraced me.  I looked and felt a little perplexed.

Your chocolate tonight is free, on me.  You want something else?  Crisps?  Here, these free too.

He placed said items into a bag for me, insisting I take them.

Scenario: I was in my Athenian neighbourhood, had just popped out to buy some chocolate from my local periptero (a place in Greece which is like newsagent, except it’s a tiny huts on streets.  And they even sell paracetamol, beer and wine, not suggested you buy them together). They’re veritable treasure troves and to me, as much a symbol of the Greek nation as the Acropolis and the Greek flag.

Periptero - Rob Wallace from Flickr
Periptero – copyright Rob Wallace from Flickr

Why were these kindly Greek periptero owners offering me free perishables?  It turned out they were thanking me for ‘being British.’ For:

…having a Referendum and the guts to start the ball rolling.

Greek opinion on the British Referendum

As I was being hugged, handed junk food and slapped on the back, it became clear to me.  For well over 6 years now, Greeks (rightly or wrongly) feel they have been bullied by the conditions of the E.U. and actually, having spent a good portion of my time in Greece and seeing the effects first hand of the Troika’s conditions, I can’t blame them.

Many Greeks that I have met admit that they, too, as a nation need to change their outlook and way of operating…to remove the ‘chaos’ that surrounds their policy making (is that even possible though?  Is that not a quintessential part of being Greek?),

But do so offering us help…a constructive way of helping us understand how to change, not bullying and threatening us

says the lady who’d hugged me.

They were thanking me for being British and the Referendum results.

After 23rd June, I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand I was being thanked merely for ‘being English’ – yet I have strange mixed feelings too.

Don’t hug me too hard – and maybe take some of this food back.  I was a Remain voter

I sheepishly admitted.  The woman took a step back.  The man stopped mid way from packaging my perishables.  Is she going to now do a very Greek about turn and slap me?

Look at me, look me in the eye.

I did.  I don’t mind eye contact at the best of times.  But this woman was appraising me, looking through me in that uncanny way the Greeks have, of shining a spotlight right into your soul.

Pah! I see your eyes and heart tell you differently.  You were scared, you voted out of fear.

She took a drag of her cigarette and carried on embracing me.

My eyes widened.  Because in retrospect, she is correct.  I did vote out of fear.

Voting out of fear

This has been a disgusting campaign from both the Remain and Leave camps.  The trump card of the Leave camp was xenophobia, the trump card of the Remain camp was economics (I am grossly simplifying, I know, before you all go huffy puffy on me).

Actually, I would have preferred to not vote at all.  I voted selfishly and out of fear. I love Greece, I love being able to divide my time between my birth country (U.K.) that I increasingly grew to appreciate more and more the more I travelled abroad (note past tense ‘grew’ – I’m not so proud of Britain at the moment). I didn’t want that luxury to change.  I wanted to be able to divide my time between all these beautiful E.U. countries and explore and appreciate their different culture, yet come ‘home’ to green rolling fields, a system that works and isn’t chaotic (chaos over time can cause long term stress).  But I am increasingly becoming unappreciative of my home country lately.

So my head told me to vote ‘Remain’ – and I did.  My heart, well, that Greek lady busy hugging me was spot on.  My heart told me otherwise.  I looked around me…at how a supposed ‘Union’ operated:

  • At their treatment of the Greeks over this prolonged period
  • At the gradual rise and domination of one particular country in Europe (I thought the formation of an E.U. was supposed to stop that?)
  • And the straw that broke the camel’s back for me: the refugee crisis and the E.U’s response (ha!  Lack of) and attitude, once again, towards Greece.

I had my feet firmly in two places.  What do I do?  I was undecided for so long.  I would have preferred this kind of voting card:

New referendum Voting Card - LifeBeyondBordersBlog

So I’m angry.

  • Angry at being placed in this situation to have to decide
  • Angry at the vitriol being played out by the Remain voters (I hear over 1 million want another Referendum.  Can you imagine if Remain won, and the Leave voters demanded this?)
  • Angry that anyone who may have voted Leave is branded a xenophobe (whilst that may be true i.e.: some people voting to leave did so for xenophobic reasons, it’s like saying all muslims are terrorists – oh, wait: someone DID say that, and he’s in the running for President of the U.S.)
  • Angry at BOTH sides of the campaign for, quite frankly, gutter politics.

Are the Greeks xenophobic for thanking me for being British and having the balls to stand up to the E.U.?  No, the Greeks are tired:

  • Tired of years of austerity
  • Tired of more and more measures being imposed on them
  • Tired of the, quite frankly, impossible expectations imposed that are actually not to bail out the people, but the banks.

What’s the answer

I don’t know.  But I do know that I don’t like what the E.U has become:  one country rising as the hegemonic one, as the bully of the bloc.  The EU turned out not to be about unity, but about a ‘do as you’re told’ bulshy school ground bully, although much more dangerous. It’s behaved appallingly in areas such as the refugee crisis and at the end of the day, did you see much of a ‘union’ at work?

Maybe this vote is what’s needed to stop the domination of one country. The notion that we were all a ‘union’ working together was mid-guided and naive. It was one country getting stronger on the decline of others. 

This could be Britain’s 1939 moment all over again.

I may well get anger and vitriol at this blog post I’ve written. But something needed to change.

Maybe this is the start of the shake up that’s needed.  The Greeks I’ve met certainly think so.

 

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your honest comments. An eye opener from a ‘Brit abroad’ and a great read, as always! Xx

    • Many thanks Emma. Like I say, it doesn’t mean I’m right, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong. It’s just want I experience…and yes, I am afraid for the future.

  2. I completely agree with most of what you say here. I voted remain because i dont want to see our European friends ruled by Germany with the UK out that now becomes an almost certainty. I partly grew up in Germany, Dad was in the RAF, and i love that country, most Germans do not agree with their governments behaviour and are becoming increasingly disturbed by it. We should not underestimate how fond Germans are of us and how genuinely upset they are at us leaving.

    I also spent 6 months living in Greece. In 1989 it was pretty much pre mass tourism and was almost magical in its simplicity, i have visited every year since then.

    Europe has been disasterous for Greece and her people but it is the Greek politicians who are to blame. The poor wonderful people are the victims it genuinely broke my heart last year to see Greece humbled.

    It had always been our dream to buy a small house in Greece and try to give something back to the country that has welcomed us so warmly for most of our lives. Noe with an out vite that dream just died for us and right now we are genuinely heartbroken.

    There are widespread reports today of racism, and xenophobia towards Europeans there are many People here in Poole and they are unfailingly polite, decent and hard working to treat them in this way is an outrage. Personally i no longer identify myself as British i am ashamed of it. If we have the option of applying for a European passport we will but for now we will content ourselves with two weeks in Ithaca in July we can then at least forget what has happened.

    For now i remain as i have always been and was indeed told in Greece many years ago an honory Greek.

    Best wishes

    • And thank you for your comment, Allen. I honestly do believe that it’s a wake up call to politicians; they did not expect this result at all, not even the Leave campaign. It’s the start of a shift – I hope. The bourgeoisie arrogance of the politicians who, for decades, have paid lip service and not really listened to their electorate. It’s a shame that it took a seismic event such as this to make them wake up (if it does). But then again, history shows us that nothing ever really gets ‘sorted’ peacefully, unfortunately.
      If what you say is true regarding the people of Germany, Let’s hope the populous have the gall to make waves.
      Have a wonderful time on Ithaca. Yes, the Greek people are truly wonderful.

  3. I so know how you feel! But I am very annoyed at the result for three main reasons. 1) The horrendous lies told by the ‘Leave’ campaigners. 2) The lack of a plan by the ‘Leave’ campaigners. 3) The fact that, although it directly affected you (more so than those living in the UK), although you are a British Citizen with a British passport, you were NOT allowed to vote in the referendum if you had lived out of the country for more than 15 years. We are ordinary working-class people who sold up in the UK, paid off our mortgage there and retired to Crete, buying a small property and living on a UK pension. No chance of being able to afford private healthcare, but, with the reciprocal agreement have managed very well with the Greek system. And now that will probably be taken away from us there’s no way we can afford to pay for healthcare. My daughter, who came here with our grandson when her marriage broke up has lived and worked here for almost 10 years. She will now need a visa to work and any employee will have to give preference to anyone from an EU country before they employ my daughter. My almost 11-year-old grandson knows no other life – he counts himself as Greek. The four of us are most likely going to have to return to the UK, needing housing, (what chance will we have of selling our property here during the crisis, and, I know, not at a price at which we would be able to afford anything in the UK) a job, or unemployment benefit for my daughter, and probably all the benefits applicable to people of our status – we will be costing the UK a damn sight more that we ever have before. And my husband and I weren’t even able to vote on it! We love our life here and both wished to die here but, instead, we will have to return to a country with such horrendous racism rearing its head it makes me embarrassed to admit to being British, apart from all the other problems there will be over there! The UK was strong enough to fight for a better Europe and help to change it from within – it will now be sitting on the sidelines being sidelined – and we will have to watch it from there! I am broken-hearted!

    • It’s very interesting to hear how it affects individual lives. Many thanks for sharing your story, Lin, and let’s see how things play out in the weeks/months to follow. It appears that both sides are wandering around in a state of shell shock and not doing much of anything at the moment.

  4. I absolutely agree you. Well done for expressing your conflicting feelings towards the referendum so eloquently, I think many of us who live in Greece share your anger with the high handed, arrogant stance that the EU has shown towards this country.
    Now if only the international media would calm down their hysterical ranting for five minutes maybe we could all get on with our lives….

    • Glad that this post could resonate with you Corinne.,I believe that anger, if channeled positively, can be a source for positive change.
      Maybe I’m being naive – let’s hope not.

  5. Hey Bex, Kudos to you for putting your political opinions and heartfelt thoughts out there. I agree with you very much on so many points here. I understand how you voted from fear. It is so easy to fear. If only we could place our votes on hope rather than fear. I loved how you wrote this. Let’s hope for the best for Greece and Europe… and well the state of the world. Sigh.

  6. Brave of you to publish your thoughts at a time when tolerance of other people’s views seems sadly lacking. My husband and I enjoy life split between the UK and Crete so you’d think we’d have a similar view to each other, but no our votes cancelled each other out. So much confusion! X

    • Thanks Yvonne. I am sure I will get my fair share of ‘haters’ too. It’s truly a confusing time for everyone at the moment. I wish you and your husband well.

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