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"BENDING" the Law: is it a Menace or a Blessing for Greece?

Back in the 1990's when I used to live and work in London, I would visit Greece every summer to spend my holidays. I loved the professional opportunities that London had to offer, but at the same time I missed like hell the greek sea, sun and sky.

During those holidays, one of the things that would strike me early on in Greece, was a "sense of freedom" which was in stark contrast to the british "rules and regulations" ethics. In Greece, I would get the feeling that "nothing is forbidden", and one can more or less carry oneself around in whichever way one sees fit and get away with it. This contrast would manifest itself in a very sharp manner over the first days of my stay in Greece, when I would still be under the english "obey the law" spell.

After a few days, I would totally adapt to the "greek way of doing things":

  • I would park my car on pavements or other awkward places, leaving the hazzard lights on in case the obstruction might prove too cumbersome for someone

  • I would throw minor pieces of litter in the street, instead of look for a public garbage bin

  • I would talk loud in public places

  • I would skip the queue

  • I would smash swinging doors in the face of whoever followed behind me

  • I would stand in the middle of a pavement, being a painful obstruction to others who tried to walk along

  • I would be late in meetings

  • I would show little tolerance to other people's different points of view

  • I would often disregard amber traffic lights, ignore speed limits, engage in reckless overtaking

I realized that this "bending the law" attitude is interwoven with the greek mentality.

We do not show respect for authority. We do not value social interconnections (only family ones). We cannot easily manage and sustain large-scale operations, where complex interrelations and processes are required (that's why Greece is a land of small-shop-owners and sole professionals). We do not feel comfortable with rules and regulations, our greek soul rebels against such forms of "oppression". Our language is based on syllables (i.e. small verbal units) NOT words.

All that may be a blessing when it denotes a free-thinking spirit and mind, or an attitude for risk-taking and independent thinking, or a flair for creativity. Independent and creative Greeks thrive in a structured environment outside Greece.

But it may also be a menace, since Greeks are prone to discord and disagreements. We cannot easily establish a common ground and a mutually acceptable minimum course of action. We prefer the argument over the conclusion. We might view the person who disagrees with us as our worst enemy. In serious cirtumstances, bending or breaking the law leads to truly unpleasant or hazardous situations, especially when it entails a deterioration of public services and facilities or the loss of life.

Nevertheless, I DO enjoy the feeling that "everything is permitted" in my home country...

An I DO believe that most tourists, when visiting Greece, feel the same!

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