We become expats for many different reasons, for many it’s for a better life. A life away from our home countries. A life away from the politics of those countries. Many Brits I know became disillusioned with life back home. I certainly did.
I was disillusioned with the way that politics was no longer about the people or the country, it was about profit, banks and politicians.
A bonus of expat life is that you are not involved in the politics. You live in a country but are never really a part of it. In many cases you can’t vote or hold a passport. Your just there for a few years to work, experience life or live out your retirement. One day you’ll leave.
You can view life within a country as an outsider but you’re living there and learning a lot more than what you’ll read in a guidebook or newspaper.
In the Middle East you had to be careful what you said. If the wrong people overheard there could be consequences. So you went around with your eyes half closed trying to not notice what was going on. In many ways it was made easier by a press that was as restricted as the lives we led.
The governments in the Middle East looked after their own people very well. They made sure they were happy and prosperous. During the uprisings in Egypt and Libya they were huge pay increases in Qatar for the local population, with reports of up to 110% for the police and army. But they had an endless pot of oil and gas money.
Now we’re in Europe and this is Greece, they have no money.
Things are different in Greece, some expats are registered to vote in local elections. You can hear expats on every corner, in every cafe, every bar, around every pool talking very loudly about the current situation.
Every time you open up social media there’s a comment or article. Newspapers from around the world have a view on the situation in Greece. I’ve shared many on the Olive, Feta & Ouzo Facebook page. Those views are as varied and confusing as you’d expect.
There are many local papers and commentators whose work is translated into English. I read them with interest and discuss them with my family.
That’s where it does and should end. I don’t have a vote in the referendum on Sunday. I have an opinion but it’s a private one. Why? Although I have lived her for 2 years, although I read the press, I’m not Greek. I’m not married to a Greek, I don’t have Greek children.
Because of those things I will never fully understand the issues that are present within a Greek political situation. I wasn’t brought up and educated in Greece. No matter how long I live here and I hope that’s a long time, I’ll never be Greek. I could spend the rest of my life learning the language and reading in the libraries I will still be an outsider when it comes to truly understanding.
When you speak to a local about the situation, their opinions are based on a knowledge and understanding of the way of life that goes back generations. An understanding that comes from experience and history combined.
As an expat I have my own understanding of the world, coloured by the experiences I had and places I’ve lived. There is no way I can unlearn all I know and relearn to be Greek. Nor do I want to. So as an expat I will always be an outsider when it comes to understanding the world of local politics.
Today I read a post of Facebook that really was very moving. A plea that life will at least improve in some way for ordinary people. That’s all anyone can hope for out of the current situation here.
I’m not going to tell anyone how they should vote. I don’t know that I fully understand British politics most of the time and the tangled web of European politics combined with Greek I will never pretend to understand.
Some may say that being expat means that I have escaped the effects of politics. If only that were true. No matter where we live in the world our lives are ruled by the politics of that place combined with the politics of our homes.
There are rules we have to follow, taxes we pay and laws we abide by. Whether that is covering my arms in public, paying extra taxes on my electric or exorbitant import duty on an old car, I will abide by those laws. If the banks close I can’t get my money or pay my rent.
The difference as an expat is that I no longer have a say in those laws. I don’t have a vote back home or here. I just have to hope that whatever political decisions are made that they are for the good of the people and country not the banks and politicians.
It seems as if Europe it as a crossroads now, I don’t know what will happen to this country in the next few weeks, but it could be an interesting ride. For many it’s going to be a difficult one either way.