Business

How do Greeks in Germany feel amid the debt crisis?

Andreas Ketselides and his son
Image caption Andreas says coming to Germany means more opportunities for his family

After enduring a series of pay cuts and with his career prospects diminishing by the day, Andreas Ketselides moved his family from Athens to Offenbach, just outside Frankfurt, last year.

He brought a taste of his country with him - quite literally. The 40-year-old runs an authentic Greek grill house, serving souvlaki and bifteki to fellow Greeks in the area.

"You feel homesick, that's for sure," Andreas admits, reminiscing about his time as a soldier based in the idyllic Aegean islands, a stark contrast to his German surroundings.

"But it's better to have peace of mind, to be able to provide for my wife and kid."

Locally, some home comforts are provided for - there's a Greek coffee shop, a Greek taverna complete with an Olympiacos FC flag draped across the window, and a Greek grocery where Hellenic watermelons are on offer in the searing July heat.

Yet despite these familiar amenities, being among the 330,000 Greek migrants in Germany during the debt crisis has been challenging.

'We're different'

Germany's governing politicians have barely disguised their contempt for Alexis Tsipras and his anti-austerity Syriza party, while the country's most popular tabloid, Bild, has run a string of headlines in the past few years deriding Greeks for being lazy and greedy.

Image caption Niki says she wants to leave Germany and go back home to Greece

Recent academic research has suggested that anti-Greek sentiment is on the rise.

"You hear people say 'we've had enough', 'we pay for you' and things like that," says Niki, who came to Offenbach from Thessaloniki in 2010 and works in Frankfurt airport.

"It's not comfortable."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Niki socialises almost exclusively with her compatriots, often playing tavli, or Greek backgammon, with two German-born Greeks in Offenbach's Greek pub.

"I want this to end," she says, referring to the ongoing negotiations between Greece and its creditors. "I want to go back."

"It's going to be tough for me in Greece, but I prefer to be there with my people in my country, instead of staying here and listening to all this..."

She breaks off, wary of issuing an expletive. "You can put a beep here."

Image caption Anti-Greek sentiment is one the rise in Germany, according to recent academic research

Despite acknowledging the efficiency of Frankfurt's infrastructure, and the relative stability of its economy, Niki has few kind words for her German neighbours.

"We might be poor but we still live - they do not know how to live," she says.

"I'm not going to take [any lessons] from German lifestyle to Greece. We're totally different."

'Lazy'

A little further down Offenbach's Frankfurter Strasse, I come across Valerios, a 25-year-old who came here from Drama, a remote mountainous region in northern Greece, two years ago, and is now doing a vocational course while working in a hotel.

While he and his friend Pavlos, a builder who has been in Germany for four years, tuck into kebabs, Valerios says he, too, is acutely aware of how his country is perceived by some Germans.

"They say we are so lazy, that we don't like to work," he says, "and this comes from the media."


A German viewpoint

by Theo Leggett, Business correspondent

"I think your average German probably knows a lot more about what's going on in Greece at the moment than he does about his own country", says Dr Nikolas Busse, a columnist and deputy foreign editor at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany's oldest newspapers.

The paper's editorial line varies, but increasingly suggests frustration with the Greek government. One recent editorial, entitled "The euro is not a gift from the gods", told Greece that members of the single currency could not pick and choose their own rules.

Some other papers go much further. So do ordinary Germans share these attitudes, and endorse the hard line which Mrs Merkel and her austere finance minister Wolfang Schaeuble have been taking in negotiations with Greece?

"Very much so!" says Nikolas. "The personal ratings of Wolfgang Schaeuble have gone up 3 or 4% over the past couple of weeks alone, just because of his stance on Greece."

That's not to say German citizens are entirely uncaring about Greece's plight. "They have empathy, not necessarily sympathy. They understand that Greece is going through a hard time. But at the same time there's a decreasing willingness to pay for Greece," says Nikolas.

Yet he believes that Germans would back a new bailout for Greece - if the terms were right. "I think that Germans, like many people, want stability."


Just a few miles away, the sleek skyscraper that houses the European Central Bank looms large.

In the next few days it will seal the fate of Greece's banks, which are already teetering on the brink, by deciding whether to continue supplying emergency funding to the country's lenders.

Image caption Greece should leave the eurozone and go back to the drachma, say Valerios (left) and Pavlos

But few of the Greeks in Offenbach have much confidence in the ECB or in the eurozone's leaders.

Most would have voted 'no' in Sunday's referendum.

"Let's go back to drachmas - it will be better," says Valerios, who wants to return to Greece when he finishes his studies.

Pavlos agrees: "By now, it's better to leave the eurozone."

'Proud'

Andreas, however, would prefer Greece to stay in the euro. If it doesn't, he worries that the country could become "the Cuba of Europe" over the next few years.

"In my heart I was going to say 'no' [to a deal with creditors] because I'm Greek and we're proud of being able to stand on our feet," he says.

Image caption Around 330,000 Greeks now live in Germany

"But if they just cut some slack to the Greeks - I would definitely say 'yes'."

Regardless, Andreas has no plans to leave Offenbach.

"Your child is getting supported - they have really good education systems here," he says, hugging his toddler. "It's not like in Greece."

"I really want my son to graduate from university here - I want him to do what I couldn't do."

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