You have all seen the photos in the international press of the chaotic scenes at the Greek banks as hordes of desperate pensioners frantically push against bank doors trying to withdraw their meager funds from their accounts. We all know the media loves a crisis and articles about a crisis must be accompanied by photos of chaos and confusion. I don’t doubt that there have been a few such scenes around the country, but in my experience, the Greek people have demonstrated a remarkable calm throughout the events of the last week. Yes, there are some long lines at some ATM’s–particularly at those of the large Greek National Bank–but I have yet to see sign of the slightest disorder or even the sort of stubborn arguing that is more or less a national pastime among Greeks. (Tell any vendor in this country that you don’t like his or her product and they will respond vociferously that you are absolutely wrong and that the product is, in fact, the finest to be found anywhere in Greece and that you must be out of your mind or just plain stupid not to appreciate its fine quality.)
This picture from an ATM in our neighborhood this morning is pretty typical of the scene in recent days:
A few people calmly waiting in line at the ATM, getting their 50 Euro daily allowance (supposed to be 60 but most banks seem to have run out of 20 Euro bills), and moving on. No big deal.
Most Greeks seem concerned about the situation, as one might expect in the face of a rapidly imploding economy and the prospect of a potential catastrophic collapse of the banking system and possible sudden change in the country’s currency, but not terribly so. Both from interviews I have read in the press and from personal interactions, it strikes me that many Greeks have the attitude that “Yea, it’s a crisis, but we’ve been through a lot of crises and here we are. We’ve survived. And we’ll survive this crisis. Want to go have a coffee?”
Of course, this could all change quickly, if the European Central Bank pulls the plug on Greek banks. We shall see.