Sorry for my absence. I was away in Greece the past week. Overall, it was a nice trip. Here are some thoughts on Greece:
1. The Greeks love their leisure time. They essentially work from 7 am- 2 pm, then go home to have a big lunch, take a long nap, hang around, go out to eat dinner around 9 or 10 pm, and then go out to bars/clubs after midnight until around 4 pm. They wake up 3 hours later and start all over again. The saying is "If you sleep, you die".
They love sitting around at cafes and just talking and talking. They certainly seem to enjoy life.
2. The Greek economy is not too strong. The introduction of the Euro caused severe inflation, as prices for goods and services skyrocketed instantly when the Euro replaced the Drachma in 2001. Average salaries for college graduates are only about 1000 Euros per month. I am not sure how they afford life, because the rent for an apartment in downtown Athens is about 800 Euros per months, and coffee is about 4 Euros for one cup (Tall latte at Starbucks was 4.20 Euro and venti was 6 Euros). That's about $6 and $9 in U.S. dollars.
There were strikes there for my first 2 days in Athens. The metro was shut down, as were a lot of other businesses (except for the retailers). They were striking because they were annoyed about the goverment wanting to increase the retirement age to 65 for women (it was previously only 50 years of age, if the woman has a child less than 18 years of age). I personally think 50 years old is too young to retire. With the weak economy, people need to work, not suck up more governmental funds for retirement payments.
3. Everybody there seems to smoke. People smoke everywhere and anytime. It's amazing that the Greeks live so long given their heavy smoking. However, I believe that at least three things serve to counteract the detimentral effects of smoking on their health. A) The food is fairly healthy...lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and lots of fresh seafood was abundant in Athens. B) The leisurely lifestyle. Siesta has been proven to reduce the risk of mortality from heart disease. http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/167/3/296?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=siesta&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT
C) Moderate alcohol consumption- another factor shown to reduce heart disease. There is no drinking age in Greece, and some type of alcohol (typically wine) is consumed with every meal.
4. Politics: I asked 4 people about their views on our current Presidential race. All 4 (women) were unequivocally rooting for Obama. They feel he would provide the most hope for a change in America and for change away from war in the Middle East.
5. The toilets: the plumbing is too narrow to handle toilet paper, so all dirty toilet paper must be placed in garbage bins next to the toilet. Yuck.