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Cultural Collateral Effects Of Greek Debt Crisis

Cultural Collateral Effects Of Greek Debt Crisis
Nastassia Dobremez

Banks are back, the stock market has reopened and all economic signs (including the banks and stock market) are disastrous. Normalcy has returned to Greece! The more serious truth is that the deal signed last month by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras — which includes new austerity measures in exchange for a third bailout to stay in the Eurozone — will have real effects on people's lives. The downside of the debt drama can be measured not only in its economic but also cultural and social consequences. Here are some signs of the times.


The crisis doesn't only affect the present and future of Greece, but also its past, as the country's 270 public museums have seen their budgets considerably trimmed in response to the mounting public debt. The annual allocation to Athens' National Archaeological Museum dropped 27% between 2010 and 2012 according to French newspaperLe Monde. The State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki is also struggling with the lack of state funding. "It only has enough funds to pay staff salaries. It cannot fund running costs and exhibitions, cover utility bills and pay for internet usage," independent curator Katerina Gregos told The Art Newspaper. As for the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, it was momentarily closed on July 1. "The cost of keeping it open will bankrupt the institution, making 20 staff redundant," said the museum's artistic director Denys Zacharopoulos.


The debt crisis has been visible on the walls of Athens. As the majority of the Greek population rejected bailout terms in a referendum last July, they have made their despair heard via street art, with plenty of anti-austerity graffiti popping up around the capital. Graphic designer N_Grams painted an EU flag on which is inscribed four white capital letters: N€IN. "It came to me the other day, so I went out straightaway and made it. Because this is it now, isn't it? Crunch time. The moment has come. Now we have to make the big choice, the really big decision. Perhaps this will make some people think", the artist explained to The Guardian. Former photographer Cacao Rocks who made the graffiti "€urope without Greece is like a party without drugs" says this rush of socially engaged street art began "because of this big wave of anger that started in 2008 and just grew and grew. But also, as the crisis got worse, there were more and more closed shops and empty buildings. There were a lot of walls to paint."


Another repercussion of Greece's situation lies in the spirits industry. Importing foreign alcohol has become difficult with the complication of moving money in and out of the country. And excise taxes on spirits have more than doubled since 2010, raising liquor prices for consumers.

But above all inhabitants want to spend as little money as possible even if it is for having fun. Difford's Guide, a website dedicated to cocktail culture, met Greek bartender Chris Houseas: He explained that with the crisis people felt "reluctant paying 10 euros for drinking something special like a cocktail." Beer consumption, in response, is up.


It's apparently not only humans affected by Greece's slowdown. In Athens, hundreds of cats and dogs have been abandoned by their owners. As unemployment soared to 25,6% last June, fewer and fewer Greeks have the money to take care of their pets. A local student, Simon Throup, decided to set up a charity appeal to raise 25,000 pounds ($39,000) for animals to have "food, medicine and homes," he explained to Metro UK. "Unfortunately, dogs don't adapt too well to city living without owners and many die of thirst, starvation or disease."


In Berlin a restaurant called Z is serving up a ""Hellenic-European Drama"" menu. Its Greek-born owner Georgios Chrissidis, who moved to Germany in 1984, told Reuters that his homeland's financial troubles had inspired several dishes named after key protagonists of the Greek crisis.

Customers can thus, for example, order a starter called "Tsipras darling," made of Manouri cheese — which is neither soft nor hard just as the Greek Prime Minister's approach during the negotiations with creditors. For dessert, you can choose a tart nicknamed Sweet Angie, in reference to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "What I think is that Mrs. Merkel is the Iron Lady but she was able to very sweetly bring an end to the Greek crisis, the Greek tragedy. And as a reward I thought about a nice dessert which is also very popular. And the guests like it," Chrissidis said.

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