Checks&Balances is, as of this moment, starting a series of blogs from IRIO students studying abroad. Leonie Jegen is currently studying in Athens, Greece.

First Impressions of Athens

„So you guys think we are like Pakistani?,” asks me a friend’s friend in a bar. In front of us: a Greek life band, young guys with beards and long hair, enjoying themselves. They play Rembetiko, the other guests – young and old – sing and clap along.

A few hours before, I was wandering through Athens with my friends Liana, who used to be an Erasmus student in Groningen. Along the way we met her friends and lost them again and met other friends and lost them. We had coffee, a look on the flea market, walked somewhere and somewhere else again. The atmosphere on the streets is cheerful; people have dressed up, drink coffee, and take it slowly – a typical Sunday afternoon.

At one point, it was already dark, we met Brad. Brad is a street musician. He says he is from planet earth. He just lost his guitar, but still invites us to sing a song with him. We do so, singing cheerfully “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control…”

The next day I find myself in a big department store. I am looking for a shower cream. The price range from 4 – 15€. Products which cost 0,90 € in Germany are sold for 2,00€. The food prices in the supermarket are similarly high. A German newspaper stated that 25% of all families in Athens suffer from hunger – average people are hit hard by the crisis. In the university building I see posters from political movements everywhere, as well as political graffitis.

There seems to be an overall frustration with politics – not only with Greek politics, but of course also European and especially German politics. A few times already I have heard that Berlin is the “capital of Europe” and that “Greece just isn’t European”.  Being German myself, I usually feel a bit ashamed of stating my nationality.

An appeasing situation arrived. One afternoon, while wandering around the city center, I stopped by a street artist who draws portrays for tourists. When I could not answer his Greek question he asked me where I was from. After hearing my response he started laughing and saying “Schavan! Schavan!” Excited he flicked through the pages of his newspaper. Finally, he found the article, when showing it to me he, he explains me that the German minister of education has bought her doctor title. I start to laugh saying “This is politics!” We laugh together.

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