The Greeks: What are they like?

I confess that the subject of the global economy is not something that keeps me awake at night. I realise this stuff is important but I don’t feel I’m in a position to do much about it, and so I’d sooner focus my attention on things where I can make a difference.

Inevitably that means worrying about individuals, not countries, or economic / political blocks.
And yet, this Greek business has got me thinking. What might be at the heart of the matter is something to do with national character. Now I’m always very wary of sweeping generalisations about peoples. That seems to me to be where racism starts. On the other hand, a shared culture and history must, to some extent, shape the attitudes of a nation. So what might there be to learn about Greek people that can help us to understand how that country is responding to the current economic crisis?

I opened my copy of the excellent “Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands” by Morrison and Conaway. The book presents pen portraits of just about every nation and their people in order to make it easy to do business with those countries. As someone who works with individuals I was naturally interested in what it had to say about how people behave. Here are some points it made about Greek people:

  1. Personal relationships, especially family, are of great importance. If you want to influence a Greek person you are more likely to do so if you have established a strong trusting relationship with them. Therefore, information is processed from a subjective rather than an objective perspective so it is often difficult for them to change their view.
  2. Greek people like structure to provide rules and a moral framework because they are generally keen to avoid uncertainty. On the other hand, they tend to make decisions less on the basis of rules, but following on from the point about subjectivity above, the specific circumstances of the situation at hand.
  3. Greece is a patriarchal society where machismo counts for much.

Following the unfolding story of the Greek debt crisis and how the players are communicating, both within and outside Greece, it’s possible to see these characteristics shaping the discourse.  

Whatever the outcome of Sunday’s referendum, commentators from outside Greece will no doubt base their analysis of the result by referencing their own framework of understanding of how the world is.

I’m going to try to understand it from the perspective of how Greek people understand the world to be.

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