In my quest for a job and a home I have yet again seen another angle to life in Greece. The dreaded Bureaucracy!
Greek bureaucracy is legendary. Everything requires some paper that has stamps and signatures. To get that paper, you need to get three other papers and prove that nobody from your family up to your great grandfather was NOT a camel. Or a cockroach. Nobody is completely informed of the whole process of getting the required paper. I know people whose papers are stuck in the circulation of that huge machinery for years and years without much outcome. It is like a black hole of paperwork. It sucks in all the paper, ink, stamps, signatures and usually gives back nothing. But every now and then on a rare case it spits out A Very Important Paper, signed and stamped. And you know that David’s win against Goliath was probably inspired by Greek bureaucracy.
The procedure goes something like this:
Which office should you visit first? Go to that one. Oh, why are you here without this paper? Go to THAT one first and get the other paper and then proceed there to obtain that proof. Then make a copy of those three papers.
What do you mean you do not have an address? (followed by a long conversation in Greek with a colleague and a few supervisors)
Sign here. And here. And on every page here… and to those twenty pages there.
What am I signing? – Oh I don’t know. Would you like to sit down and read all of it? – No I think I’ll pass.
I feel like a celebrity giving lots and lots of autographs. And just when the signing is done and you think that this paper with that important number is almost in your hand, oops – we have problems with internet! Could you come back tomorrow?!
Every office is open from 9 to 13. In between those hours there might be some coffee breaks and cigarette breaks. But then again, coffee does not obstruct working so every single table that I have seen in various offices and even the bank, has one or few frappe cups on it. Towering dangerously over the computer keyboard. There are mountains and piles of different folders that look like something from the eighties but have markings from this century. The waiting area for the office has not seen renovations since mid-nineties. The chair that you are trying to sit on had it’s best years some time 30 years ago. The faux-leather covering it is smiling dreamily in every corner but be aware, when you sit on it – what you see as a smile, is actually biting.
In all honesty, I can not complain so far. It has been an interesting insight into the Greek world. And I have a powerful secret weapon with me that opens all doors and makes people smile. No, it’s not a briefcase with huge amounts of money. It’s something even better – two little blond Estonian girls! I have not yet seen a Greek bureaucrat who can resist that. As soon as they see the girls, they smile and melt and suddenly all the stamps and signatures are in the right places and the fact that I don’t have a permanent address is the most insignificant little detail in the world. And off I go, skipping happily to the next office to repeat the procedure of signing and smiling.