In Greece, it's tough to make ends meet - "even with a good salary"

 The FRANCE 24 Observers Team has launched a new series of articles, “Our Observers balance their books”, which takes a look at how people from all over the world budget their monthly income and how their finances affect daily life. In our second feature, we meet Werner de Buysère, 49, a self-employed caterer who lives in Athens, Greece.



Our Observer in Greece, Marc D., 49, is a self-employed caterer who lives in the capital Athens. He caters to the Belgian, Dutch, and Canadian embassies, and earns about 2,000 euros per month. This may seem rather high compared to Greece’s average salary of 800 euros per month, but it’s not enough for him to make ends meet.


If you are interested in sharing your story for “Our Observers Balance Their Books” project, please contact us at observers@france24.com.


“I might be crazy, but I want to keep up hope for a better future”


I decided, back in 1999, to settle down in Greece because I fell in love with this country. Two years later, I opened a restaurant specialising in Italian food. Unfortunately, this experience was short-lived; I closed the restaurant after just four years because other restaurant owners made threats against me. In Greece, competition is not at all welcome, especially from a foreigner. Since the economic crisis started, this xenophobia has only gotten much worse.


“I’m spending more than I earn”


With my 2,000 euro salary, I have no reason to complain, compared to the rest of the population. And yet, as the months go by, I’m getting more and more into debt. For the past three years, Greece has instated austerity measure after austerity measure, and life has become hell for everyone. Income taxes, for example, have doubled. Today, I pay about 600 euros per month in taxes. The price of electricity has also skyrocketed. This year, it went up 12%. And because I am self-employed, I have to pay for my own health insurance, which costs me 500 euros per month.


To open my restaurant, I had taken out a loan. I continue paying it back, at a rate of about 100 euros per month. I’ll be paying it back for years and years. Thankfully, I had set aside a little bit of savings in Belgium, which is helping me keep afloat for now, but just barely. I’m spending more than I earn. And it’s getting worse.


“I splurge on a movie ticket once a month”


Once in a while, I land an extra gig as a cook at one of the other embassies, but this is becoming increasingly rare. The economic crisis is hitting one country after another, and so they’re all making cutbacks.


The only little treat my partner and I splurge on is movie tickets. We go to the movies once a month. One ticket costs 9 euros. Last year it cost 15 euros, but because nobody could afford to go to the movies anymore, they were forced to bring down their prices. This at least helps a tiny bit…


My partner is Greek, and works an officer in the navy. He earns 1,100 euros per month. Since the crisis, he no longer gets paid vacations. And his salary is soon going to go down by 200 euros due to the government’s new budget cuts. Many of my Greek friends have lost their jobs. Some have emigrated to the United Kingdom or Germany. Me, I plan on staying in Greece. This is where I fell in love, and where I built my life… I might be crazy, but I want to keep up hope for a better future.