Following article was originally published in New Diaspora on May 9, 2016.
We recently posted on our Facebook page an article entitled “Greek cook in Germany: I was disgusted by the Greek employers” from bangladeshnews.gr site, which a week before had published the “Greek chef in Australia: Greeks employers treat their compatriots like trash”. This is an issue that has been much discussed by word of mouth; unfortunately, very little has been written about it.
Having previously written about similar cases, we decided to do a little research, gathering testimonies from members of the New Diaspora community. Starting from the comments on the post, some of the most characteristic were:
Kiki: “Time to shed some light on a few things. So we can exorcise the legenda metropolitana of how much solidarity we share with each other.”
Panagiota: “Old news. Everyone knows about it, and I wonder how come there’s still people leaving Greece to go and work in a restaurant in Germany…”
Alex: “Unfortunately, these people are not Greeks, but what they are I still don’t know. All I know is that even here in Canada the same and worse happens. That’s why I don’t want to deal with any of them.”
Thanos: “You shouldn’t have any reservations… Unfortunately, if you see the evidence I have gathered here in Scandinavia, there were even cases with beatings!”
Adam: “I heard the same story here in Melbourne, a person working in a restaurant kitchen and the Greek owner was swearing at the staff!”
Panos: “Same here in Astoria unfortunately, guys…”
“Unfortunately, what this article describes is the norm, and this has been going on for decades,” Christina tells us from Düsseldorf. “I grew up in Germany and I know many ‘gastronomes’ and the squalid conditions in their shops, but also how they exploit the newcomers. Their ideal is couples who get paid a ‘package’ salary. From €1,500-1,700 they promise (per couple), the boss never declares/insures you, and if he does so it’s the minimum wage, with its costs detained from the alleged salary. They also remove the cost for “accommodation”, which usually is a flat above the shop, in appalling condition and most often shared with others. They then remove the cost of the food we eat, and if eventually you don’t end up in the streets you get some pocket money. Classic case scenario is to owe you money so they prevent you to leave. Of course the same applies to those working as waiters and speaking the language.
I know only very few shops that don’t withhold tips. The wallet is always in the hands of the boss, who of course keeps all the tips and pays the waiter. Win-win for the boss. Personally, I face another problem, and this is from family and friends who don’t believe what I describe, thinking that I want to discourage them from coming here. Unfortunately, there are still many “recruitment agencies” that promise a lot, and they think they come to the Promised Land. And so, despite warning them, I found myself twice in the position of collecting a cousin from Eastern Germany and other acquaintances from the other end of Germany, after such a fraudulent agreement got them in the middle of nowhere and not knowing what to do. Solidarity among Greeks in Germany is unknown, or at least very rare.”
“Knowing more neomigrants here, mainly because of my thesis, I found that most who came without speaking German were easy prey for our ‘merciful’ compatriots”, writes Thomas Tziros.
“The neomigrants I interviewed, at least the ones who have worked in restaurants, told me pretty much the same story. They were offered a job with part of the salary under the table. They accepted because a) that shows they have an income and so they can rent a place, b) they had no idea why it is not in their interest not to be normally be registered, and c) they had no choice in case they wanted to learn German and later work on the sector they used to work in Greece. Eventually, they found out that they couldn’t learn German because their split shift at work (11:00-15:00 and 17: 00-23:00) did not allow them to go anywhere and attend language courses. Most people were waiting for a year to be eligible for unemployment benefit, in order to become unemployed and start German lessons. Then they found out that the unemployment benefit is a percentage of their last salary, and the ones who were not declared with their entire salary were getting less benefits. Not a few of them hey were declared as minijobs (€450), which are not entitled to benefits.
These cases are considered mild, since we’ve heard of much wilder situations. One day I watched a TV show on Franco-German ARTE, where they spoke about the issue in response to the case of C.K., a Greek who I happened to know through social networks. Not only he wasn’t paid the agreed salary, but when he could not stand it any longer, he took the car of his work, having no money even for a public transport ticket, and went to Hamburg airport, left the car into the parking lot and sent a message to his boss to come and pick it up. His boss made a complaint that the car was stolen, a warrant was issued for his arrest, Interpol was looking for him and in any case he went through a legal adventure, until he was acquitted in the end.
Watching different groups of Greek on Facebook, I often bumped into allegations of Greeks taking advantage of Greeks. For example, the following post in a Berlin group about two years ago:
What is particularly interesting is not so much the man’s question, as some of the replies he got. One stood out so much that I took a screen capture as a cultural sample.
I discovered similar problems at a Dusseldorf group, where the discussion was so surreal that I did not want to even keep it as a memory.
Someone might think that over the years this phenomenon will disappear, but as I recently discovered in a group of Greeks in Munich, exploitation continues:
I have seen it in various social networks, but I have heard with my ears older generation Greeks in Germany complaining about young Greeks and concluding that “nobody supported us when we came here.” In fact, what matters is the well-known tendency of our race “each one for himself”. The sense of belonging to a community does not exist anywhere, as well as the mood to work in a team. Large Greek communities have deteriorated after disputes and complaints among participants or contenders for the president’s chair. There are exceptions of course, but unfortunately only to prove the rule.”
Finally, in a message Elias from France sent us he asks: “apart from creating and publishing a new article, do you have another proposal in mind or will you only restrict yourself to providing information? I read a comment in that article were someone asked for the names of businesses. I don’t know if he is a lawyer and wants to file a complaint, which is not a bad idea at all, since there are unfortunately many patriotic scumbags living abroad.”
New Diaspora doesn’t have the means to get entangled in legal battles of course, but if someone else takes the initiative we will be happy to publish a story on the subject (e.g. contact details for people wishing to make complaints). We prefer to deal with an unpleasant reality that does not honour Greeks, rather than turn a blind eye in order not to spoil the idyllic picture of a Greek Diaspora that equally supports all its children.