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Debt-rattled Greeks seek out the German Dream

The Local · 24 Nov 2011, 07:11

Published: 24 Nov 2011 07:11 GMT+01:00

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Like thousands of her compatriots, Georgakila, in her mid 20s, saw that the Greek economy had less and less to offer a talented professional just as Germany was crying out for skilled labour.

"I worked seven months in Greece and I got only 10 percent of what I should have got," she said. "So I decided to try to get a job in Berlin."

She moved to the German capital last month, where she shares a flat with a Greek-German, Marco Sokianos, who, "very affected" by what his fellow Greeks are going through, tries to help where he can.

Georgakila is part of a new wave of qualified young people whom the eurozone debt crisis has forced to leave their own country in search of brighter prospects abroad, even if the start can be rocky.

She chose Germany, home to the third-largest expat community of Greeks after Australia and the United States. And while unemployment has hit 18 percent in Greece, in Germany it just dropped to 6.5 percent, according to the latest data.

Greek immigration to Germany goes back to the 1960s when the then West Germany was in the midst of its "Wirtschaftswunder," or economic miracle, after World War II, and desperately needed workers to run its factories.

Having signed a "guest worker" pact with Italy in 1955, Germany inked further agreements with Greece and Spain and recruited a huge number of workers, many of whom were illiterate. But the oil crisis of 1973 brought this first wave to an end - Greeks who tried their chance in Germany after that ended up in service industries, opening restaurants and travel agencies.

The current rise in the number of jobless young Greeks fresh out of university is offering Germany a fresh talent pool.

"We lack doctors in Germany. And in Greece, young people have to wait a long time to get a position as an intern," said Beate Raabe, spokeswoman for the German central office for the placement of foreign workers, a public body that is part of the Federal Labour Agency.

"That's why we organised recruitment sessions for young graduates of medicine in 2010 and 2011 with our Greek partners," she said.

"And this year we have started gauging the interest of young Greek engineers to come and work in Germany. At the end of 2011 we will probably have the first results of our study," Raabe added.

Georgakila has so far failed to master the German language, which is a common problem among many young Greeks, Raabe acknowledged.

As a result, demand for German lessons has spiked with the number of Greek students rising by 30 percent since the beginning of the year compared to last year at the Goethe Institutes in Germany.

For Georgakila though, it is a question of priorities - she does not have enough money at the moment to pay for lessons, so makes do with learning German by computer with the help of Sokianos.

According to the Labour Agency, the number of Greeks registered with Germany's social security system increased 5.9 percent between the end of March 2010 and this year. More up-to-date figures will be released at the end of the year but all indications point to the increase being clearly higher in the last months of 2011.

"We are clearly seeing more requests than before about the working conditions in Germany at the German embassy in Athens," a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said.

Story continues below…

In Berlin, the Orthodox priest Emmanuel Sfiatkos sees a similar trend.

"Currently between 40 and 50 people come to see me every month to ask me to help them. These last three months, it has really intensified," he said.

For the time being, Georgakila has no work.

She is selling bags she made with a fellow Greek in a Berlin boutique, earning a bit of money and hoping that something better will come along soon.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:59 November 24, 2011 by Celeon
Booming Germany ? Which Germany is this article referring to ?

Ah wait, i understand. The situation is so dire that 0.5 % of growth with tendency downwards is already considered sort of a boom now. Comparing Germany's growth with the situation in other countries, it almost makes real sense to talk of a boom.

But it is certainly true that people with peticularily good university degrees are in demand for the near future. The others should not consider coming to Germany in search for work, it would be a fruitless effort , especially with the current outlook for the world economy.
20:15 November 24, 2011 by ovalle3.14
Depends on each person's goals. If you shoot low, it should be easy to make it, even here in Germany speaking little or no German.
06:50 November 25, 2011 by Sastry.M
Comfort cannot be sought loaned with usury but misery can be relieved with hard work where one dreams to realize.
21:40 November 25, 2011 by Enough
Geeks are too lazy to pay off their undeserved lifestyle. They don't need our help.
10:05 November 26, 2011 by Tomaso
To say that greeks are lazy is like to say that all the germans are nazis.... Stupid stereotypes for stupid people
15:11 November 26, 2011 by SuperHaduken
I agree with Tomaso, "Enough" come on now, you could do better than this.

First wave of the Gastearbeiters included famine stricken, poverty stricken and mostly illiterate people looking for a better future.

This wave of immigrants is probably even worse since most of Greece's mind pool gets drained and young well-educated people leave home to battle it out on a leveled-out field; rather than trying to go uphill in Greece like Sisifus did...

I believe that if you are hard-working, descent and open-minded then the whole world can be your home. And this includes Germans moving out of Germany to find their personal nirvana. Misconception and prejudice are the first battle in a fight to get a better life [together].

Bravo Georgakila (kali tichi - good luck)
01:33 December 1, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
"Geeks are too lazy to pay off their undeserved lifestyle. They don't need our help. "

I agree completely. They ruin one economy, and jump ship when the consequences of their actions become more apparent and begin affecting the middle class. Germany needs tighter entrance restrictions.

So, whoever is doing better economically, they can expect a large influx of immigrants from worsening economies, right? This has been happening for hundreds of years - it's nothing new. There has to be a better way, though. You can't just move someplace else to solve your problems. Where is their loyalty to Greece? Will no one stay to try to help Greece through her difficult time?
12:45 December 1, 2011 by AlexR

"Geeks are too lazy to pay off their undeserved lifestyle. They don't need our help."

This is gross stereotyping combined with sheer ignorance. How do you know that ¦quot;Geeks (sic) are too lazy¦quot;? Have you worked there? Did you look up data from official sources? Or your assumption is based on what you read on the German and UK tabloids?

Here are some facts and data for you from *official* sources. According to the OECD, on 2009 Greece is *second* in World's hardest-working countries. The ¦quot;lazy¦quot; Greeks work 2119 hours per year while Koreans are the first with 2232 hours. Who works the least? The ¦quot;hard-working¦quot; Dutch with 1378 and the Germans with 1390 hours.

Oops! Here goes your argument. Full data here:

21:09 December 1, 2011 by koli
All dreams can become nightmares... beware!
01:54 December 3, 2011 by georgekl

It 's always the same.

For those that work too much and more, they finally get less.

Hard Working people and inspiring minds always find their way.

Some interesting info here: http://mywikistep.com/uk_code_cracking_competition_keyword
11:17 December 4, 2011 by steffan ap sion
What I don't seem to hear about is Goldman-sachs' part in all this. It appears that the Greek government supposedly hid a lot of debt from Europe when it joined th eEuro. I have read that Goldman-Sachs were instrumental in helping with this. Aren't they going to be charged? Or is this just rumour?
00:43 December 21, 2011 by Horace87
If instead the gentleman of the articles was one of those rich greeks who's pulling his money away from greek banks and putting in german banks nobody here would be complaining about him coming over. I know an italian man who started a business in Hamburg that employes more than 50 people, mostly german...

It's not "we don't want southerners", it's "we want just those with money".
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