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September 3, 2002

Working Hard, or Hardly Working?

Greek-Americans... Workaholics?
Greeks in Greece...Couldn't we all use an afternoon nap?

For most of us, Labor Day was the last day-off from work until Thanksgiving. It is appropriate that we get a day off on Labor Day, seeing as it was a holiday created to recognize and celebrate those who work by giving them a well deserved day off. Work is an interesting topic when it comes to Greeks back in Greece and Greek-Americans here, especially in the DC area. The differences between are Greeks and Greek-Americans when it comes to work are sometimes astounding. The "American" in "Greek-American" gives us a work ethic that is often times foreign to our counterparts back in Greece. We work too hard in this country, especially in the DC area. In a city where a 9 to 7 day is commonplace and taking work home and working on the weekends is a reality for many, it is easy to be envious of Greeks back in Greece who don't work as many hours and often split their day between the morning and afternoon with an extended lunch hour/siesta. Even in a city as modern as Athens, you can expect even the most professional of professionals to come home during the middle of the afternoon, especially during the summer, to eat lunch and take a nap. 

Not only do Greeks back in Greece work less hours during the week than we do here in the states, they also have far more vacation days than we do here in the States. Most of us would kill for two to three weeks off from our jobs every year. Greeks in Greece average a month or more off from work. Add into it a healthy smattering of religious holidays, and Greeks are getting days off all over the calendar. 

So what are Greeks doing with their spare time? Not only do they vacation more than we do here, but they take advantage of their nights after work more than us as well. You'll see every kafeneio and club packed at midnight, especially during the summer-- even on a Sunday or Monday night. It makes sense if you've had an afternoon nap and know the next morning that you are only going to have to be functional for a few hours during the morning and early afternoon before you can take another nap, that you can afford to go out on a work night. For most of us, outside of a random Thursday night, knowing that you can fake your way through a day of work on Friday, it's pretty much the same routine -- come home from work, eat dinner, watch TV, and get to bed at a decent hour -- knowing that another 12-hour day is upon us the next morning. 

Members of GW's Kosmos Hellenic Club at at Frappe Night in October, 2001.
Here in the U.S., only the college kids can attempt to enjoy a quasi-Greek work-play balance.

This difference in work and lifestyle between Greeks and Greek-Americans lead to Greek-Americans being perceived as workaholics and Greeks back in Greece being perceived as lazy. Neither perception is accurate. Greeks back in Greece simply have different priorities than we do here in the States. There's a greater emphasis in Greece on spending time with family and friends, on working to live and not living to work. This sentiment isn't completely absent in Greek-Americans, it just manifests itself in different ways. 

Ever wonder why Greek-Americans are stereotypically known as a nation of restaurant owners? The restaurant is just a typical example of what Greek-Americans should be more known for, an entrepreneurial spirit. It doesn't matter what the service or profession, if there's a way for a Greek-American to do it on their own, they'll find a way. (Even in a town known for being full of lawyers and lobbyists, you're mostly going to find Greeks in these professions working for themselves and not as a part of a large firm.) It might just be that Greek-Americans don't like anyone telling them what to do, that makes them usually open up their own businesses. Maybe it's a way for Greek-Americans to share in the positive aspects of the Greek balance of work and life. The Greek-American entrepreneur makes their own hours, finding more time to enjoy family and friends and their time outside of work than the 60-hour a week working for the man crowd. At the end of the day, they don't worry about office politics, which Greeks are traditionally not good at anyway. (When's the last time you met a Greek who could keep their mouth shut and their pride in check long enough to actually take in constructive criticism in an evaluation seriously, even when they know they're wrong?) The Greek entrepreneur normally only has themselves to blame, or in the case of a family business, the rest of their family, which is an even more typical Greek response. And when it's all said and done, the Greek entrepreneur normally takes all of the credit for their success as well. 

I'm a Greek-American! I make my own hours and don't take crap from anyone!
The Greek-American entrepreneurial spirit at work.

If you're a Greek-American entrepreneur reading this article, we applaud you for taking the time out of the demands of being your own boss to relax and surf the internet. If you are not a Greek-American entrepreneur, but reading this article at work, we applaud you for slacking off on company time to visit our site. If you're the boss of a Greek-American reading this because your Greek-American employee left it on their screen, don't worry, they're at lunch or gone for the day, and only visit the site on their lunch break or at the end of the day, never on company time, and if you'd like to get in good with your Greek-American employee, tell them that you learned the phrase, "Eimai megalos yiadaros" which means, "I appreciate all the hard work and dedication you bring to your job each and every day." Finally if you are in Greece and reading this, shouldn't you be taking a nap or something or getting ready to go out tonight? 

Read past feature articles.