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Do Greeks and Germans Actually Hate Each Other?

The economic relationship between the two countries has been strained in recent years, so we asked young people in Berlin and Athens for their perspective.
January 30, 2015, 3:45pm

This article was written by VICE Greece and VICE Germany.

Thanks to the Greek economic crisis, a divide has been grown between Germany and Greece. Germans—the bail-outers and austerity-imposers—have been spouting anti-Greek rhetoric while Greeks—the austerity-hit recipients—have been spouting anti-German rhetoric.

For the past few years, the Greek media has been reveling in self-pity, painting a portrait of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as an evil old maid looking to suck the life out of the hard-working, hard-done-by Greek people. In Germany, it's quite the opposite: Op-ed writers routinely portray Greece as a fund-sapping blight on the nation.


The situation only got worse in the last week, with radical left-wing party Syriza winning the Greek general election after pledging to renegotiate the terms of the country's debt with Germany. Now both countries feel like they're engaged in some kind of rivalry.

But is that really the case? We walked around the center of Berlin and the center of Athens to ask young people how they actually feel about each other.

Beate (Berlin): I stopped following the story in the German press—they keep trying to humiliate that country and it makes me too angry. I have a few Greek friends from university, and through them I know how hard life is over there.

They have all these crazy taxes that no one can pay. The media in Germany want us to think they're stupid and lazy, but I know that is not the case. Austerity just doesn't work.

Konstantinos (Athens): I've been to Berlin and I loved the city and their sense of organization, but as a people they were a little cold and sort of racist against Greeks—at least the older generation. When you tell them you're Greek they look at you sort of strange. This was the feeling I got the one week I spent there.

But I liked their way of doing things, their and that they looked clean and refined. I think I would live comfortably there.

Jan (Berlin): I don't think the EU should threaten the Greeks with cuts just because they don't want austerity anymore. I think Germany just has to help them now so that they can stay in the Euro.

The EU came together for a reason—solidarity. It makes no sense to turn your back on someone the moment they start experiencing difficulties—the whole alliance would be kind of pointless then.

Katerina (Athens): I am a waitress so I service quite a few German tourists. I get the impression that Germans are so-so. There are those who are nice and kind but some are more annoying. One thing is certain when you get a German customer: They won't be tipping.

They generally give off a negative vibe and I think it's because of that Merkel madwoman.

Robin (Berlin): I guess it would be great for the Greeks if they got their old currency back, but it wouldn't be good for the rest of the EU. Although they wouldn't be able to afford foreign technology. Also I'm not sure about this left-wing guy.

The crisis is partly Greece's fault. But it's as much Germany's and the EU's fault. Take the weapons Germany sells to Greece—we basically force them to buy expensive equipment worth billions of Euros. I mean, the Greek army is better equipped than our own! Why, I wonder? That's also a reason they don't have money—they spent it all on our weapons.

Christos (Athens): Usually when I think of Germany I think of something negative because of World War II. Before the crisis, the negative view I had was because of its history, now I can say that my opinion has been affected because of the political situation too.

However, I don't equate politicians with citizens. We cannot undermine nor question some aspects of German culture. They have their own mentality about life and going about the everyday, more stringent regulations that frame the way they live. I believe they have a better educational system and maybe that's why people come out as more stringent. I don't agree with those who say that the Germans are bad people—they simply have superior interests.

Clara (Berlin): I think that a country shouldn't leave the EU once it's joined. That's what the EU is for, countries supporting each other. If they lose the Euro now, this would make their crisis much worse.

Also, traveling to Greece is much easier when they also have the Euro. I traveled to to Thessaloniki and Chalkidiki three years ago and it's beautiful. They have so much culture! And I didn't feel like they did not like me because I was German. Everyone I met was really relaxed—I've never experienced Greeks as being unfriendly.

Konstantina (Athens): I've travelled all around Europe, but in Germany it seemed to me that people didn't really make an effort to speak English with us. The Germans are a very good people, but they take life too seriously. Greeks speak loud and generally give off happy vibes—the Germans are way too quiet.

I loved Berlin though! It's a great city—the streets are clean, there are lots of bars, their museums and restaurants are nice, and they all dress well, but I didn't really like their local cuisine. Also anything produced in Germany is of very good quality—even if you buy a blender you can be sure that if it's from Germany, it's a guarantee.