«Russell King, Anastasia Christou and Janine Givati-Teerling Sussex Centre for Migration Research, University of Sussex ABSTRACT This paper focuses on ...»
In the final section of the paper we examine the themes which are revealed by the participants when they talk about heir recent lives in Greece and Cyprus. As this is a broad agenda, parts of which we have already discussed elsewhere (Christou and King 2006; King and Christou 2009), we focus here more specifically on the contrasts that participants draw when they compare their experiences of resettlement with their earlier childhood visits. Some clues have already been given on how these comparisons play out: for instance the ways in which Greece and Cyprus have changed over the intervening period – no longer a place of rural simplicity. And Petros hinted that his early childhood playmate cousins had grown up and moved on;
he questioned whether they loved him any more and lamented that they were no longer interested in what he had to say.
‘Now you have to speak Greek’: no longer a visiting child This change in the ‘atmosphere’ amongst family and friends – not as present and welcoming as remembered from childhood visits – is the first theme we explore. This
quote, from Cyprus, represents a typical reaction:
Everyone [in the family] seems very busy and I found out very quickly that it’s one thing when you’re here on holiday and everyone makes time for you, and that it’s a different thing when you actually move over here, ‘cause everyone just kinda disappears. I didn’t get that help, or I didn’t feel that hospitality that I got when I was here on holiday, I just felt very, very much alone. And I had no friends, ‘cause when I was here [on holiday] I was here with my family, and ‘cause I wasn’t studying here [i.e. at school or university] I didn’t make any friends either. So I was just really really alone (Theodora, 28, GC).
Angelo experienced a similar ‘shock’ when he returned to Cyprus, but he shows a greater awareness of the reasons for the difference (‘I came as an adult, not as a child’) and even suggests that the lack of a warm family welcome was a good thing as
it acted as a reality check:
The most exciting thing for me was to see all my family. But none of them showed any interest, and… that … was a really big shock; to me it was so different from my experiences as a child, which I think I was clinging to, as a means of making my stay here a rationalised thing, the decision to move to Cyprus. So that was what changed: I came as an adult, not as a child, which is very different… In fact it has been good in a sense that it has killed that romantic, romanticised image of mine, that came from childhood… it has brought me down to earth (Angelo, 36, GC).
Over in Greece, Rebecca, who had relocated from Germany, experienced a different reaction because she had gone back to her father’s village, where she was made to feel she had to ‘behave’ in a different way – as her father’s daughter, and speaking Greek.
Because I came out of Germany where I lived a normal teenager life, in a normal environment as far as I was concerned, into a little village where rules and regulations… you know, you’re on a show when you walk through the village, and all that stuff… For me it was like ‘what do they want from my life?’ And the other thing I remember, you might call it cultural, was this idea that as soon as I was here, as soon as I moved here … all of a sudden there was this expectation: ‘Now you have to speak and understand Greek’, because you have to show off as the daughter of a Greek man that you can be Greek too… I’ve felt this pressure all the time (Rebecca, 41, GG).
The final extract that we include in this subsection widens the discussion from relatives and friends to a general comparison between ‘life on holiday’ and the everyday reality of living in urban Greece. It brings out the contrast between holiday visits to the beaches and islands, and the frustrations and annoyances of living in Athens.
I never had a bad experience being here [on holiday]. So I wasn’t afraid when Spiro [her husband] said, let’s get up and move. I said: ‘OK, how bad can it possibly be?’ [laughs] It was harder than we thought […] My experience was much better when I was on vacation and I think part of it was because I was on vacation. I was here to relax and I wasn’t looking at what was going on in the street and didn’t care that a guy just honked me ten times and I didn’t, you know, have to deal with the everyday hustle and bustle, especially in a big city like Athens… It was summer time and the Greeks were on vacation themselves and it’s more laid back in the summer… we would go to the beach, we would hang out at cafés… and have a really nice time. But to do it now… ah… you work all day… we’re getting older now and we don’t like to go to clubs and you know, OK, going out to the café sometimes but we don’t want to stay there for ten hours because we have other things to do… we have to clean our house and we’ve got to go shopping… doing the laundry… you know, running around to try to get our Greek papers – everything else that is combined with living in Greece… (Loukia, 34, GA).
Loukia’s contrastive analysis between life and landscapes on holiday and those of her current everyday life in Athens opens up other debates on how the ‘homeland’ societies have changed in the years (often two or three decades) separating childhood visits and adult relocation. Within this domain, two themes were dominant in the narratives – consumerism and immigration – and both were critiqued, often harshly, by the ‘returnees’.
‘We too developed xenophobia’: reactions to immigration Both Greece and Cyprus have passed in the space of two decades from being countries of mass emigration (up to the early 1970s) to countries of mass immigration during the 1990s and 2000s. Most authorities agree that Greece has around 1 million immigrants (in a population of 11 million) whereas in Cyprus there are an estimated 100,000 immigrants in a total population of 800,000 (Baldwin-Edwards 2004:4; King and Thomson 2008). For many interviewees, this ‘migration turnaround’ (King et al.
1997) corresponds to the period between their childhood visits and their adult return;
hence large numbers of immigrants and a de facto multi-ethnic society are part of the social setting they have had to come to terms with as settled residents. Their reactions to this new and perhaps unanticipated reality are quite mixed and ambivalent. To some extent these reactions can be seen in the light of their upbringing in their birth countries, where in nearly all cases they grew up in large or medium-sized urban centres. On the other hand many of them also related how they were raised within a tight Greek or Greek Cypriot community with little interaction with other ethnic or migrant groups, or even with the host society outside of school. Coming from countries with a long-standing immigration history and a (sort of) multicultural social model (except in Germany where Greek migrants were seen as guestworkers or lowclass restaurateurs), their memories of an ‘authentic’ Greece or Cyprus were often challenged by a reality of large-scale recent immigration – Greece primarily from Albania; in Cyprus from a diverse mix of East European (Russia, Ukraine, Poland) and Asian countries (Sri Lanka, the Philippines). Here are some reactions from our
We too developed xenophobia, we Greeks changed too, we have become more suspicious… It is simply that Greece was not prepared economically and socially to put up with this [immigration]… The Germans were ready when they took this step to bring in foreigners. Greece was not ready and consequently people have changed… a sort of sordidness has been brought forth (Martha, 30, GG).
In Cyprus it has changed quite a lot from a country of out-migration, like our parents who moved to England; now it has lots of new immigrants… I like it, I like it. Um, who am I to say for people not to come into the country – I’m for everyone to live where they want, and I think multicultural places make it very, erm… if it weren’t for the crime… ’cause Cypriot people aren’t criminals… on the whole there’s no crime in Cyprus, and it’s now where all the different cultures are coming in, it’s becoming more and more… it’s gonna spoil it a little bit here (Angela, 41, GC).
The second quote above perfectly illustrates an ambiguity which runs through may of the interviewees’ reactions to immigration: they understood its inevitability as part of globalisation and development, they were able to make historical connections of sorts to earlier phases of migration to Germany, the UK or North America, they generally welcomed the advent of a multicultural society, but they had reservations – about the scale of recent immigration, about the country’s unpreparedness for it, about high rates of ‘illegality’, about cultural difference, and about possible links to crime. Note how Angela’s account elides from multiculturalism to crime. At the same time, some participants were very critical of Greeks’ and Cypriots’ racist attitudes towards immigrants from poor countries. Given that two of the authors have already discussed some of these issues with reference to earlier work on second-generation GreekAmericans (Christou and King 2006), we present here some more of the Cypriot material.
Nicholas was particularly enthused by the ‘new multiculturalism’ of Nicosia:
Nicosia for me is like, the only place [in Cyprus] where you can go and feel multicultural, especially on Sunday, you know, you can walk by and see Bangladeshis playing cricket in the park – or they could be Sri Lankans, I don’t know… You see they have picnics, festivals and concerts. Like last Sunday I went to the Nepalese New Year celebrations, that was great, I didn’t realise there were so many Nepalese in Nicosia… I mean, for me that was fantastic… A lot of Chinese, we never had so many Chinese, they’re not so much… er… they’re kind of, not as, er, they don’t interact with society in the same way as the other cultures do. Now we get a lot of Russians… especially down in Limassol … you get a lot more English in Paphos […] But for me, I like the idea of it being multicultural, I do (Nicholas, 31, GC).
Marc on the other hand denied Cyprus was truly multicultural and focused more on trying to ‘explain’ Cypriots’ racism towards foreigners as unintentional and based on
ignorance rather than malice:
… and from a country that’s been ethnically cleansed 35 years ago [referring to the Turkish partition of the island and the population exchange of 1974], all these new faces are coming: Nigerians, Cameroonians, Sri Lankans, Indians.
It’s not so much racism [towards them], it’s curiosity and ignorance that provokes this kind of reaction, it’s not maliciousness. I don’t find Cypriots particularly vicious in their attitudes, just ignorant of other cultures, because they’ve been divided and they’ve been kept pure all of this time, and anyone who has been born in the last 35 years has grown up in this vacuum. It’s not multicultural, despite the shitloads of immigrants that are in the country, ‘cause they’re second-class citizens, they’re an underworld, they’re the cleaners, they’re the people that dig up the road, they’re not part of society.
No [I don’t find Cyprus racist], I do find it extremely prejudiced, though. You get looked at and judged from what colour you are, [how you] are dressed … erm, I wear a suit and I get treated much differently than if I turn up at some kind of business like this [looks at his casual trousers and t-shirt] (Marc, 35, GC).
‘Cypriot girls are so Prada, Gucci, Audi’: on materialism and snobbery Marc’s final comment in the previous quote opens up another theme which resonated through the majority of the narratives, especially of the older participants whose earlier memories of Greece and Cyprus were two, three or more decades ago.
Alongside immigration, there were woven a series of discourses about globalisation, Europeanisation, materialism, consumerism, sharply rising living costs, and snobbery.
Let us return to Marc’s interview.
… one of the things I forgot to add to my hate list – ‘What do I hate about Cyprus?’ – is that the girls, people generally, from their twenties onwards, erm, let’s say from twenty to forty, I mean Cypriots, are very snobby, uptight.
It would be nice to find a relationship with a Cypriot girl, but some of them are so Prada, Gucci, Audi, how much money you got… and they’re nowhere near as friendly as the English girls, to have a relationship; to be completely cool about something, to go up to a girl in a bar and say ‘hi, would you like something to drink?’ She’d be, like, ‘yeah’ and you start chatting away. In Cyprus you don’t get that; you get this cold, like this [mimics a snobby look], they turn around, look you up and down, like you’re a piece of crap. This is what I don’t like about the younger generation in Cyprus. How can a culture that’s so warm and welcoming come to split away from that? That hospitality that I experienced as a kid … seems to get less and less. The young people are more and more snobby, have turned more into materialism and being uptight about things… just not cool and relaxed at all.
Part of the context for this has been the transformation of the Cypriot economy since the first generation emigrated in the 1950s and 1960s. No longer poor and rural, Cyprus has enjoyed high growth based on a productive mix of light industry, intensive agriculture, offshore services and tourism. These trends were well in evidence before Cyprus entered the EU in 2004 (King and Thomson 2008:283-287).
Meanwhile, second-generationers relocating from the high-price UK property market, especially from London, have been able to access the Cypriot housing market at a high level, and some are also able to use liquefied assets to initiate a small business.
Greece has witnessed a paler version of the trends just outlined for Cyprus. The economic booster effect of joining the EU took place twenty years earlier, and the Greek economy has profound structural problems of inefficiency, unemployment and informality. Moreover economic life appears to have gotten much more difficult since the country adopted the euro in 2002. Peter (73,GA) had relocated to Greece in the early 1970s and emphasised the dramatic change in cost of living during his long