“I used to think Germany was responsible for our crisis”: street paper swap changes Greek vendor’s mind

Yesterday on, we heard from Hempels editor Peter Brandhorst about the German paper’s vendor exchange project with Greek paper Shedia. Today we hear from Lampros Moustakis about his experience of the project. Lampros is 54 and from Athens. He has been a Shedia vendor since the paper launched three years ago and is also a tour guide for Invisible Paths – a homeless tour project in Athens.

Lampros explains how selling Hempels in Kiel helped to change his view of Germany and its people. Come back tomorrow to read Hempels vendor Achim Eybe’s impressions of Athens.

Shedia vendor Lampros Moustakis tries his hand at selling Hempels street paper in Kiel. Credit: Heidi Krautwald and Harald Ohrt

By Lampros Moustakis, Shedia vendor

I really hadn’t expected so many people to be friendly, smiling and saying hello to me at my Hempels pitch. When they found out I was Greek and on an exchange for a few days selling this German street paper, people immediately wanted to know my opinion of the crisis at home and what I thought of Germany. By the way, the number of people here speaking English is pretty impressive!

So many friendly faces here in North Germany… my time here was like diving into a huge oxygen tank. I hardly ever see this in Greece any more; people just don’t smile now because of the crisis. Out of 10 or so million people living in my country, three million are unemployed and 20,000 have committed suicide in the last six years because of the economic crisis. A lot of my compatriots have mental health problems now.

“You have to differentiate between politics and people. I’m still critical of German policy towards Greece, but not of the German people.”

I used to think Germany was responsible for all this, but after the many conversations I’ve had in this country, I realise that I was looking at it the wrong way. You have to differentiate between politics and people. I’m still critical of German policy towards Greece, but not of the German people.

It’s wrong for politicians to take the view that all Greeks are corrupt. Our country’s not full of crooks and layabouts who line their own pockets. There have been only a few, and that’s no reason to put the blame for the crisis on the whole Greek population. My plea to German policymakers is to give the majority of us Greeks a chance. A lot of the customers I spoke with at my Hempels pitch understood this. It’s just made me really happy that so many people wanted to know about my countrymen and myself.

Shedia vendor Lampros Moustakis leads street paper delegates on an Invisible City Tour of Athens during the 2016 INSP Global Street Paper Summit. Credit: Giannis Zindrilis

I’m looking forward to telling everyone at home my impressions of Germany, and how everyone acts respectful and decent towards others. Pedestrians observe red lights even when there isn’t a car in sight, drivers wear their seat belts – this is practically unheard of in Athens! And people respect others’ right to peace and quiet at night time. I haven’t had such peaceful nights as I had in Kiel for a long time!

Mind you, not everything’s perfect here. When I arrived at Hamburg airport my patience was tested when I had to wait 45 minutes for my luggage! I really hadn’t expected that. But it’s somehow comforting to know that not everything works perfectly in Germany either.

Lampros was speaking to Peter Brandhorst. Translated from German into English by Catherine Demaison-Doherty.