Flying down the highway of a Santorini road, one feels his breath taken away at the sheer beauty of the island. While driving through it’s country roads, looking at blue and white specked houses and crystal-clear water was wondrous to see, how, over millions of years the volcano and its earthquakes had created an obsidian colored caldera. Close by, humans filled in the rest of life’s pleausures with decent Aperol-Spritz and frozen adult beverages. Thanks to Kamari beach for a wonderful piña colada.
Tourists inject the island with a major source of revenue, and some of them want you to know it. Residing in a little island in the Aegean, the locals always act surprised and offer copious gratitude when one attempts to communicate in their native tongue. “The lingua franca” is a respectful way to ingratiate one’s self, though some tourists seemed to care little for these common courtesies.
In Santorini, one is surrounded by wealth. Most visitors seem to exist in a lifestyle of financial comfort along with their progeny, the comfortable in waiting, while some exist in a realm of “funny-money.” These people have the kind of money that enables them to say “fuck-you” to whomever they please. Strolling through Oia, $10,000 breast jobs abound while women jockey for just the right space to inhabit with the best backdrop and lighting for their Instagram caldera sunset picture (spoiler alert: my girlfriend’s was the best and I’m sticking to it). Meanwhile, the young men eschew shirts to show who had the best abs (spoiler alert: it wasn’t me), and the older men seemed content to take up space and complain about the prices (spoiler alert: they’re insane) even though they’ll pay the 300 Euro for the “better” bottle of red wine without a second thought (spoiler alert: it’s worth it).
In this environment where “community” is temporal, there are few repercussions for rudeness. Europeans already have a style of moving which seems rude to the average egality-concerned American. I’m looking at you, the Europeans who don’t seem to understand the concept of a line: take something from the Brits and learn to stand in a bloody queue. This temporal community does nothing but exacerbates bad behavior.
In a situation where behavior matters over time, people seem to behave with more respect for the common good. When you leave in a few days and won’t ever encounter the same people again, it’s easy to place your own needs above everyone else’s. Money only serves to reinforce that you are the fanciest peacock in the roost.
One is under no obligation to offer courtesy, which is what makes it a courtesy. I couldn’t help but wonder what the locals thought of all this; however, as it turned out, the local weren’t local either. Most of them are visitors to Santorini for the busy season from Greece’s mainland.
In light of Greece’s economic crises, it seems like flaunting all that wealth is just rubbing salt into a wound. Nevertheless, without tourism Greece would be in a worse financial hole than it already is.
Even I, an American student and writer who makes his money bartending, experienced feeling well off in comparison to the native population while spending several days in Turkey recently. In 2018, Turkey experienced some of the worst devaluation of its currency in the last decade. In June, The Lyra was worth about 20 cents to the American dollar, and I lived like a king. I ate out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and had a massage every day for less than brunch in the Lower East Side. Buying a latte that rivaled any I’ve had from a New York barista who use their 100k NYU art degree to perfectly transmute milk-foam into a flower to top my eight-dollar drink for a few cents was glorious.
In these circumstances where a whole group of people stand little chance to climb out of an economic hole, it struck this American as unfair. Yes, you might say that life is unfair but there is something about that fact which rubs me the wrong way.
In America, where we are just recovering from our own economic crises, in which the housing bubble was deftly used by the rich to siphon wealth from the middle class, it make me wonder where things are headed. Will things become more or less dystopian? What kind of world will we conceptualize for ourselves going forward? Will it continue to be a world of winners and losers? Perhaps that great American dream that one can transcend one’s economic situation is a lie, but we have always shown a willingness to change what we believe when it’s needed most.
All this being said, I had a wonderful time in Santorini. It’s a beautiful island and I really enjoyed drinking wine and seeing Santorini’s gorgeous orange-blue sunsets every evening from our jacuzzi. I liked how the best restaurants weren’t in the main cities but in some of the older towns down narrow, winding streets. I liked how after a day or so we both became comfortable zipping along the mountainsides on our ATV while taking in the vista and, at night, the wonderfully clear stars. I liked that Santorini had a gym in a room that could have been advertised as a sauna, that had a squat rack and barbells paired with deafening European music. I enjoyed getting lost in the sea of blue and white domes, and I enjoyed watching all the different peacocks flaunt their colors.