An example: my friend has had to return to the UK for reasons beyond her control, and I had the job of trying to sell her car for her.
Easy, you may say. Not so.
She had to come back here to sign a paper giving me power of attorney to complete the transaction. Having done that, we then had to drive 30kms to the police station in the capital where we had to produce our passports and residence permits, which an officer witnessed. Then he rubber stamped the form and I was able to sell the car in her absence. I then had to reproduce said passport etc at the registration office, along with the M.O.T., the receipt for the year's road tax, the emission pass certificate and the name of every hamster I had owned since 1953. (At least it seemed that way.) I've finally got it done though, but things are much easier in the UK. Perhaps that's why there is so much tax dodging here; people just can't be bothered with all the paperwork and hassle involved. After the last few weeks, I don't blame them one iota.
In an effort to reduce tax dodging, the present administration has brought in a new law stating that all transactions over 3,000 euros MUST be done via the banking system. Before, the Greeks loved using cash for buying - it's untraceable and unaccountable. Now, if a guy wants to buy a new car for 15,000 euros, and the transaction goes through the bank system, the tax office can demand to know where the money came from. We have known of private doctors here declaring an annual income of 18,000 euros. The true figure was more like 100,000 plus, but, with many consultations being given without a receipt being issued, there was no way the taxman could prove otherwise.
So, does the new system work? Partly. In the case of the buying of a new car, it does, as the dealer has to account for the sale price on his books. But, if buying a used car, then there are still ways round the law. Say the cost is 11,000 euros. The seller will make out a receipt for something less than 3,000 euros but still collect the full price. So the system works now and again, but tax avoidance is a way of life for the Greeks, and they will not let go easily.
It's 12 days until the start of the tourist season. All the businesses here are getting prepared for what they hope will be a good six months. Last year was not the best ever. Many people obviously came on a limited budget and chose to cook in their rooms rather than dine out. Can't blame them for that, but word is that last year's prices are being held in most places this year in an effort to attract custom. In the early season there are some good deals to be had from the major holiday companies, and a package is much cheaper than flight only, unless you book the flight months in advance. So shop around, you could save a few quid.
Eating out is not the lottery it was in the past. The vast majority of tavernas offer good food and service at a reasonable price. They do not make a profit from ripping people off, quite the opposite; word gets round fast and folk boycott such places. There are many ex-pats living here and we are usually out and about or working. My advice is, find one of us and ask. We will be only too pleased to help you, and rest assured, we are NOT on commission from the places we will recommend.
The food here is of a very good quality, the majority of the meat served is home reared, and the difference in taste is obvious. The same goes for the fruit and veg. The majority is locally produced and fresh every day. Holidaymakers are often woken up by the PA system on the fruit and veg vans as they patrol the streets in the morning to sell to the local residents as well as commercial premises. In the resort of Katelios there are a couple of restaurants that specialise in fish dishes, and they are very, very good. They're NOT the cheapest places in town, but for anyone who enjoys their fish it's not to be missed.
So, while the island prepares for yet another holiday season, and most ex-pats prepare for six months hard work, I have to decide which bars to visit each day. It's a hard life to be sure, but someone has to live it.
If you're coming here this year please look me up. It would be great to meet some Salopians again, and I might even buy you a drink, who knows.
Wherever you go, I hope your holiday is an enjoyable one.