In the last two to three years, something unprecedented and particularly optimistic has happened. Thousands of our compatriots from the distant diasporas of the US, Australia and Canada have discovered Greece. To some extent, this happened because of the coronavirus pandemic. Our country stood out in the way it dealt with it, while there were quite a few people who decided to come to Greece and work from here.
At the same time, the country’s brand improved dramatically, becoming fashionable again, after many decades. It is impressive how popular Greek destinations are in the US and Canada. But the trend is being led by people who have nothing to do with what we used to think of as the “uncle from Brooklyn.” We are talking about the second- and third-generation Greeks who have studied and improved spectacularly in terms of education and living standards.
But these people also come to their country and are surprised to find that Greece is not the “poor relation” that they had in their minds from their grandparents’ time. It is a country with a high level of services in some areas, with roads and infrastructure much better than those of big American cities and people who combine professionalism with warmth. They are enthusiastic about what they discover, from Greek wines to museums and of course the more relaxed way of life. They visit their ancestral villages and search for their roots. Some go a step further and try to find out how to acquire Greek citizenship.
For years we have been looking for ways to bring the diaspora closer to the homeland. Over the years, it became clear that this cannot be done through state-fed pharaonic schemes. After all, the basic condition for their return was to make Greece more attractive for them. Of course, the ties with the country were maintained and, in difficult times, various organizations played a decisive role by bring young diaspora Greeks either for the summer or for a year of university studies.
But what we are seeing now is a new phenomenon. It fills us with joy and optimism because our compatriots are returning to their places of origin and are Greece’s best possible representatives and ambassadors.
You hear them talk about the country and you feel like you’re getting an antidote to the usual domestic misery and cynicism that – unfortunately – manages to gobble up even the usually forgiving Greek sun.