Billy Billiris is an 18-year-old Greek-Australian based in Sydney. An active member of the Greek community of Sydney and a big lover of his distant homeland, the Head event Producer of the Fist Pump Entertainment company which has organized several major Greek events in Australia, returned home after spending his vacation in Greece and had some sharp opinions of what he saw, especially after having an image of the country while he was in Australia.
- Being a Greek-Australian yourself, what’s the image you had about Greece while living abroad?
For me personally, no matter what the image has portrayed, I have always had a positive image of Greece, my love for Greece and the Greek culture has inspired the work I do every day and has always been a part of my raising.
My image of Greece was a place of home, a place of hospitality, a place of culture and a place filled with ambience, that’s the image that was portrayed by my Yiayia and Papou. My Papou travels every single year, his love for Greece is second to none. He would always tell me one day we would go together growing up, he recently spoke to me saying sometimes he questioned why he left or why he didn’t move back there. His view, and a view I agree with, is that while Greeks live a poorer life than us in Australia, they’re happier, they’re friendlier and they’re all about family and that is something money cannot buy.
But this is the first time you visited Greece. So, what was the image you had on the country because of the media? Did you notice any similarities between what you thought you would find and actual Greece?
The majority of the media has portrayed Greeks as lazy, the country is in flames because of riots and not to go there as it is a massive risk and they could kill you. Every single report to me is propaganda. Greece is nothing like that, in actual fact they work very hard and I never felt in danger from in Athens to the islands, I felt like I was as safe as home.
Greece was a very cheap lifestyle from food to shopping, it was very cheap. I loved the people’s behavior towards tourists, they were very friendly and always smiling. I had minimal problems but I did see the crisis in the main kentro (centre) of Athens. It was sad to see homeless people and beggars but the local taxi driver did point out a very important thing, that these homeless people and beggars are actually illegal immigrants and they have been there for many years. I hope the Greek Police keep on going with there clean-out of these people on the streets as they cause trouble for tourists, dirty the cities, especially Athens, and are part of an economic problem.
International media keep showing a general image of destruction and desperation in regards to Greece. Do you agree of this image broadcast that all Greeks have been turned from joyful and outgoing people into desperate and poor?
I don’t believe Greeks are desperate or poor. Yes, they live a poorer life than us in Australia, yes, the majority are not well off but it depends on how you measure poor. In my opinion, the majority seem happy and obviously, time will tell especially with Troika coming into play and placing very tough austerity measures for the Greeks. One thing I will say is that the majority of Greeks I spoke to are confident that they will beat this crisis and they never give up.
What do your Australian friends think of Greece right now?
Aussies love Greece, I go to university and all the girls always say how much they dream to get married on the Greek islands. Yes, media impacts them a lot, I remember heaps of them saying “please promise me you won’t get killed.” I laughed because until you experience Greece, you really can’t say that. Aussies and Greeks have many similar tastes and that is why they love Greece.
What do you like the most concerning Greece, and what do you hate?
I loved the people and I loved the culture, there is no place like Greece. The one thing I hated was these illegal immigrants on the streets, yes I understand they’re doing it tough but the European Union must place some tough legislations on this issue otherwise they will continue to dirty Greece and its’ cities. All the tourists and Greeks in general seem to have the same opinion. Maybe built a detention center to house them until their country is identified and is deemed safe to return to.
Several young Greeks decide to migrate to other countries due to crisis, sometimes they head to Australia. What do you think of that?
I think Greeks need to stay in Greece because Greece needs them now. They need unity and they need support. Greece has so much potential to become one of the most producing nations, they just need innovation and hard work. This crisis is an opportunity for Greece to rebuild for the better and just by walking through small towns you see the potential it has. Go back to basics, re-discover your old culture and realize what you have. In saying that, Australia is a beautiful country, it is very modern and has some of the best facilities, jobs are limited in Australia and not everything is as easy as it seems as the whole world is going through tough times.
You are working in the event organizing sector focusing on Greek events. Do you believe Greek-Australians are really interested in events organized by Greek communities of Australia?
I would love to say “yes,” but in my eyes, I have seen a tremendous drop especially in the youth area, 3rd Generation Greek-Australians don’t seem too interested in their Greek culture but I am confident of changing this and with a focused team inspiring Greek-Australians into a new era of events. Greece has inspired me to bring back the Greek partying way and culture with innovation back with me in Australia. I think, since we started Greek Under-18 events in 2010, I have seen a fantastic change of pride and interest in the Greek Cultural Events. Plus, once they go to Greece, they come back with a different mindset and want Greek events.
For further information on Australia’s Greek events or general inquiries, you can contact Mr Billiris by email at billy[email protected] or visit www.fistpump.com.au.