Stan Fijnaut has been living in Greece for nearly twenty years. The economic crisis has major consequences on day-to-day life. Still, he wouldn’t dream of leaving. With his wife and two children, he leaves in a suburb to the north of Athens. After obtaining his MSc, Stan left for Greece in 1996, and has worked at Hortiland since 1997. Stan met his Greek wife in Scotland, where they both followed an MSc education. “After our graduation, we had the choice to live in the Netherlands or in Greece. It ended up being Greece.”
Stan works as an export manager at Hortiland. This is a Dutch-Greek firm, which supplies amenities like vegetable seeds and high-grade fertilizer to professional horticulture. “My job comprises all activities related to the export of the product range. The Middle East, North Africa, the Balkans and since 2013 also China and South Korea are my work area,” he explains. “I deal with client visits, technical and commercial support for our distributors, handling export orders, taking part in horticulture trade shows, etcetera.” Around 30% of the products is destined for the Greek market, and 70% is exported. Most Hortiland products are first transported to Greece from the Netherlands.
More than sea and beach
“Most people know the country for its sea and beaches. Greece is covered in beautiful mountain ranges though. My big hobby is trail running, for which the country is very suitable. And the sea is very clean and warm enough to swim, even in winter.” There are huge differences between living and working in the Netherlands or in Greece though. “The mentality of the entrepreneurs and employees, the way business is done, the level of knowledge in horticulture, they’re all different from what we’re used to in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, a deal is a deal and a promise is a promise. In Greece, but also in the countries I visit for my job, that doesn’t apply. This often causes unpleasant surprises.”
Population getting desperate
Greece is going through a dramatic economic situation. Every day, Stan sees the distressing consequences of this economic crisis. “The mood among the population in particular is getting more depressive and desperate,” he observes. He says the situation in agriculture and horticulture is still reasonably good. “The main problem in this sector is the lack of funds. Loans are hardly given, or not at all, and new entrepreneurs have to deal with and fund a lot themselves. There is too little government support. In all areas, big reforms have to be carried out to make the situation better and more efficient. If these are imposed from outside, by the troika, that meets with a lot of resistance from the population and the government. That’s why it would be better if these were to be applied by the own government, on their own initiative.” Stan has lived here for nearly twenty years, and the situation has always been difficult, he says. “That’s why I don’t expect a sudden revolution toward an ideal situation for Greece and the Greeks.”