The permit

You can read our permit and the deathless prose of the Ministry of Culture and Sports here, on the website Δι@ύγεια (“tr@nsparency”), maintained by the Ministry of Administrative Reform and E-Governance (Yπουργείο Διοικητικής Μεταρρύθμισης και Ηλεκτρονικής Διακυβέρνησης). It seems amazing that this is the new normal in Greece: googling your name (in Greek, in the genitive) to find and download your permit.

Greeks often complain — to me, at least — about the difficulty of their bureaucracy, and they assume that things are much more efficient in North America (and moreover that this difference explains the economic differences between Greece and the US/Canada). North American archaeologists also like to complain about the difficulty of Greek bureaucracy. But I wonder. Greek bureaucracy sure seems difficult to me, but I’m a total stranger to it. And when I think about my (relatively few) encounters with bureaucracy in the US and in Canada, I can recall plenty of examples of difficult scenarios. I once waited six months (!!!) to get a new Social Security card issued so that I could take my driving test, only to be told when I showed up with the card that I didn’t need it. So although it would be easy to agree with my Greek friends who complain about the difficulty of Greek bureaucracy, I tend to agree with Michael Herzfeld, who wrote in 1992:

In the industrialized societies of Western Europe and North America, no less than in remote villages in Greece or Italy, people find it necessary to explain away their inability to deal effectively with the bureaucracy. Everyone, it seems, has a bureaucratic horror story to tell, and few will challenge the conventions such stories demand. Hearers know that they will soon want to use the same stereotypical images in turn.

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