GREECE

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On March 29th, 2022, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Greece to interview the Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Dimitris Caramitsos- Tziras.

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Culture/Industry
What do you believe unites the nation, and what are some cultural values that you see in people of your country?

According to H.E., history is what unites Greece. Ancient Greece was part of the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire for 400 years, and gained its independence on March 25th, 1821. H.E. stated that not only do these struggles in the past unite the nation but also the prospect of a good future does too. Since their independence, Greece became part of the EU, NATO, and the eurozone. However, H.E. mentioned that there are still challenges that unite the nation.
 

 

Can you please tell us about recommended tourist areas in your country

H.E. Mr. Tiziras firstly explained to us the good weather in Greece. Its weather is similar to Tokyo, but milder in winter and hotter, yet less humid, in summer, so Greece enjoys the all-year-long pleasant weather. Although Greece is widely known as a good summer holiday destination, H.E. Mr. Tiziras wants people to visit Greece at various times and enjoy discovering something new. He told us that people can try various activities in Greece, even skiing.  Furthermore, he recommended visiting other countries in Europe, such as Slovenia and Turkey, where there are Islamic and Jewish cultures, for instance. He mentioned that the richness in culture in and around Greece is what travelers can enjoy, besides relaxation on a vacation.

 

Can you tell me about your favorite traditional Greek cuisine?

Since Greece is geographically in contact with the Mediterranean Sea and has warm weather, they eat small fish, fruits, and vegetables. Fish are mostly grilled, while some are fried. Greek people also eat lamb meat that often gets cooked in meals such as stew and vegetables. Moreover, olive oil is essential in Greek cuisine. They are used for cooking and salads. Additionally, H.E. stated that Greek cuisines are light food.

 

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

         Though H.E. Mr. Dimitris Caramitsos- Tziras’s father was a diplomat, H.E. did not think  forrow his father at first. H.E. wanted to be an architect when he was a child, because he was good at designing and he went to practical school. However, his uncle was a good architect in Greece and this fact discouraged him. For this reason, he studied international law and became a diplomat. H.E. is happy now but he sometimes thinks “What it would be if I became an architect? ” 


What are some traditional games you played when you were a child?
Soccer is one of the most popular sports in Greece, so H.E. Mr. Tziras played soccer when he was a child. He also played golf, taught by his uncle. Although golf is not a common sport for young people, he liked golf as well as soccer.

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Education

What is a unique aspect of education in your country? 

The education in Greece is not specialized as in the United States and other European countries. The education is generalized where you can get a wide spectrum of knowledge. However, H.E. stated some negative points about the country's education system. H.E. mentioned that universities are specialized but the education system lacks preparing the students for such education. On the other hand, students start learning foreign languages from primary school, starting with one, and in high school learning two. This helps for tourism as Greece is a country that has a lot of tourist areas.


The relationship between the two countries
What are some qualities of Greece that you would like to bring awareness to people in Japan?
          According H.E. there are three different qualities between Greece and Japan. Differ from Japanese, Greek people are more open and extraverted, and sometimes less organized. “Many Greeks decide things at the last minute” H.E. said. He also said that the weather and climates in southern countries make people more outdoor and open. According to H.E. there is one similarity between the two countries. Greeks are very linked to the lands, like the Japanese. The two countries have land culture such as agriculture. Both Greeks and the Japanese are fed by the lands, and love the lands.

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Personal
What are your views on globalization?

H.E. Mr. Tziras precisely responded to this question by saying “Too much of it is not good.” Speaking of the economy, globalization is good for big companies around the world because they can sell their products or services in a larger market. On the other hand, globalization does not help smaller economies. He mentioned that some companies selling their products globally grew so much that they became even bigger than some countries’ economies. For example, the budget of Toyota Motor Corporation is bigger than that of Belgium, and the budget of Apple Inc. is bigger than that of Thailand. Such a situation is not ideal, according to H.E. Mr. Tziras, and globalization should facilitate all economies to grow together. 

Moreover, globalization has caused an increase in consumption, therefore in production. Overconsumption and production are bad for the environment because they consume a lot of natural resources and electricity. H.E. Mr. Tziras gave us an example of a pair of jeans traveling from Italy to China. Before reaching a customer, the jeans are moved between the two counties four times—to get washed, painted, cut, and designed, and then, it goes back to the customer. This whole process involves a lot of environmental costs. In addition, countries, in which wages are very high, tend to take advantage of cheap labor outside their countries. Although there are many good aspects of globalization, such as facilitating global trade and improving people’s quality of life, it also has many disadvantages. 


How does gender equality play a role in your country?

Greek is a matriarchal society, where women deal with things in their house, land, and village. Greek women take a role as decision-makers in their families. On the other hand, women usually do not have many occasions to play significant roles outside their house, unlike men. H.E. Mr. Tziras believes that gender equality has to come naturally rather than being enforced by laws. In today’s society, advanced legislation to protect human rights, including both men and women, has been implemented mainly by the laws in the European Union. For example, women have to consist of over 30% of the top executive body. However, H.E. Mr. Tziras stated that equality means the same number of men and women, and the same opportunities for men and women are guaranteed. Thus, gender equality has not been realized yet. 


What surprised you when you came to Japan?

  H.E. was surprised at how orderly things are in Japan. He admires how Japanese people have visible kindness, the visible system as everything happens at a certain time and order, and patience when it comes to crossing the road and getting what they need. In addition, H.E. was surprised to learn how resilient the Japanese people are through reading its history.  As H.E. had worked for the Olympics before, he admired how Japan persisted and carried out the Olympics after the postponement due to the pandemic. On top of that, he admired the recovery from the disaster in Fukushima. H.E. stated that this requires people to be determined to also be disciplined to what the government decides. 


What do you believe is the first step towards world peace? (What do you believe is the first step towards ending world poverty?)

H.E. stated that world peace is difficult to achieve since rich countries create friction for their advantage which causes conflicts. Therefore, all the nations agreed to some organizations like the UN to try to secure peace. H.E. mentioned that countries should give more authority to these organizations.

Although globalization brought many people into the international market, it has made a big gap between the rich and poor nations. H.E. explained that poverty cannot be eradicated unless this gap diminishes because the rich can take advantage of the poor. Thus, the states and international organizations should intervene and control the power of globalization and share the wealth equally. 


What are your goals as an ambassador? What is your passion about working as the 

ambassador in Japan?
        In general terms, one of the duties as an ambassador is to improve the bilateral relationship; such as political relations, trade relations, and culture relations. Another important duty is to help Greek citizens living in Japan. 

        It is said that the political relationship between Greece and Japan is good, but H.E. believes it can be improved more. They can work together on more issues. H.E. mentioned the low traderates between the two countries. He wants to export more Greek foods, wines, and so on, and import Japanese industrial products such as cars. Since tourism is very important for Greece, he also referred to the necessity to recover from the pandemic of COVID-19, which damaged Greek tourism business. The Japanese mental lifestyle is attracting young people in Greece, it will make positive effects on traveling and exchanging between the two countries. 


Do you have a message towards Japanese students/people?
          “Take advantage of your time, especially in university. To come in contact with other people in other cultures”  the time in university is good because it is time to learn and students are less responsible. So, H.E. told us to try to travel not just for fun but to know other worlds and cultures. He recommended exchange programs, the best way to know some cultures. Reading books is also a good way to learn about other cultures. “The more people read, the more their eyes are open, and they can understand the others” H.E. said. The goal of life is not only to succeed in business, but it is also important to succeed as a global citizen.

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On August 19, 2016, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Greece in Tokyo for an interview with the Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Loukas Karatsolis. Prior to the interview, H.E. Mr. Karatsolis introduced us to the mesmerizing world of Greece with a brief presentation video. As the Greeks are known to have “not only influence[d] but also invented what we think” in fields such as philosophy, arts, and sciences, H.E. Mr. Karatsolis expressed how they “have a burden to preserve this ancient heritage” to “integrate or encourage [various] interpretations”. This idea is reflective in their education system, which puts emphasis on retaining this element that is “not only important for Greece but [also for] all of mankind”. 

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The Parthenon—a former temple of the goddess Athena— has survived numerous earthquakes over the centuries. The durability of such architecture has inspired many architects based in different parts of Europe, Latin America, and Africa. H.E. Mr. Karatsolis feels that the Parthenon “symbolizes the value of this civilization” and he believes that many architects hope to recreate this feeling.

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Greece is also known as the inventor of the Olympic Games, which is now significant not only as a sports event, but also as an event that unifies citizens of the world. Although the ‘desire of victory’ is a factor that motivates players and observers, H.E. Mr. Karatsolis hopes for them to reconsider the goals behind sports culture by  considering their values and how they were conceived.
H.E. Mr. Karatsolis’s main goal at the moment is “to represent [his] country as best as [he] can” and to make aspects of Greece “better known abroad”. 

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H.E. Mr. Karatsolis believes that “many of the modern aspects [of Greece] must be more correctly presented” and he particularly hopes to put emphasis on the positive qualities of the Greek people, as he feels that “Greeks are the most hard-working people in Europe”. As a message to students, H.E. Mr. Karatsolis stressed that it is “important to study” and “to be open to influences from abroad”. He would like Japanese students to “enjoy youth and the opportunities that life is offering”. “If something is important for you, you will find a way to do it. If something is not important, then you will find an excuse,” he concluded.

Reported by

               Kurumi    Onishi

       

            

Participants

Kurumi Onishi      12th Saint Maur International School

Karen Nishina      8th Saint Maur International School

Anna Okada        8th Saint Maur International School