The Greek Brain Drain + Attica Riviera = Global Niche Conferences

Over 200,000 young professionals have left Greece over the past six years in the highly lamented Greek brain drain. In the fragmented globalized world we live in where many opportunities and career growth are usually to be found in select global cities – this seems like this migration is inevitable anyway. The on-going financial downturn simply amplified the phenomenon. Young professionals across the world leave their local cities and small towns everyday, from inland China to try their luck in Shanghai or from Pennsylvania to strike opportunities in NYC. What is the right question to ask: Diaspora engagement and ‘brain circulation’ I think the question for Greeks, diaspora and philhellenes is not how do we bring these 200,000 (and counting) people back – the question is how do we engage them in the new global transnational cultural and economic models unraveling in our generation? Global Conferences The topic I’d like to talk about here, since I work in this industry, is conferences. I’m a conference producer in London and I’m fascinated by the high-quality niche conferences throughout the world which professionals flock to, to learn from innovative case-studies, network with others from their ‘professional tribes’, recruit talent and pursue investment deals. From the Web Summit in Ireland, Aspen Ideas Festival, to Cannes Lions, SxSW in Austin, Davos, Milken Institute, mobile conferences in Barcelona, gaming conferences in Finland and consumer electronics conferences in Las Vegas, there are many high-quality gatherings where thousands flock to on annual pilgrimages. The Web Summit alone is reckoned to bring $130 million annually into the Dublin economy. I read an article recently by Gillian Tett...

Second-hand smoke, closed-society and low collective standards: the root causes of the crisis in Greece

Doing the rounds catching up with my friends in Athens, I met up with Andreas, a buddy from an improv comedy group we were in last year. We sat on a side-street in the gritty and lively historic center, enjoying the bright Attic sun and simultaneously also the fumes of second-hand smoke from the table next to us. I asked Andreas, hoping for a miracle since my last visit in September, “this ban on smoking in public places still isn’t being enforced in Greece, is it?” He took the opportunity to enlighten me on a observation that has more substance than any New York Times editorial I have read about the Greek financial-political situation, “The day you come to Athens and the ban on public smoking is being observed, will be one small step for Greek man, one giant step for Greek mankind,” he said as I observed inquisitively the two puffing Neanderthals next to us and wondered what their brain-processing capabilities were. “This attitude of me-first, I don’t care, it’s my right to impose my attitude on others, I’m a special exemption.  This behavior of imposing yourself on others, is the very cause of why we have political, financial instability and chaos in this country,” he exclaimed, as the heirs to Pericles and Aristotle next to us, continued rolling, licking and smoking another round of the hand-made ubiquitous rolled cigarettes across Athens. I reflected what is it that makes this behavior acceptable here, in Greece, and thought about the common rhetorical question many Greek emigrants abroad lament, “Why do Greeks prosper everywhere, from Sydney to San Francisco, but not within Greece’s borders?” I...

Idea: 24/7/365 Intellectual Entertainment London Venue

When the inevitable text message exchange pop-ups on my phone on a Thursday afternoon and I juggle back and forth with friends, “any plans for tonight – where should we meet?”, I aim to suggest something different than simply “going out for a drink” but surfing through Time Out London, Londonist or one of the city guides for inspiration, I quickly become overwhelmed with too-much-choice anxiety.  I also conclude that although many of these options sound unique and quirky, the truth is I really don’t want to enroll in a glass-blowing workshop this weekend, nor visit the botanical gardens, neither am I in the mood to try a new Basque-Burmese pop-up fusion restaurant where the tapas are designed like tulips. What I think there is more of a need for in big, diverse cities like London and New York with deep, diverse and sophisticated demographics are more well-curated, late-night, social, intellectual entertainment events. An ideal formula I believe should have three ingredients: intellectual entertainment: a purpose to a gathering needs a back-drop, something that will stimulate thought and a conversation: like a short film, a performance, a guest speaker, journalist, an author, inspiring entrepreneur cool food & wine venue: the topic isn’t the only thing that creates an atmosphere and generic coffee and croissants of a static hotel bar won’t do.  But some simple, high-quality food and wine and good tunes will encourage a crowd to linger on, chat and feel like they’re having fun, not at a stuffy work conference. demographic: who is in the room is also a key-factor. A live audience and a smart crowd will enhance a Q&A session, offer...

Two Passports – Two Open Doors: Get Yours If You Are Eligible

You’re some type of dual-nationality, Greek-American, Greek-Australian or another Euro-combo and you’re probably not thinking of moving abroad to Greece or your ancestral country permanently.  You’re settled comfortably in your life in New York, Boston or Chicago with a good job, maybe married with a family and you think why the hell would I go through the bureaucratic headache to get a Greek passport, ha!  Well, my response to that is, I got you, I agree – but don’t get it for yourself, get it for your children and when they turn eighteen, instead of buying them their first car, surprise them with a ‘carte blanche’ to go work, live, study (reduced tuition) and travel visa-free to London, Paris, Copenhagen, Berlin and oh, Athens too! It made me realize how undervalued this privilege is and people don’t formalize it, when I was speaking to a new Brazilian-Portuguese friend the other day over a coffee.  She said to me, “You know I’m here by accident, in London!” What do you mean, I poked her for more information, “Well, I’m Brazilian right? We have the same parents with my older brother, but he only has one passport, a Brazilian one. What happened was, my grandfather on my father’s side, who was came from Portugal back in the 1940’s- when I was born, he said “You know what?” to my parents, “I’m gonna go downtown to the Portuguese Consulate and register Eva’s birth there.”  And my parents looked at him and rolled their eyes like typical confident cariocas (nickname for Rio residents), back then in the early 1980’s, “Come on this is Brasil: Sao Paolo,...

Opinion: Spending More Time In Each Destination And Less Sightseeing

I was out with a group of friends at a pub chatting the other night when the conversation turned to traveling.  I mentioned a few things that impressed me about Japan and a girl who I had just met and had also been to Japan quizzed me, “Did you climb Mt. Fuji, did you see a sumo wrestling match, did you go to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market at 4AM?”  I hadn’t done any of that stuff, and it didn’t occur to me, as I was more interested in meeting some local friends and talking to them and meeting their friends, over shochu drinks and sashimi dinners in the cozy Tokyo neighborhoods of Shimo-kitizawa and Kagurazaka.  But her comment made me think about how we all view traveling with a different purpose.  She then went on to mention, “I’ve been to thirty-three countries.”  I have been on quite a few interesting trips, but I have never actually counted the number of countries I’ve been to, nor do I really care to. I’ll be honest, I do roll my eyes at people that name-drop and country-drop like that.  In the past two years, I have spent two months in India, one-month in Tokyo and a bit more than a year in Athens.  That’s just three countries!  The “I have been to 33-countries person” could have just taken a three-week Euro-rail trip hitting up Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Czech and then over to  Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.  That’s almost ten countries, but what does that even mean? I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with this trip (and I...

My Greek Army Service Summer ’13: talented people in failed institutions

There is a scene this summer during my Greek army service that I won’t forget.  About 200 of us had returned to Kalamata Military Base, after a four-day break at our homes and having completed our five-week basic training.  Today was the day we were going to get our transfer papers, to be redeployed: some would be sent to the border with Turkey, others to the Greek islands, perhaps an inland army base or to Athens- where the cushier postings were, back in the capital. After our 7AM roll call, a sergeant began to call out the names of the first group to be sent off.  Most of us were a bit anxious, because we had no idea how far and for how long we would be gone for.  On that list was our destiny in the surreal adventures of Greek military life. The first few soldiers of this first group gathered in a small circle, in front of the rest of us as they heard their names.  I quickly recognized a couple faces, a mental connection sparked in the back of my brain, and I recollected a new word I learned this summer: “visma.”  Visma is not one of those eloquent Greek words that a Philhellene professor at an American university will ask you if you recognize its ancient Greek roots.  Bit less sexy.  Visma means plug-outlet.  But it wasn’t being used in reference to where you charge your iPhone.  A visma, in the world of the deep Greek bureaucratic state, is your connection, your contact, that “plugs-you-in” to the connected world. The sergeant called out a few...