Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In Europe, it's no longer East vs. West

Washington Post
September 7, 2010

A handful of Estonians and a Pole are sitting around a Greek taverna, telling stories. There are some jokes about the good life the Greeks lead -- all of that vacation time, and the Germans pay for it! There are some anecdotes about the way time seems to work differently here, about how things take longer here. One regales the others with tales of the Greek real estate market. The thing to remember, he says, is that all houses have two prices: the "official" price and the "real" price. You pay taxes on the official price. You pay the owner the real price. Everybody knows about this, and everybody winks -- including the tax office.

Ah yes, someone says, those corrupt bureaucrats -- we used to have them in Estonia, too. Ah yes, someone else says, Polish houses used to have an "official" price and a "real" price as well. But that was two decades ago -- back in the days when Europe was divided into "West" and "East." Now, at least in the eyes of some, it is slowly redividing itself into "North" and "South."


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