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September 08, 2006

Greek funeral rites

One of the small culture shocks we have come across is that death seems to be a much more public affair here in Greece than it is back in the UK. The κοινωνία pages of our local paper, the Χανιωτικα Νεα, are filled with obituary notices, which is a practice that I think happens less and less in the UK. Certainly I would no longer think to actually announce births, deaths or marriages in the Walthamstow Guardian.

Funeralnotices More publicly though, the town is littered with obituary notices which are pinned to trees and big notice boards. These are similar to the kinds of notices we saw displayed in other southern Mediterranean countries as we travelled through Europe, but the Greek ones are rather more beautiful. They are often on glossy paper, black edged, with gold spot colour, with a picture of the deceased and a list of the family that is now in mourning.

Of course, Claire and I have promised each other that at the first sight of suddenly dropping dead, we will be on a plane back to the UK pretty damn sharpish. Dying over here sounds rather terrifying, and expensive, to contemplate. The majority of burial grounds here are for Orthodox Christians, with some small plots for Catholics. There doesn't appear to be anywhere set aside for ex-pat heathens who'd prefer to be burnt.

Shipping the body home also sounds like a right mission costing several thousand euros. For transit the body has to be specially embalmed, and the coffin has to be sealed in the presence of the equivalent of a coroner, plus a representative from customs, and a representative from the drugs squad to make sure you aren't using the coffin as a pretext for smuggling. And I dread to think of the number of forms that would require signing, stamping, photocopying, taken to another office, and then stamped again!

Inheritance over here sounds pretty complicated as well. If you die without obvious heirs it all, naturally, goes to the state. However, as long as you have some sort of surviving children, spouse or even parents, your assets are split according to a formula. There are nine different rates of inheritance tax to pay, and three exemption thresholds, depending on how closely you are related to the deceased.

It looks like Claire's share of the laptop is safe though - according to Greek law I can only disinherit her is she tries to kill me, if she caused intentional physical harm to me, if she is convicted of a crime against me, if she failed to pay alimony, or is she lives a violent, immoral and unethical life against my will. Given the last clause however, I have begun to wonder if I'll ever get my hands on the Sudoku books.

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At last, as of this year, crematiton is legal in Greece: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1924007.stm

As to finding a crematorium well that's a different kettle of psaria altogether

Such is life here

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