With Everything at Stake, Greeks Turn to Sarcasm for Solace

“The finance ministry wanted to pay the IMF, but its payment order to Washington was rejected because of capital controls,” reads a Twitter post in Greece.

With its banks shut, ever-growing lines in front of ATMs and a confusing referendum on Sunday that will determine the country’s place in the euro area, crisis-hardened Greeks are turning to some well-worn survival tools: humor and sarcasm.

On Tuesday, Greece became the first developed country to default on its obligations to the International Monetary Fund, missing a $1.7 billion payment. That came a day after it imposed capital controls and shuttered banks following its failure to get creditors to extend its bailout program.

Not being able to reach an accord with creditors for additional financing may lead the country to an uncontrolled default, which has prompted observers to draw parallels with Argentina. Even there, Greeks have sought a humorous take.

“If we are Argentina now, does this mean we’re playing in the final with Chile on July 4?” a Facebook post read, referring to the Copa América soccer game scheduled to take place on Saturday.

Even the referendum that’s splitting the country right down the middle has not been spared.

“I’ve never seen us so divided as with this July 5 referendum; Greeks have always stayed united -- in all of our civil wars,” says a comment making the rounds on social media.

The long lines at ATMs after daily withdrawals were limited to 60 euros ($67) also provided easy fodder for jokesters.

Getting Better

Here’s a post on a website: Q: “Where have you been, I haven’t seen you for two months. A: I was in the queue.”

As the little inconveniences from the controls pile up, the Greek government and many companies are trying to ease the pain. Mobile network operators have offered free surf and talk time for people with prepaid contracts and public transport rides are being offered for free. That itself has become the butt of jokes.

“The bailout is over and we already have free talk time, a free metro and 60 euros a day,” says a post. “Things are already getting better.”