National character is destiny: A Greek and a Spanish businessman move to Estonia and compare.

Photo Gallery: Estonia's New Image
Tallinn, Estonia.
Der Spiegel illustrates that national culture is character writ large:
-Loukas describes how his fellow Greeks deliberately ripped him off.  He found happiness by re-starting in Estonia where people are hard-working, honest and never late.
-Naphtali misses the warm hugs of his fellow Spaniards but not their self-importance.  In Estonia, he re-started a business in half a day.  The business climate is fair and open, and you can trust the police, politicians and the bureaucrats.

Loukas' tale helps explain why Greece is going to crash financially:
     "Loukas Nakosmatis, a friendly, stout Greek with a three-day beard, the chef and owner of "Artemis," answers this question with an entire story, his own war of the roses. The 46-year-old began developing his business four years ago while he was living in Athens, he says. It involved importing flowers from the Netherlands -- mostly roses, tulips and a few exotic varieties -- on overnight cargo flights. He intended to sell them in Athens, a dusty city of stone walls and buildings whose residents are desperate for green plants and fresh flowers. Nakosmatis signed contracts and statements of intent with three or four dozen flower shops that wanted to buy his flowers. The profit margin for flowers is large, says Nakosmatis, a factor of 10 or even 20 percent, and it would have been enough money for everyone, including the retailers and him as an importer. It sounded like a brilliant plan, at least on paper.
     But it was a trap, he says. Almost all of his buyers owed him money. They had recognized his weakness: He was under pressure to unload his product while it was still fresh. You have to sell a rose, says Nakosmatis, quoting a Greek saying, or it will sell you, because it dies. His customers used every trick in the book. They would have him show up at their shops with a delivery van full of flowers when they knew that they would be away, or they would say that they happened to be out of cash and would promise to pay him later, on another day, or by the next Monday -- but then they kept putting him off, says Nakosmatis.
    The retailers soon took it for granted that they could buy his flowers on credit. In the end, 43 out of 46 flower shops owed him money. He eventually gave up hope and fled to Estonia."
Canadian character, eh?  The Spaniard's summary of Estonia but stated with less confidence, sounds about right for Canada.   The Greek's summary of Estonia we probably don't deserve.  I was recently in Peru, a country with less opportunity than ours.  The entrepreneurial spirit of even the poorest people was stunning.  We were awakened at 3:40 a.m. by the chatter of a dozen peasant ladies accompanied by their children as they walked into the city carrying large packs of hand-made goods for the weekly Saturday market.

"Character is destiny" first attributed to Heraclitus (535BC - 475BC).