Learn English Through Listening: Greece, Brexit & Money
Summary: Learn English Through Listening
Learning English through listening should be fun, so today we take a bunch of interesting topics and talk about money, a Greek holiday and BREXIT.
With all the talk of a “No Deal BREXIT” the British pound is not worth as much as it normally is and this influences what we British spend our money on. Which means we get to complain (something the British are very good at!) and we can talk about sales tax and shopping.
So today you will hear all about the “real world” impact of Britain leaving the EU and why more and more British people think things will get much better for the UK when we leave.
There is a lot of interesting English vocabulary used with explanations of keywords and an insight into how the British think about Europe and the whole Brexit thing.
Even if you are not interested in money, holidays or BREXIT we have literally hundreds of alternative lessons you can listen to hear, you will definitely find something interesting to help you with your English language learning.
Audio Transcript: Learn English Through Listening: Greece, Brexit & Money
Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. I hope you’re well and that your English language learning hasn’t taken too much of a break over the summer. It’s September now and like a new term at school, a new academic year even. Even though it’s been a while since I’ve been a student of any kind, I still think of September as the start of the new school and college year. So let’s get busy and learn some English language! If you’ve not listened to Adept English before, then we are here to help you with your English language learning. And welcome back to you, if you are a regular listener to Adept English.
If you haven’t been to our Courses page on the website yet at adeptenglish.com, then please have a look. We are currently selling two courses. If you find the podcasts difficult, then buy our 500 Most Common Words Course – it will help you learn the most common words in English, so that you will have enough vocabulary when you come to speak in simple sentences. And if you’re ready for something more, and a bit of English conversation, then buy our Course One, Activate Your Listening. It’s got my voice on there of course, but other voices for you to practice with too!
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Holiday Experience in Greece
So we’ve just come back from a very nice fortnight – that’s 14 nights – of holiday in Greece. Although I’ve visited many places in Greece in the past, we do tend to go to the same place now, because my sister has a house there. It’s on the Peloponnese, and on the coast. It’s nice to have some sun and to swim in the sea – and to experience a little bit of Greek culture and way of life.
Comparing Greece with the UK, I was amazed how much more expensive things are than at home. And this isn’t just because of the exchange rate between the £ and the €. The £ is very low at the moment because of worries over Brexit, so the £ and the € are almost the same. But it wasn’t just the exchange rate – the rate of £ to €. I know we were in a coastal resort, but even in the normal supermarkets, things were a lot more expensive. Maybe after Brexit, we’ll experience prices rising in the UK – we’ll have to wait and see. But it was really noticeable and it made me think that if you shop at the supermarket and cook your own food in the UK, you can eat well for not that much money.
Thoughts About Leaving the EU
I had a couple of conversations with people in Greece around Brexit. One man, at a petrol station said to me ‘Mmm. You are about to leave the EU. I think it will be better for you?’ And we talked about how it might be better for Greece, but that Greece will not be permitted to leave because of the debt. Sometimes the devaluation of your currency can be an advantage – which is exactly what will happen initially if countries seek to leave the EU, or leave the EU. ‘Devaluation’ means your currency becomes worth less, compared with other currencies.
So a currency is like the £, or the € or the $. Obviously, we don’t want too much devaluation – not like it is in say, Venezuela, where people are really suffering because of extreme devaluation of their currency. But a little devaluation can good for business exports – so things we sell to other people. So of course, things are more expensive when you travel, but that’s a small matter compared to the economy in general.
Article in The Spectator about Iceland
There was an interesting article, I noticed, in the Spectator magazine recently. That’s a UK magazine. And it was written by David Gunnlaugsson, former Prime Minister of Iceland. ‘Former’, F-O-R-M-E-R means that he used to be prime minister of Iceland. Iceland is the country in the far north, whose capital is Reykjavik. Iceland suffered in the financial crisis of 2008 and its debt, that’s D-E-B-T – that means the amount of money it owed – its debt tripled overnight. The verb ‘to triple’, T-R-I-P-L-E means to increase by three times. And when we say something ‘happened overnight’, this means that something happened very quickly, without much warning. You woke up in the morning and it had already happened – as quick as that! Shortly after the financial crisis hit in 2008, Iceland applied to join the EU. But in the following years, the EU became more stringent, more strict, more particular about the rules for entry and by 2013, a new government was voted in, in Iceland and this changed things. So in 2015, they decided to pull out of the application to join the EU and ‘go it alone’.
Very soon Iceland had the highest growth rate in any developed country in the world. Government debt – so the money that the Icelandic government owed - fell sharply, unemployment reduced massively. Unemployment means the number of people who haven’t got a job. And Iceland were still able to spend quite a lot on healthcare and other public services, like schools and hospitals. Iceland has many free trade agreements now with different countries. For example, Iceland is the first European country to have an agreement with China. But if Iceland had joined the EU, none of this would have been possible – and they would likely have been in a similar situation to Greece now. So being able to devalue your currency - it may make your holidays more expensive - but if you’re going it alone, choosing not to be part of the EU, then it can be an advantage for trade.
What will happen to the UK after Brexit?
The discussion inside the UK at the moment tends to be around how Brexit will mean ‘turning our back on the rest of the world, becoming ‘isolationist’. ‘Isolationist’ means having little business or interest in other countries, perhaps rather like Trump’s idea of ‘America first’. ‘Isolation’, I-S-O-L-A-T-I-O-N means the state of being on your own. But I don’t think it needs to be like this after Brexit. Even after Brexit, we will still be part of Europe, we’ll still be Europeans. We’ll still trade with Europe and we’ll still take our holidays in Europe – and welcome Europeans who want to holiday in the UK. The only difference is that we’ll be free to choose our own rules, rather than those set out by the EU. And the promise is that the EU laws, the EU legislation, which is regarded as ‘good legislation’ - well, we’ll just cut and paste that into our own laws, we’ll just copy it. Do we need to worry about the £? As I said, the £ and the € are at a similar rate at the moment. But post-Brexit, the fact that the £ will be worth less than it was can be good news for business and for exports.
People are talking about how we will have to step up the production of food, or that there will be food shortages and queues at Dover, lorries coming in. I understand that there may be some short-term inconvenience. But again, there may be some positives. When I look at apples in the shops in the UK, it’s quite difficult to buy British apples, which is ridiculous as we grow apples really well. It’s common for our apples to come from as far away as New Zealand. So if Brexit means that we see more British produce on our supermarket shelves, apples or whatever else in our shops, then to me, that’s fewer air miles and better for the planet! It just means putting more land over to the production of food and eating more locally produced food. Well, if that’s what happens, that’s OK! That’s good for the planet!
Greek Tax is Painful
Meanwhile in Greece, because of the Greek debt, taxes are collected in all kinds of ways. VAT or Value Added Tax is charged for most things that you buy at 24% - that’s a lot. VAT in Greece is called Fóros Prastithémenes Axías (Φόρος Προστιθέμενης Αξίας) – I’ve no idea whether I’ve pronounced that correctly! But the abbreviation is FPA, ΦΠΑ. They even charge it on simple items of food, like bread, which is taxed at 13% VAT. That seems quite a lot – most food is VAT free in the UK.
Customer Rights are Eroded
We had an occasion in the supermarket in Greece, where my daughter had asked to buy some ‘aftersun’ lotion. This is what you put on, when you’ve had too much sun on your skin. However, when we got to the checkout, it was much more expensive than I’d anticipated – and there’d been no price on it. When we looked at the receipt – that’s R-E-C-E-I-P-T, which is the piece of paper you’re given, when you buy something, we realised that the bottle of aftersun lotion was nearly 15€! So we decided that this was too much to pay and I went back into the shop, to get what we call a ‘refund’, R-E-F-U-N-D. ‘A refund’ is when you get your money back for something that you’ve bought. And I was told that this wasn’t possible because the 24% VAT or FPA in Greece, had already ‘gone off to the Greek government’.
The man behind the counter didn’t believe me when I said that in the UK, you can just have a full refund, no questions asked! And initially he refused to give me my money back at all. In the end, probably because I was holding up the queue of people in the supermarket, we agreed that I got a refund, minus the 24% VAT. But this involved a long discussion and lots of frowning. The man, who owned the supermarket said to me ‘You cannot possibly get a full refund like that in the UK’. I said to him that ‘You can – and ‘we have 28 days to get your money back in the UK!’ ‘What about tax, how can that work?’ was his reply. And I said that I think that VAT isn’t paid immediately by the shops. The shopkeeper was very surprised by all of this.
I thought it sounds as though the Greek system is very much organised to ensure that any tax is paid straight away, no delay. Presumably, this is because of the Greek debt – the system makes sure that tax owed is paid as a priority, even where this seems unfair to the customer. Just wondering if anyone has had a similar experience in a Greek shop? Is this generally how it is in Greece? Let us know.
For the website for the article by David Gunnlaugsson, former Prime Minister of Iceland there’s a link at the end of the transcript. It’s called “Why Britain, like Iceland, will thrive outside the EU”. That’s probably quite controversial – so let us know your opinion, if you’ve got a strong one! Listen to this article a number of times – it’s got some really good vocabulary in it.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
PS: Does the UK gets a poor deal from being an EU member?
The main positives for the UK being a member of the EU are cultural and the ability to travel and work sell across borders with less hassle.
To be honest, the UK has never been keen to give up its sovereignty and become a part of a federal Europe; we don’t like not controlling our money and taxes; we don’t enjoy having laws made that govern us being made by people who don’t live in the UK and we don’t like it when other countries in the EU can stop the UK from doing what it wants. You could say we don’t play well with others, and we are not ready to forget that we are still a part of the commonwealth of countries .
To a regular British person on the street we also seem to lose out on the economic value of being a European member, we seem to sell less and less to Europe; yet we have no problem buying lots of things from Europe. We also have a better job market than most European countries and that means we have a lot of Europeans coming to the UK to work. Most of the UK does not have a problem with this even though there are fewer people from the UK working in Europe.
The economic facts don’t look all that good. Since joining the EU the UK annual economic growth rate has declined (Source: ONS ), but the costs of the UK being an EU member have increased every single year (https://fullfact.org/europe/our-eu-membership-fee-55-million/).
When the UK joined the EU, it was all about creating a European economy that was bigger than the US, a world power, yet that didn’t happen. Something big has to change, and change quickly, to convince the 17.4 million people in the UK who voted to leave the EU (one of the largest UK vote counts ever) that staying in the EU will improve our everyday British lives.