spoken Dr. George Sioris, the former ambassador for Greece, is a
man who fills all the criteria for an academic. He has spent the
vast majority of his life in academia, literature, research and
writing. He has authored more than a dozen publications. He has
been given national accolades and decorations from many
countries, including the Order of the White Elephant, First
Class, from Thailand. He belongs to so many academic
associations his letterbox must be full every day, but he is a
man who wears humility like a mantle and tells his 11 year old
twin daughters that the most important thing in life is, “To
be good human beings.” George Sioris is a good human being.
He is Greek, and proud of his heritage. He
was born in Athens and very early decided that he wanted a
career in the Diplomatic Service for his country. This was not a
case of sending in your application, but in Greece there were
very strict regulations covering entry. This included a
prerequisite law degree and fluency in at least two languages.
He went to university for four years,
graduating from the Law Faculty of Athens University, but did
not practice. “I was not gifted as a lawyer, I was more
interested in literature and religions.” That interest took
him into journalism, a decision he does not regret. “It was an
experience that served me well throughout my professional
career. It taught me also how to interact with journalists,”
he said, laughing quietly at me!
An Athens daily newspaper kept him in copy
paper for the next four years, but he still wanted the
Diplomatic Corps, sitting their three-day marathon examinations,
and was accepted. Within 12 months he received his first
overseas posting, to New York as the vice-consul.
I asked him to briefly describe the function
of the career diplomat. “You have to project the image of your
country abroad, and you also need to be a bridge to absorb the
society of the country you are in,” said George.
Whilst the new world would have been an
exciting posting for the young man, it was not really his first
choice. “By intuition I knew I would be happy in Asia, and
this was the case. Asking for an assignment in the Far East was
considered eccentric, in those days, so I could choose. I wanted
to get to know all the civilizations.” His choice was Japan.
In Japan, he rose from the lowly post of
third secretary, to second secretary and then to first secretary
in five years. He was able to spend some time comparing the
mythology of his native Greece and Japan, and one of his first
academic publications was on that subject, with another three
George said that as a Greek he was proud of
his heritage. “Greece gave the world (the principles of)
democracy and philosophy, art and the sense of moderation, as
well as the Olympic Games,” he said, with an obvious pride. He
also said that the comparisons between cultures aid one’s own
personal knowledge. “You learn more about your own roots.”
From Japan, he went to India as the second
councillor, spending three years there, travelling throughout
Asia, as the New Delhi office covered 11 other Asian countries
‘Head Office’ dictated his return to
Europe and he spent two years in the Council of Europe in
Strasbourg, but in 1977 he returned to Asia. This time to China
(Beijing) as the first councillor. Now he had experience of the
three Asian worlds of Japan, India and China. “I was able to
look at the comparative religions in these three great
regions.” I asked whether the religious study had changed his
own faith, but he denied this. “I am still faithful to my
Greek Orthodox - but I have learned to be more tolerant.
However, once or twice in Greece I was suspected of being
Buddhist,” he said, laughing. (That comparative study between
monastic disciplines in Buddhism and Orthodoxy is yet another of
his academic publications, published two years ago.)
After another brief spell in Greece, he was
sent to Washington DC as number two in the Greek Embassy.
“That was a different experience,” said George. “There
were large Greek communities in America and you have to get
close to them. In one way you are a consul too.”
Becoming older and more experienced, George
finally reached the zenith, that of being the ambassador. He
chose India again, where he remained for five years. During that
time, he certainly didn’t just sit in the office, as he also
had to cover Bangladesh, Brunei, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia,
Maldives, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vanuatu!
His next move was most decisive in many ways;
he wanted to establish a resident mission in Thailand. “This
was quite an ordeal from the administrative point of view,”
said George. I got the feeling that that was an understatement!
He moved to Bangkok and was successful, staying here till 1992,
before being recalled to Greece to the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs as the director of the Department of Religious Affairs
and was sent as the Greek envoy to the Clergy-Laity Congress in
But Asia called again, and he returned to
Japan as the ambassador there until his retiring from the
diplomatic service in 1998. Chiang Mai was his personal choice
and he and his Thai wife and twin daughters settled here.
What should have been a well-earned rest has
not eventuated, with his wife succumbing to cancer, leaving
George a sole parent, but he has risen to the occasion. He is
both mother and father for his daughters and continues his
academic studies and teaching and even writing for the Japan
Times. “Back to journalism,” he said with a smile, as I
frantically scribbled my notes.
Dr. George Sioris is a not only Greek, he is
a Greek philosopher as well as being a good human being.