_Time to hand over the reins again to another energetic and extraordinary expat. Meet Rebecca, who loves living in Greece. I’ve never been there, but I’m rather wishing I had now. Over to my guest.
Then, after a stint of volunteer teaching in Sri Lanka in 2003/4, I finally found what I was good at. So I stuck at something for 3 years: a degree in International Relations as a mature student, then a one month’s TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. In 2008 I took myself off to Greece, and I’ve not returned.
Why Greece? Well, initially I have to be honest: it was the uninterrupted sunshine, blue skies, feta cheese and olives that lured me. All that swimming! Think of my inner psychology! I suffered mildly from SAD back in the UK so this would be perfect for my Vitamin D levels.
But something else binds me to this country: Greece has had so much bad press over the past 4 or 5 years, what with the economic crisis. And yes, there is no doubt that big changes are happening here – but that does not stop every day life from occurring. What are my favourite observations about Greece, and what are some of the cultural differences I’ve noticed since my time here?
1) The people – they open their hearts to you and are much warmer than their Northern European counterparts. If they accept you into their hearts, they accept you into their homes, feed you (very well!) and treat you like an extended family member.
2) The old people are not afraid of the youth. This was something of an eye opener for me, where even in my small home town in Devon, UK I will cross to the other side of the street if I see 3 or 4 youths walking towards me. Here, not so!
Let me give you an example: an elderly lady and I were sitting next to each other on the Metro in Athens. Two young girls boarded, insolently chewing gum and proceeded to put their feet up on the opposite seat. The old lady tapped them on the knee and politely asked them to remove their legs, which they did, with a “Signomi Kirya” (“Excuse me lady”) – a very polite and respectful term. I smiled, thinking to myself what would have happened if this was in London?
3) The weather – yes, this had to be put in here and after all, this was part of my reason for coming. It’s sunny most of the year, even if not always warm. It may sound shallow, but it’s very important to me. But OK, why not go to Spain for sun? Well, this brings me onto No.4.
4) The chaos. Never having been one to like being told what to do and being a very straightforward person (more like I don’t always filter what I say), I found living in the UK (even though I am British) very stifling with its political correctness. Hence the chaotic nature of Greece seems to suit me. Yes, it is frustrating in equal measures and when I return to the UK, I am so glad that there are systems in place for everything to work. But that comes with a downside too.
And by Greek standards, I am quite a polite person!
5) The food – how can I not come to Greece and not fall in love with the food? Research has shown that a Mediterranean diet can help prevent heart disease, probably due to the use of non-saturated fats like olive oil. And McDonalds? Purleeese! I’ve only seen two McDonalds in Greece: at the airport and in the centre of town, Syntagma Square. At least the awful fast food multinationals haven’t got their teeth into this market (yet) and food quality remains high. Which leads me onto:
6) The weekly Laiki (Farmer’s Market)
I love these weekly neighbourhood markets. I wrote a post about it here on my blog. They’re cheap and even if you’re not buying any fruit, vegetables or silk underwear (!), it’s still good to go and browse, immerse yourself into the local culture by wandering around and listening to the calls of the stallholders.
7) Don’t forget the islands: there’s so many of them to visit! Living in Athens I love the fact that I can hop on a ferry in Piraeus and go to a nearby island. I wrote about my adventures on Agistri here.
Yes, there is no escaping the fact that Greece is going through difficult times. But there’s still a LOT to appreciate about this country and I don’t regret my move for one minute, even though times are tough. I have friends that are more like family members, I have the sun and I have love, a new found love for life.
I hope you will come and experience Greece and all she has to offer for yourselves.
Rebecca Hall is an unconventional British girl with a degree in International Relations, the wrong side of 35 who upped and moved out of the UK and finds herself living in the unconventional country of Greece. She’s travelled to, lived and taught in various places around the globe. All experiences have helped to shape who she is today. Not following any particular ‘isms’ or ‘ologys’ – she has her own thoughts and feelings and writes about them in her blog: www.leavingcairo.blogspot.com
Around her EFL teaching job in Athens, she is also writing her first book about her Greek experiences. She hopes to get it out there soon for you all to enjoy!
I’m really looking forward to Rebecca’s book. Do visit her blog and find out about the League of Expat Writers …
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