Lately, it occurred to me that I have been “Dimitra from Greece” for a while now; starting back in 2007 when I went to the UK for an Erasmus exchange, or perhaps even before that, when I first traveled abroad, around 2002.
When you travel abroad, like it or not, you become an ambassador of your country and your culture. You may not be the most typical specimen (I know I’m not), but that matters very little to the people you’ll meet. Some of them might have never met another person from your country before; to them you’ll be the personification of your culture, no matter what you do. So, I thought I’d have a look at a few stereotypes about my people and tell you a couple of things about what’s true and what’s not.
1. Smashing plates
I’m sorry to break the news to you, but we do not smash our plates every evening after dinner. I know, you are awfully disappointed. Do not despair though; if you ever attend a traditional Greek wedding you will most likely witness this old custom. When the music is playing, the wine is flowing and there’s a life-changing event to celebrate, we just need to smash things into pieces. Be it the plates, the glasses, the chairs or the tables, when the Greeks are having fun nothing remains standing.
2. Mom’s food
Have you ever had Greek dorm mates or roommates? If you have, then you have witnessed that moment of bliss when the food parcel from home arrives. It doesn’t matter how far away you are, whether you’re in the same continent or not your mom’s cooking will find you. Because if your mother isn’t cooking for you, you’re clearly not eating well.
3. Greek hospitality
I promised to be good this week, so I will not talk about “hospitality centres” – I would advise you to click on the link and read the article, though, just to get an idea of how hospitable the EU is towards people fleeing totalitarian regimes or warzones with a hope of survival, if anything. That aside, Greeks are very hospitable. Especially if you’re white and visit our country with a pocket full of money. No, seriously. Our homes are open, we can always fit another chair at our dinner table, we like sharing our food and wine with people even if we don’t know their names, and we love our country so much that we just can’t wait to show it to you and have you fall in love with it as well. It’s not the sun, the climate, or our ancestry; hardship is what brings us together.
4. 30 years old and living with our parents
It is not because we are lazy, or because we can’t live without our parents. You are welcome to move into my hole of an apartment and find a job to pay the rent – I will even transfer all of my qualifications to you and give you a year to feel unemployment in your bones. Then we can have this conversation again.
This is a stereotype spawned by the financial crisis. It is true that we are not very organized or goal-driven; we like enjoying our life day by day, taking our time to sit in the sun and meet people. If you ask me, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to postpone living until sometime later when you’ve made enough money and have secured a career – given the circumstances, that day might never come. But Greek people are actually very hard working, as is the case with all the poor countries in the North and the East; we don’t really have a choice. Unless you’re prepared to work 54 hours per week for little pay, you will be unemployed forever. So: respect, people.