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With apologies to the vegan/raw foodie/I’m-on-a-juice-cleanse-now crowd, those concepts are still pretty foreign to Greek people. If you ask a Greek taverna owner about gluten-free vegan options, that’s probably the first time he’s heard those words. I know it’s hard to adjust, but try to do some research beforehand on local dishes you can order (there are plenty) that will fulfill your requirements. We have good food; just eat it already.
Bonus tip: if you order a rare steak in Greece, people will look at you like you asked for a live cow on the table so you could slaughter it yourself. People who eat rare steaks are one step removed from cannibals in our eyes. We take our meat well done for the most part, so at least shoot for medium on your order — trust us, it will taste great.
We have never had a great relationship with Germany (WWII and all), and the latest financial problems and austerity measures haven’t exactly helped heal things. So if you’re talking about politics, soccer, and everything in between, defending Germany in absolutely anything is the quickest way to make a table full of Greeks angrily turn and glare at you before the yelling starts.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re immensely proud of our heritage and will take special care to point out all the things/concepts our ancestors came up with. But I’ve had ‘well-educated’ people in the US ask me if we worship the Olympian gods or live in mini-Parthenons. Seriously? Come on, people. We do actually exist in the 21st century.
If you don’t like Athens after spending some time exploring the city, that’s your opinion and that’s fine. Just don’t declare yourself an expert on Athens because you rushed through the Acropolis and the tourist-filled Monastiraki flea market in 12 hours — because, obviously you’ve seen all there is to see in a city of more than 3 million people, and you know that every last part of it sucks.
I’ve also heard complaints from visitors to Athens because, as mentioned in the previous point, some tourists apparently expected to find a trapped-in-amber version of ancient Greece, with temples everywhere and people discussing philosophy. Instead they found a modern city. We have our historic sites, but we also have a lot of working-class neighborhoods, motorcycles, traffic, some graffiti, and actual contemporary people walking around. Because, again, we’re in the 21st century. All clear now?
Tourism is a huge part of the economy in Greece, but there is a definite love-hate relationship with our visitors. A lot of the annoyance comes from the fact that some tourists will come to Greece and treat the country like a frat house, leaving chunks of vomit in the streets and trashing our bars. So please, don’t get drunk and then boast on Facebook that you threw up next to the Parthenon. And don’t be that group of drunk, sunburned foreigners who start screaming and fighting in the streets at 1 AM, while the bars are full of Greeks who are just starting their night and can’t really, nor do they want to, deal with your shit.
Remember, you may be on vacation, but you’re in someone else’s establishment and on other peoples’ streets. We do still use these places after you leave, so be respectful.
I don’t know how many times we need to disprove this stereotype. Every recent survey has shown that Greeks work more hours than anyone in Europe and the US (we’re just under Korea for hours of work per week). Just because we also place a high value on our social circles and leisure time, which is why we’ll sit for a three hour coffee with our friends whenever we get a little time off, doesn’t mean we’re lazy. It means making time for our friends and family is important to us.
This is more about being a decent human being. If you want to spout your own opinion on the crisis, fine. I’m sure those two articles you read online pretty much make you an expert.
But please don’t say the Greek people deserved it, especially TO a Greek. The person you’re talking to may have lost their job, their pension, or their home thanks to the crisis. If not, they definitely have family members and friends who have, and they themselves are probably struggling to stay financially afloat as well. Most Greeks were working hard and just going about their daily lives when the economy was destroyed, so telling them they deserved to lose everything is deeply insulting.
Hypothetical situation: you get invited into a Greek person’s home for a gathering, and repeatedly refuse to eat anything, no matter if you’re truly not hungry or if you are just trying to be polite. Food is a very social thing in Greece, so what you’re basically saying to your host is:
“I don’t trust your cooking skills” and “I don’t really want to socialize with you or anyone else in this house after you were kind enough to invite me.”
When ordering gyro, please pronounce it “yi-ro” instead of “ja-i-ro”. The latter pronunciation physically hurts our ears. Also, we know we have long names that are hard for you to say. But don’t comment on how “weird” they are or say “Papaspirodopolopoulos or whatever”. It’s dismissive and offensive. Trust me, Chad, Courtney, and Kaitlyn sound just as funny pronounced in Greek as our names do to you. The accent doesn’t have to be 100% perfect; just try your best, and don’t make any rude comments.
This is an attitude a lot of Greeks living abroad encounter. You may be surprised to find out that working in a diner is not actually a mandatory part of a Greek’s life cycle. Yes, many diners in New York are/were owned by Greeks at some point, but we have other jobs as well. In fact, MOST of us have other jobs.
You are so wrong. There isn’t. And if you actually think so, please keep it to yourself.
Photo: Asbjørn Log