Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Greece: The Good, the Bad, and the Amusing

The Good:

I have a whole separate post on the good things about Greece. Here’s a recap: The islands, the food, the color of the ocean, siestas, tavernas, open-air cinemas, sunsets, beautiful flowers, frappes, kids running around at night, etc.

The Bad:
As with every country, you have to take the bad along with the good.  I always feel that an outsider has no right to criticise a country.  After all, if you don't like it, go home!  However, since my mother-in-law lives here, my husband is half-Greek, and I have spent every summer and every other Christmas here for the past 10 years; I feel I have earned the right to mention a few things I don't like.  (If you are Greek, please don't take offense,  I think the good outweighs the bad, and I am the first person to criticise things I don't like about my own country.)  Here are some things I really find hard to take when I come here:

-Athens - NOT my favorite place! It has all the problems of a big city without any of the convenience. I only liked Greece once I got out of Athens. By all means - go to Athens to see all the old stuff (Parthenon, etc.). I was really glad to see all that. The first time. After you’ve seen it all though, Athens is just a big, dirty city.

-Rude people - Admittedly, not all Greeks are rude. I find them to very rude in Athens, but really very friendly once you get outside of Athens.  Once, in Athens, an old Greek lady literally pushed me out of the way saying "op op op op op!"  I think that's the Greek for,"Get out of my way you dumb tourist!  I'm trying to get that taxi!"

- NO ONE waits in line. Ever. When you go anywhere, instead of lining up, the Greeks will push into a chaotic mob and elbow you out of their way. (Little old Greek ladies are the WORST!) I have been conditioned to wait my turn. If you try to do this, you’ll never get anywhere because everyone pushes ahead of you. Once the crowd begins to thin out, then a whole fresh mob of people will push in front of you. I have culture shock over this every time.

-Rules are for someone else - Most Greeks seem to have this mentality. Rules (even traffic rules) are for someone else. We once got totally yelled at by a man who had a red light, but he wanted to run it. We were walking across the street at the time (obeying the signal), and prevented him from doing this. (This is just one, small example. People create traffic lanes where there are no lanes, etc.) I always have underlying anxiety because I feel like anyone could do anything at anytime.

-Speaking of traffic - When driving in Athens, if you don’t go immediately, the person behind you will honk and curse at you. If you do go, then the car on street you just went in front of will honk and curse at you. Either way, you’re screwed.

The Amusing:
(I was going to call this “the ugly”, but I decided to think of it as amusing.)

- There is still smoking inside of buildings. When we went to the bank, (another thing I don’t like: things take FOREVER. Even simple things like going to the bank can take hours.) Anyway, we were at the bank, and the woman at the desk lit up and started smoking! I couldn’t believe it. Okay, though. It was a bank. Fair enough, I guess. What really shocked me was when we visited my mother-in-law in the hospital a few years back when she had a minor operation. People were smoking IN the hospital! Even the doctors and nurses smoked, right in front of the patients! (WTF?)

- Sidewalks are not for walking. Anywhere there is a sidewalk, people have planted trees in the middle of them. They cut holes in the concrete and plant trees in them every few feet. Of course, this makes walking on the sidewalk impossible. So then, everyone walks in the street while the angry drivers honk at everyone to get out of the way. To me, this is crazy.

-Gum - On the trunks of the above mentioned trees, there is tons of gum. Apparently, this is where youngsters put their used gum instead of throwing it away. Yuck.

- Ancient Plumbing - Most places have old plumbing with very narrow pipes. This means that you cannot flush toilet paper. Next to every toilet, they have a small trash can where you’re supposed to put used toilet paper and things you normally would flush. Ick. (This is another thing I find it hard to get used to.)

-Cats - They seem to be everywhere! Apparently, the Greeks won’t put down animals. This is nice in theory, but what do you do when the stray cats take over and there are packs of dogs which terrorize children? Sometimes, putting down strays is for the best.


  1. you have earned the right. Strange about the smoking.

  2. So the not paying income tax must be from the "rules are for other people" heading? That would probably drive me absolutely nuts (and the lack of lines). I'm a huge believer in rules (probably why I'm a lawyer).

  3. I can't tell you how refreshing it was to get back to London where they follow rules and stand in lines almost to a fault! Rules make me feel secure.

  4. This is the funniest post Lyn. It's like you made up a crazy land. Cutting holes in the footpaths to plant trees??? Nutty!

    Not queueing would get me all agitated. I like things to be fair, and if someone pushes in front of you they aren't being fair.

    I was waiting to hop onto a bus after work one day (in New Zealand where I live). I was literally about to step up onto the bus step when a well dressed tall man in a suit pushed in front of me rudely. I was so incensed. I said to him 'excuse me, I don't think you saw that I was waiting, the line is here' or similar. He sneered at me and said 'are you English?' and just carried on. What a gentleman, huh?

  5. Was he Greek, by any chance? ;-) I guess it's fair in a way. The person who is the most aggressive and pushes to the front wins! Hmmm....

    I agree - it does sound like I made up a crazy land. I feel like I'm in crazy land every time I go there. There are a lot of things I like about Greece, but due to the above, I could never live there.