Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Give me a break!

noise Greece

This photo magically found me and gave me a good laugh, as I was browsing Emily in France‘s blog. It pretty much sums up the level of noise in Greece.

There’s been roadwork every day for the past month starting at 7:00, which they said would last one week. It’s wearing on everyone’s nerves.

I came home early and had the joy of listening to workers having a contest of disgusting bodily noises.

Then “paliatzi, paliatzi, paliatzi…oh, paliatzi.” How much crap can a neighborhood have that justifies three or four of these guys coming around day after day? And is there anyone who enjoys hearing these swarmy voices on a loudspeaker?

The old couple on the ground floor is arguing, the woman inside and the man outside, so we can hear their dirty laundry.

Kids just below us are yelling, “mama, mama, mama, mama, mama…” for a good 5 minutes. Then they’re on the balcony screaming “eeek” over and over again, as if in pain, but they’re not. We are.

A neighbor comes out of her house to complain to their mother.

While this is going on, an accordion player roams the block, giving us a taste of his skills and singing voice.

This causes the dog next door to start barking, which then starts the whole neighborhood barking.

Owners yell at their dogs to shush.

A car drives by with Greek music blasting so loud, I could hear it well after it left the area, but can’t hear my own stereo sitting right next to me.

The guy next door gets a call and talks on the balcony for 10 minutes at the top of his lungs.

His father is in the bathroom with the window open, coughing up furballs.

Our neighbor’s friend gets a call and talks above the motorcycle noise, revving the motor instead of turning it off.

Then the male person in this house comes home and asks about dinner, so I sweat in the kitchen for an hour, and he massacres the food in less than 5 minutes.

Finally I sit down to check mail and the blog, the Internet connection goes down.

I try to find something on TV, it’s all soap operas and movies that were shown 3 months ago, as if there are no other movies in the world. Why are we all forced to pay for this cr@p in our electric bills?

Someone is trying to start his car, with a screeching whirring noise and backfire following his success.

Let’s not forget the watermelon truck in summer! “Karpouzia, ela paidia, karpouzia, peponia, karpouzia, ola fresca,” which I can still hear over my air conditioner.

A car alarm goes off, then stops, then starts again and is still going…

I know there’s no Greek word for privacy, but isn’t there one for silence?

In the News

Noise affects 6 in 10 city residents” – Kathimerini
Greece slow in the fight against noise – 60 percent of residents afflicted by 75 decibels” – Kathimerini
Noisy neighbors in Peristeri fined 2,000 euros & one month in jail” — Ta Nea

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21 Comments

  Cheryl wrote @ June 13th, 2007 at 23:55

Kat, I know that you are suffering, but it is hilarious to read. You poor thing! We have had construction on our street for the past month too, it is annoying as hell. The reverse signal for the trucks backing up is constant…beep-beep-beep. They start around 6 am. But we don’t have nearly as much going on here, as far as people are concerned. It is fairly quiet during the day. It gets a little loud around 9 pm and continues until 3 am or so. I have my central air on, so I don’t hear as much as I could. I will send silent thoughts your way! :)

  rositta wrote @ June 14th, 2007 at 01:16

I experienced most of what you just wrote about during my two week stay in Glyfada. It’s probably the foremost reason why I don’t want to live in Greece. Too many people in too small an area. It’s not a whole lot different in Germany, except they don’t yell as much and there are no stray dogs…hope you get your peace….ciao

  betabug wrote @ June 14th, 2007 at 12:01

I would suggest a 3 day (or so) vacation to Hydra… no cars, no bikes, therefore much less noise. And since the noise level from those is lower, the people are quiter (and more content) too. It really is a stunning experience when coming from Athens.

You can walk the streets and hear the next restaurant from 3 streets afar, because you hear the cling cling of forks and knifes on the plates. Avoid the short bursts of tourist excursion ships at the harbour, but even these are nothing compared to a normal street here.

Coming back to Athens is cold turkey though…

  Διαγόρας ο Μήλιος wrote @ June 14th, 2007 at 12:32

One thing that would greatly help is the combination of airconditioning and double glasses on all doors and windows. The fact that you lack those probably accounts for a considerable part of your perceived difference in noisiness between your Athens neighbours and your USA neighbours. (I repeat: part of.)

Furthermore, if you could imagine all your neighbours also having airconditioning and double glasses, I suppose you would agree that the improvement would be dramatic. (This is a prime example of how all problems in Greece can be tracked down to poverty. Sarcasm intended.)

Double glasses are generally considered as absolutely necessary in many places, but not in Athens, apparently due to a misunderstanding regarding their primary purpose. (Fools think they are for the cold, not for the noise.)

  chloe wrote @ June 14th, 2007 at 12:54

why do people go out on the balcony to talk on their mobiles? i’ve noticed it these last couple of weeks. I see it all the time.

I think, it’s safe to assume that they prefer to wake the whole neighbourhood instead of their family inside the house.
you need earplugs. :)

  Kat wrote @ June 14th, 2007 at 18:58

Cheryl – You totally get me, and I love that. The post is meant to be a slice of life, but also funny.

Rositta – When I posted the photo, I thought you might get a good laugh as I did. The funny thing is, I’ve lived in more crowded neighborhoods than this, and the noise level went down at night, so it was OK — that house also had modern windows/doors, insulation and proper construction (my fiance regrets moving from there, sometimes). We’re in the north now with a little breathing room between houses and wider streets, isn’t it supposed to be quieter?

Betabug – It’s a great suggestion, but I’ve seen most of Greece, including Hydra, and unfortunately I can’t skip out of town that easily with a full-time job, responsibilities at home and races on weekends. There’s also a matter of my Greek salary that doesn’t allow such frequent escapes, especially since we’re putting our money toward buying a home. A permanent solution to controlling our environment.

Διαγόρας ο Μήλιος – Hey, thanks for stopping by! I wish I could read more of your blog without taking out a dictionary here and there. We have air conditioning, but it’s not hot enough to use it. We also don’t own this house, therefore we can’t replace the cheap ass windows/doors that plague us year-round. By the way, double (dual) pane is good both for soundproofing and insulating against outside elements. Check it yourself, if you don’t believe me.

That might solve the outside noise, but the kids downstairs. Hoo hoo. The woman that came out of her house to complain about them is some meters away with the window closed, if that gives you an idea of volume.

I’ve lived in Manhattan and Astoria (plenty of Greeks, dogs and everyone there) in pretty close quarters, with more than 100 people stacked together in a single building, and I don’t ever recall this much noise. But then again, we had insulation, double pane windows and proper construction. And there were these things called personal space and respect for each other, too (which may be the other part in which you were referring) ;)

Chloe – Earplugs, indeed! Hell will freeze over before Hellas changes. Why wake only the family when you can spread the love?

  Ms Ellisa wrote @ June 14th, 2007 at 19:13

Hi, MAN you must hate Greece. I have never read so many bad stuff about my country in so little space. I do understand the way you feel though- when I was in US I couldn’t stand the quietness, it got me depressed. So this probably must be the opposite for you, therefore, I feel for you. I guess it all comes down to what you’re used to and how bad a day you’re having.

Anyway, I think it changes from day to day- and if you really want a moment’s piece it is VERY unlikely that you shall find it, unless you’re in a secluded beach. Do be patient. Greeks are loud- that’s a fact. :-)

I wish you patience… I like your blog BTW…

  Eleni wrote @ June 15th, 2007 at 01:24

And it’s not just Athens. We live part-year in a village on a very rural island and it is incredibly noisy. It starts early in the morning with the fishmongers coming through with loudspeakers hawking their wares. They are the start of a parade of trucks selling God knows what. I really don’t mind so much the shouts of psaria psaria, it’s the tinny loops of terrible bouzouki music played over and over again at top volume echoing off the stone houses and narrow streets that really gets to me. Couple that with the car alarms, kids screaming, yiayias screeching, people talking on their kinetos at the top of their lungs (don’t you know you MUST talk louder on a cell phone than a regular phone), roosters crowing, donkeys braying, engines and everything else kat talks about, on top of my next door neighbor’s really nasty technopop music that is almost always on and when it is always at top volume. I thank God everyday at 2 pm when the daily 3 hours of blessed peace and quiet arrives.

  Kat wrote @ June 15th, 2007 at 18:12

Ms. Ellisa – Why does truth translate to hating Greece, when it comes from a non-Greek? I don’t hate Greece. This post isn’t even a criticism, it was meant to be a funny slice of life based on truth. I don’t judge whether it’s good or bad, it just is. If you want to talk to someone who hates Greece, I’ve got dozens of native Greeks (including my fiance) who will rant for weeks about this “stinkin’ third world country.”

Like I said, I’ve lived in bigger cities with Greeks (Astoria, San Francisco), and it was quiet. It is what you’re used to, as you said, but for me it’s the fact it goes on incessantly day after day after day after day, and it’s tiring — has nothing to do with mood. I’m not the kind of person who ignores stuff or is apathetic.

If you’ve read my blog, you should know I’ve been here 10 years and am well aware that Greeks are loud. That’s fine, but there’s something called respect and manners. I just want a little peace, I’m not asking for complete silence.

Heaps of patience is the only thing that has kept me doing 10 times the bureaucracy a Greek does without killing myself or someone else. ;)

Hi Eleni – Thanks for leaving a comment and reminding me of life in a village and on an island. I’ve also lived in both, and it’s exactly as you describe. Sometimes, those roosters crow all day and all night, the chickens cluck early morning along with some housewives getting a jump on chores. My ex boyfriend used to argue, “well, it’s natural sounds.” Fair enough, but a few minutes or a few hours of peace wouldn’t kill anyone, would it?

I hope you continue to drop by and comment again! :)

  Thomas wrote @ June 18th, 2007 at 19:53

I’m going to miss Athens, but reading this really makes me feel that I’ve done the right thing to leave. My new house is up on a hill overlooking Heraklio, Crete, surrounded by olive orchards, a couple of other houses a decent distance away, and a few roads in the distance. A view of the sea and the distant mountains. The sound of birds and the wind going through the leaves of the trees, and dogs barking. We’re not living there yet, but when we go up to unpack, I hate leaving. I have my own office there, and when I sit at the computer (as yet without internet connection) I can see a nearby hill with a flock of sheep. And this in a suburb of Heraklio!

(Don’t mean to rub salt in your wounds, though…)

  Kat wrote @ June 18th, 2007 at 22:07

Thomas – When you said “I hate leaving,’ that’s how you know you’re home. Home is a place that makes you want to stay. You’re going to have a wonderful new life there, and with someone you love as well. I wanted very much to make a home here, which is the reason I came back so many times, but there’s always something getting in the way. I used to think those challenges existed to test how much I wanted it, and now I can see that 10 years is enough. It’s like a bad relationship or a bad investment — if you’ve given everything you have and get nothing (or a kick in the ass) in return, it’s time to cut your losses and get out.

Crete is my favorite island, and the photos you posted showed me it’s beautiful where you are. I don’t take it as salt because I know one day soon I’ll be in a better place, laughing about stuff like this like I am now, except harder. And more importantly, I love hearing that nice people like you and your fiancee are happy.

P.S. You can always visit Athens or I’d be willing to make you a podcast or video (with sound, of course) in case you need a fix ;)

  Mimica wrote @ June 19th, 2007 at 20:56

Hi, I really enjoyed your description of the noise in Athens. I’m Greek and have grown up abroad, but am living here since 1982. By your description, I think we might be neighbours. :-) Well as a teenager, I lived for many years in a remote area between Pallini and Pikermi and, boy did I hate the silence. Then I moved to the southern suburbs as an adult and haven’t found one moment of peace… except for Sundays in Summer when half the neighbourhood has gone elsewhere to make some noise…. I don’t think, though, that I could live in a very quiet area again… the noise has grown under my skin… or should I say inside my head?I have mixed feelings for my noisy neighbours. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

May I answer Chloe’s question why people go out on the balcony to talk on their mobile? I think it’s because the TV inside the lounge is too loud and they can’t hear themselves speaking.

  Kat wrote @ June 21st, 2007 at 18:04

Mimica – Your comment made me laugh a few times, first with the noise in your head (haha) and about the TV being too loud. That’s so true!

We’re no longer in the south or center, we’re more north now. On the surface, it seems quieter, but don’t be fooled by the cover. In the center where I lived, it was somehow quieter because the “business” noise died down at night and we had dual pane everything and insulation. Don’t have that here. My fiance regrets not listening to me about this house.

Silence isn’t my goal, after all I’ve lived in Astoria and Manhattan, but I don’t want to hear techno at 3 am or people yelling on their loudspeakers on Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 am when I have a chance to perhaps sleep in.

Now it’s summer so the karpouzi and peponi dude has arrived! Yay! ;)

  Mimica wrote @ June 27th, 2007 at 01:26

Hi Kat,
You’re right about the noise dying down in Athens… my company just moved offices to Vas. Konstantinou Ave. on the border of Pagrati and my initial response was OMG… what a horrible place… but have soon found out that it’s really very quiet in the back streets…mainly cause the roads are too narrow and cars rarely pass through there …. I walk through that neighboorhood everyday and enjoy the quietness… we have the paliatzi every Sunday morning and someone selling kopria… jeesh… but once when we had something old to get rid of, that paliatzi was nowhere to be found! Every Saturday morning we have this gruelling noise coming from the next door neighboor’s gardener who’s torturing the bushes… I don’t know why he has to butcher them every week for pete’s sake! And then, our other neighbour mows the lawn every Saturday at 2pm… sometimes I get so annoyed, I wish I was at the office. Well, I’m sorry to hear your neighbourhood didn’t turn out as you expected, but it’s a good thing the house isn’t yours, because at least you can choose to leave eventually. We’re practically stuck in our neighbourhood, cause I half own the house and can’t sell it; the other half is owned by my dad who luuuuvs our neighbourhood and is deaf in one ear so he finds our neighboorhood is pretty quiet. Well… at least the left side of the neighbourhood.

  Kat wrote @ June 28th, 2007 at 23:10

Mimica – LOL! Another comment of yours that made me laugh.

I feel for you; if my dad were still alive and owned half of my house, I know it’d be a cold day in hell before we agreed on anything. If I did own this house I’m living in, I’d either sell it or make the improvements I think are necessary to bring it up to my standard. We’ll see what happens. All I know is we’re roasting now ;)

  Harry Mitronis wrote @ July 11th, 2007 at 01:41

Just got back from my 17th trip to Athens. Love all the noise mentioned above. Am going back in September. Enjoyed all the above comments too!

  Kat wrote @ July 11th, 2007 at 07:51

Hi Harry, thanks for leaving a comment! Like you, I used to find all of these things charming, perhaps even missing it when I was away working or living somewhere else. For years, I was hopelessly in love with Greece.

Now reality has set in after too many years of stifling bureaucracy (10 times that of a Greek), my career has topped out in my mid-30s and my life is going nowhere with rising costs.

I hope your love affair with Greece continues and grows roots. I was never allowed to put mine down, so I’ve got to take them and put them somewhere else.

  antonis wrote @ July 25th, 2007 at 10:22

Couple all that with a 40 degree forecast and all those arsonist scoundrels, an inadequate social system, a distressing education system,no sound government imigration policy etc.. etc.

But you know Kat, there are very many good things too. I came here because of personal issues (my Dad was dying) and had to put up with a funeral, the revenue office, the transportation department (writing off the old man’s car that took 3 years), the military (yes I did my military service) whilst working at the same time. What really helped (maybe its just me) was the fact that I never let anyone drag me down, and that even though one problem, no NOT problem but challenge, came after another I sat down and always worked things out. There’s always a solution so don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. In addition , it helps to have a good solid set of friends since Greece is a polychronic society and in a step wise fashion you can have access to anyone (and if you really push it even the Prime Minister).

So again keep the faith and don’t take things on face value.

  Kat wrote @ July 25th, 2007 at 21:09

Tony, as I said previously, this is not a serious post, so giving me advice about being more positive and facing challenges without getting down is highly unnecessary. (My other major in college was holistic health, so I know all about the use of positive language).

It’s nearly impossible for anyone to understand what challenges and bureaucracy I faced here as a single non-Greek non-EU foreigner, so it’s not relevant to compare your challenges to mine even if we have the same support system of good friends, connections and shared opinions.

In any case, this post was a funny slice of life, it was not a criticism. It’s just a truthful story about a night in Athens. Whether it’s good or bad is the judgment of the reader.

  ed017 wrote @ August 27th, 2007 at 06:16

Ξέρεις ότι είσαι Έλληνας όταν σέβεσαι τον συνομιλητή σου και τον αφήνεις να εκφραστεί
Ξέρεις ότι είσαι Έλληνας όταν βρίσκεις τρόπο να ακουστεί η γνώμη σου ακόμα κι όταν οι αλλοι στο απαγορεύουν
Ξέρεις ότι είσαι Έλληνας γιατί ακόμα κι αν είσαι στο Sao Paulo στην άκρη του κόσμου σου μετράς τις μέρες μέχρι να γυρίσεις στην Ελλάδα.
Ξέρεις ότι είσαι Έλληνας όταν σε αγκαλιάζουν και οι ξένοι και σου λένε ότι αγαπάνε την Ελλάδα.
Ξέρεις ότι είσαι Έλληνας όταν ξέρεις τι εστί Λακωνίζειν και τον κάνεις τρόπο ζωής.
Δεν ξέρω αν είμαι άξιος να φέρω αυτόν τον τίτλο αλλά χαίρομαι που με φωνάζουν εδώστην Βραζιλία, Grego. Θα σου έγραφα κι άλλα, αλλά δεν θέλω να φάσκω και να αντιφάσκω με ότι γράφω…..

ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΣ Ο ΘΕΣΣΑΛΟΝΙΚΕΥΣ

  Kat wrote @ August 27th, 2007 at 07:52

“Dimitris” in Brazil — The great thing about freedom is an individual has the inherent right to feel, think and be any way they want, despite strangers giving unsolicited advice and passing judgment for no apparent reason.

This post was a slice of life written with humor. Humor is a Greek word. If you didn’t find it funny, perhaps δεν είσαι Έλληνας. :D

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