Living in Greece

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

You know you’re NOT Greek if…

easter.jpg© Copyrighted image from my private collection
Easter dinner/dance 2003 inside the Evzone camp of Athens

You know you’re a foreigner in Greece when:

1. No one ever asks you to hold the white handkerchief while Greek dancing

2. You thought Greek salad had lettuce in it

3. You don’t know how to use a κομπολóγοι

4. You went to the Acropolis by choice, not because your school forced you to go on a field trip

5. You never tell people “Πήρες κάποια κιλά” (you’ve gained some weight) upon greeting them
(corrected from: “πυρες καποια κιλα” — left in place until three plagiarism claims are resolved)

6. There are no religious icons in your home or car

7. You call it Diet Coke like the rest of the world, not Coke Light

8. No one asks what village you’re from

9. You call them the green and red team, not Panathinaikos and Olympiakos

10. Your name has a ‘b,’ ‘c,’ ‘g,’ ‘j’ or ‘w’ in it

11. You and your family have no olive trees

12. You don’t know the difference between tzatziki and tzitziki

13. You eat dinner before 21:00

14. You don’t know any jokes about Turks

15. You don’t spend any part of New Year’s Eve with your parents

16. You remember the days of using a checkbook and paying bills by mail

17. The donkey you’ve been photographed with doesn’t belong to you or anyone you know

18. You’ve never ordered a Greek Mac at McDonald’s (for those abroad, it’s a pita wrapped around a breaded questionable meat patty, lettuce and dressing)

19. You say ‘thank you’ on a regular basis and think it’s normal

20. Your name doesn’t end in ‘opoulos,’ ‘os,’ ‘as’ or ‘is.’

21. You know what personal space or a silent voice is

22. You have actually tasted authentic cuisine from other countries, not just Greek food or ethnic food that’s been “Greeked” (i.e. Gyros pizza from Domino’s, pork teriyaki sushi hand roll, bruschetta with feta cheese)

23. You’ve never bribed anyone

24. You know that Nescafé is not real coffee

25. You don’t make the sign of a cross every time you pass a church

26. You’re a male under 30 (or 50) and know how to do your own laundry

27. Not everything you cook has olive oil in it.

28. You think public transportation is a perfectly good environmentally friendly way to get around, it’s not just for students, immigrants, soldiers and other “poor people”

29. You mind the queue

30. You don’t say things like “We Americans are everywhere,” as if there were no other nationalities that are everywhere

31. You think people are calling you a squid when they say “Kalimera”

32. You finished your degree in 4 years, instead of 10, and probably financed it yourself

33. All of your friends are named something different, there aren’t 10 Nikos, 5 Giorgos, 10 Yannis, 5 Katerinas and 7 Marias in your life

34. You vacation somewhere other than Greece and think it’s better

35. You don’t b!tch about expensive last-minute prices because you made vacation plans in advance

36. You say ‘I don’t know’ instead of making something up when you don’t know the answer to a question

37. You show up early or on time for appointments because you respect other people’s time

38. Not every surface in your house is covered by a white cloth with needlepoint or plastic

39. You drive the speed limit most of the time

40. You’re a woman and don’t think foreigners are trying to “steal your men”

41. Easter is not the most important holiday of the year

42. You don’t order your filet mignon ‘well done’ or at least don’t make faces or launch into a lecture about bacteria and blood if someone else likes ‘medium rare’

43. Your cousins are not all named after your grandmother or grandfather

44. An entourage doesn’t meet you at the airport

45. You don’t think all Albanians are thieves

46. You say “turn on/off the lights,” and your Greek friends don’t understand you

47. You moved out of your parents’ house before age 25 and not because they gave you property or because you got married

48. When you travel, you make friends with everyone not just people from your own country

49. You don’t make references to what your country did hundreds of years ago and then take credit for it

50. You complain about the public sector and don’t want a job in it

51. You feel nothing when Macedonia is mentioned

52. You’re OK with eating off separate plates, not a community one

53. You’ve never been hit in the head with a παντουφλα or κουταλα

54. You don’t get upset if someone says Istanbul instead of Constantinople

55. You don’t buy out the whole supermarket when it’s about to close for a 24-hour holiday

56. You don’t still refer to prices in drachmas

57. You know the Interamerican in Athens is a very short building

58. You think that many things taste fine without bread and lemon

59. You had no clue about Metsovo, halloumi, anthotiro or kefalotyri, thinking feta was the only cheese from Greece. And also had no clue there were so many different types of feta.

60. People point it out for you all the time by calling you ξενος, Amerikanida, the guy from Munich or anything else that’s not your name

* 🙂 I created this list to poke fun at myself and other foreigners in Greece. It is not a copied list from somewhere else, and it (for the most part) pertains to Greeks living in the patrida not Greeks abroad.

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The Author

Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author. To learn more, see “About Me.”

  • Livingingreece.gr was created in 2007 to present meticulously researched original articles that fill a gap left by traditional media, government portals and commercial websites/forums run by people without credentials.
  • @LivinginGreece is a Twitter feed curated from recognized Greek and international news agencies to provide breaking news about Greece, plus real-time updates and insider tips mined from 15 years experience.

Please note my copyright policy and be aware that plagiarism and copyright violations will be pursued.

42 Comments

  EllasDevil wrote @ July 27th, 2007 at 12:16

Right…. OK

So I took your test and it appears I am actually Greek!

Who’d have thought?

Kat Reply:

ED – What a shocker! 😉

  deviousdiva wrote @ July 27th, 2007 at 15:20

I took the test and I am so not Greek, it’s a joke (although I get ALL the references and laughed my head off). I guess that makes me an honorary Greek?

Kat Reply:

DD – I think after some time, people adapt to the way of life. You can be anything you damn well want 🙂

  PIC wrote @ July 27th, 2007 at 15:25

Don’t forget:

– You tell your Greek friends that you put your daughter to bed at 8pm so she can get up on time for school and everyone looks at you like you are an alien, since their kids go to bed at 11pm!

Kat Reply:

PIC – Actually, a lot of my Greek friends put their children to bed at 20:00, so that’s why it’s not on the list.

  rositta wrote @ July 27th, 2007 at 18:08

Well, my name ends in ‘as’ and I’m definately not Greek. That is a very good list and a very true one. I have lived through or heard most of this stuff from my husband’s family… ciao

Kat Reply:

Rositta – Well, not every single one needs to be true. Just if you identify with most of the list, then you’re not Greek.

  melusina wrote @ July 27th, 2007 at 19:33

Lol. Unfortunately, some of those things are true for me. But I’m definitely not Greek, just married to one!

Kat Reply:

Mel – I believe many things on the list would be true for you since it’s a list of things that identify you as not being Greek. It’s a “you know you’re NOT Greek” list, not a “you know you ARE Greek” list.

  toomanytribbles wrote @ July 27th, 2007 at 20:51

according to your list, i’m not greek. but then i am. but i don’t feel greek but sometimes i do.

I’M SO CONFUSED.

i’m a citizen of the world! better huh?

in all seriousness though, i’ve often wrestled with the idea that being greek has nothing to do with the stereotypes — even if they’re self-imposed by greeks themselves.

Kat Reply:

TMT – I think people adapt to their situation, be it marriage, a spouse or child’s habits, lifestyle, country and city of residence, circumstances, standard of living and anything else. I agree with you, but stereotypes (like jokes) are nearly always based on some truth AND there are always exceptions. That’s the beauty of life. Anyway, it’s not a serious list or test of one’s identity…it’s just something fun for Friday!

  Sydney wrote @ July 28th, 2007 at 01:18

Great list! How about – You’re not Greek if you’ve ever thought, “I wonder if it’s okay to smoke here?”

Kat Reply:

Syd – I thought of smoking, but a lot of Europeans smoke like chimneys and a lot of my Greek friends don’t smoke (maybe because they exercise).

  tayrina wrote @ July 29th, 2007 at 01:17

great list!it seems like you’ve really gotten the idea of the greek mentality.i would also add…u know u r not greek if u don’t use the word ”μαλάκας” 3.324 times a day either being good intentioned or bad to the person u r talking to.

Kat Reply:

Tayrina – That’s a good point! LOL

  christina wrote @ July 29th, 2007 at 19:13

Too funny! 7, 14, 16, 19, 21, 29, 32 and 39 would also be candidates for the You Know You’re Not German If…. list. 🙂

Kat Reply:

Christina – Darn, maybe I’ll have to revise the list!

  yiannos wrote @ July 29th, 2007 at 20:11

LOL @ 40+51 especially, although the whole list is great. Greek women thinking other women are trying to their steal their men–whether foreign or otherwise–is definitely on the mark; some of them are paranoid beyond belief. i know this from first and second hand experience. they like to play the whole ‘i don’t need you’ game, but whenever they see you talking to another woman, you NEVER hear the end of it. i kept having to joke to my old Greek gf that i’m not all that desirable to women as attractive as she was, but the joke would fly over her head 🙂 hahah

Kat Reply:

Yiannos – The thing that gets me is the whole ownership thing, “our men”; I’ve been around the world and never heard women say that, and I don’t think men on the whole enjoy being the possession of anyone unless by choice.

Women would come up to my boyfriends while I’m standing there and ask them, “what’s wrong with you, can’t you get a real woman (aka Greek)?” And my boyfriends say, “oh she’s more a woman than you’ll ever be.” And I’m thinking, “oh yes, why wouldn’t he want such a polite, lovely and endearing creature like you?” Unafraid of confrontation and competition, I dare these women to go ahead and take him from me if she’s really all that. And if he did belong to her, hey good luck with that. They usually go away sneering and spitting. I could care less.

And with regard to you, don’t sell yourself short! With regard to your ex, it goes back to the whole “can’t do a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent” thing again. 😉

  yiannos wrote @ July 29th, 2007 at 23:12

^^kat, although i may not be my place to say, i’m under the impression that young to younger greek women (under 40) are more aggressive in this regard due to the ‘subordinate past’ and the rubbish they may have seen their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, friends put up with, but also their own negative attitudes about men, their $exual prowess, and the lack of morals they associate with it; unfortunately many of them (not all) choose to deal with the situation wrongly, mostly via preemptive strike tactics, esp the old ‘candy and cyanide’ trick, routinely mixing sweetness with lethal doses of poison.

not exactly healthy is it?

btw, i guess what i posted isn’t all that relevant since you were speaking from the position of a ‘foreigner’, but it still paints a picture either way, at least in my head.

Kat Reply:

For most of my time here, the only Greek women I’ve been friends with are those who have lived outside the country (usually in the UK and USA) and/or those who think differently, are highly educated and usually athletic.

I always try to get along with everyone female, whether at work or my male friends’ girlfriends, people I club with or those on the street, and it never works out. Someone’s jealous or mean or burns me with cigarettes (my hand, my clothes — once someone threw a butt at my head on the street while my back was turned) or comes to my house parties and doesn’t speak to me or bring a gift after I’ve brought them nice NY gifts for years. Again, it’s like an investment; you’ve got to cut your losses after putting a significant amount of time and energy into it without payoff. I don’t have time or energy to spare on stupidity and self-esteem issues.

There are nice men and women all over the world, and I’m grateful to call some of them my friends.

  PIC wrote @ July 30th, 2007 at 12:49

Kat,

You really have had some bad experiences with Greeks (from reading your stories). Do you live in a working class (read: upscale foreigners scarce) area? I feel so bad when I hear that you have had such a bad time. You must be extremely attractive and such a big threat to the Greek women, or they have perceived you as being from Albania, and then they can be really nasty.

My Greek men friends tend to be Greek-Americans ONLY except for a few and that’s because most Greek men I’ve befriended bore me. I don’t like Soccer, I don’t smoke, I don’t use curse words, and I don’t like sitting at cafe’s all day burning daylight, and I don’t like to discuss how great Greece is 24 hours a day.

  Megan wrote @ July 30th, 2007 at 15:48

My favorite: 17. The donkey you’ve been photographed with doesn’t belong to you or anyone you know

🙂

  Sydney wrote @ July 30th, 2007 at 18:06

Yes, lots of Europeans smoke, and lots of Greeks don’t, but Greece is the only place I’ve been where people will smoke in your home when you don’t, in the blood lab at the hospital (saw it with my own eyes!), in the dentist and doctor’s office, and in the grocery store. It seemed to me that the Greeks I knew who smoked (and most of them didn’t, actually – but the ones who did) never had a thought about whether lighting up was appropriate for the location. FWIW, that’s my $.02.

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