Living in Greece

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

Day after “the thing”

Now that I’ve taken a 24-hour detoxification after “The Thing” yesterday, I can reflect and state again for the record, “You can’t change others, you can only change yourself.”

The afternoon started by traversing Athens from south to north to pick up my partner’s brother who didn’t arrange a cab or want to take public transportation, then back south to arrive at his father’s house. We were intentionally late to avoid the pre-“thing” gossip and Q&A session. 😮

I adopted an anti-Boy Scout motto of “don’t be prepared.” That is, just be open to whatever happens. 😀

Some of the usual suspects were present. Remnants from previous years’ hoopla sat tellingly on the table in the form of mismatched plates and glasses. Sixteen of us — half of which were named Konstantinos/a, Giorgos and Christos — were in attendance. Aunt Eleni was talking about her son who died tragically several years ago, as she does in every conversation. There was plenty of wine. 😛

Alterations to the recipe for “the thing” included our plates being pre-loaded in a plausible attempt to get us to eat more food, stereo volume was low key instead of cranked up after dinner, I was not given underwear as a gift by my future father-in-law — am I the only one who finds that strange? — and there was no dancing or breaking of plates to which my partner exclaimed, “Thank God!” 🙂

In the absence of these ingredients, others were added: Tension, pushing of agendas and ’80s breakdancing. We won the lottery and had them all at our end of the table. 😐

The tension came from my partner’s father pissed off his usually bubbly girlfriend by saying her potatoes were “xalia’ and wouldn’t eat them, in addition to an ongoing issue over money owed to my partner since October by his ex-boss (aka, cousin), who sat across from us at the table. His cousin also banned me from speaking to him in April (see, “Hypocrite is a Greek word“), but I still embraced him as if nothing happened. 😕

On the pushing front was: An agenda for grandchildren; a heavy handed request that all “the women” gather at my house to take walks, teach me how to cook Greek food and discuss child rearing; and a guilt-laden, teary eyed plea that the family get together for “the thing” every 15 days. Eeee! Now as fun and tempting as it all sounds, and as grateful I am that people want my company, that over there is an outline of me in the wall after I’ve run through it, screaming “HELL NO!” Instead of defacing the building, I nodded and deadpanned an, “Oh, ti oraia. Efharisto, tha doume.” 🙄

This was followed by an outbreak of seven discussions between people not sitting next to each other, causing the volume in the living room to quadruple, and someone passing around a badly translated (U.S. English to Greek) breakdancing book from 1985 with instructions and photos of the “mavros.” Thankfully, no one tried to bust a move. 8)

Most fashionable of “the thing” goes to Uncle Christo wearing a grey suit, pink shirt, purple-and-white striped tie, brown socks and tan shoes. He also provided comic relief. Attempting to escape the mayhem with a cigarette on the balcony, we tortured him a bit by turning on the blinking Christmas lights and locking him outside with little Konstantina and her new crying baby toy. He laughed and told us all where to go, as the elders pointed at buttons that were about to pop off his suit jacket from his now bulging stomach. 😆

“The thing” turned awkward for me when my partner went to the kitchen and left me alone with his father. He was talking again about the women getting together to help me with my Greek and cooking, then suddenly became choked up, hiccuped back some tears and started bawling as he called out, “M’agapate!” Since I’d never confronted the same situation with my own father, all I could do was put a reassuring arm on his shoulder and yell for my partner to run out and help me. 😥

With the full range of emotions covered in less than three hours, we took our leave. Luckily, it’s all captured on videotape so we can relive the magic again and again. 😳

Related post

Easter in Athens


  oriste wrote @ December 27th, 2007 at 15:30

Congratulations, you survived! You have a whole year now to prepare for the next “thing”… 😉 unless you get this “thing” on a fortnightly basis, of course, poor you.

Also thanks for the nice words on my site. I appreciate it.

  graffic wrote @ December 27th, 2007 at 18:00

I still have 2 dinners today and tomorrow. My stomach is starting to complain 😛

  GP wrote @ December 27th, 2007 at 18:51

LoL… Hope the women don’t show up on your doorstep today to begin their “lessons” on you…

Your “thing” this year actually sounds pretty tame. Consider yourself lucky.

One year, during an Easter “thing” at my in-law’s exohiko, the conversation about sports & politics became so heated that an invited guest (a total SOB) threw a temper tantrum like a 5 yr old. He got up from the dinner table, shouting, and stormed off into one of the bedrooms, slamming the door behind him. Then, half of the table got up and tried to cajole him out of the bedroom, while the other half of the table kept eating, turned up the music to drown out the yelling, and pretended like nothing happened. !!

  Stathis wrote @ December 27th, 2007 at 20:55

Mmm this sound more greek than the plate-smashing one last year…
Emotional to the bone, louder than ever…


  Cheryl wrote @ December 27th, 2007 at 22:55

Glad to hear that you survived without a major incident! I loved the story, great details!
BTW-The women must teach you how to cook! How would you know how to do that if they didn’t? I mean, you’ve only been here for 10 years, how would you know how to cook Greek food? Aye. I’ve felt that hit before. It’s only just begun for you my dear. Good luck!

  FMS wrote @ December 29th, 2007 at 03:30

Kat: I can offer advice on Greek cooking, which is probably of a higher quality than might come from your potential inlaws:-) [Although it would be contaminated with comparisons with Turkish, Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian etc cuisine!]

Although I have no practical experience of child-rearing, I venture to suggest that I could do a better job than Greek mothers. The first thing would be that male children are not superior to female ones; the second is that all children should be told to shut up and behave when appropriate; the third is that they should leave home before the age of 35. [Just a few pointers to style, here]

So, a free advisory service for xenoi by xenoi seems desirable!!

  Stavros wrote @ January 1st, 2008 at 22:27


Xronia Polla although here in Maine it is XIONIA POLLA because we are get pounded by old man winter.

Glad your survived “the thing,” be prepared for many more “things” and then maybe your Greek relatives will begin to grow on you. Remember anything is bearable with a good man at your side.

Evtihismenos a kanourios xronos, na este oli kala

  Stathis wrote @ January 2nd, 2008 at 13:47

“All the elements were there — death, drama, tragedy, comedy, guilt. All the living room is a stage!”

Kat i really love the way you see the very soul of greece!!!

  Kat wrote @ January 2nd, 2008 at 19:35

O – Here I am! We’re invited to the New Year’s Eve “thing,” but needless to say, we’re not going. That’s an all-night affair, a virtual marathon. We’re doing our mightiest to avoid the fortnightly plan. WAH!

G – What endurance! 🙂

GP – As we’ve just moved, the ladies don’t currently know where we live and there’s a big gate outside should they find out. You’re right, it was pretty tame in comparison to last year, just highly emotional. My fiance and I could have easily been the ones locked in the bedroom, but my fiance is a peace-loving person and I’ve built a high tolerance level after 10 years here. Good story you shared. Does your family video these events, as well?

S mou – True. All the elements were there — death, drama, tragedy, comedy, guilt. All the living room is a stage!

C – Alas I do not have the 17 years of marriage that you do, so true! But I’ve had nearly 11 years of advice about everything (cooking cleaning, walking, writing, reading, how to shop, how to eat, how to speak Greek, how to be more Greek, how to find a husband, how to make friends) from strangers, friends and foes. Hello, I’ve traveled around the world alone and moved to 8 cities in five countries on my own…yes, I’m helpless! My fiance tells them I’ve on my own since age 17 and cooking since age 5, but it’s selective hearing. Nothing we can do, as you well know. I suspect we’ll move out of the country before the advice starts about how to raise our children. 😉

M – Many thanks for your advice about food, children and life. I’ve got a few ideas of my own, but we’ll see how it all pans out with my fiance in the mix. As it is, he wants to have three kids (eek); me, only one. It’s a matter of negotiation.

Stavro mou! – Indeed Xionia Polla! I saw your photos, and boy does that look fun! OK, maybe not the shoveling part, but all we’ve had is some rain. The thing with my fiance’s dad’s side of the family is I just accept them for who they are, find humor and listen to whatever they say because I know that if my fiance and I agree on things, that’s all that matters in the end. I believe their hearts are in the right place, even if their intentions appear a little ill presented. My fiance is the one who dreads and shakes his head; I tell him he should enjoy them while they’re here and we’re here because ultimately life is short. It doesn’t mean I’ll have dinner with them every 15 days, but I’m willing to take some abuse for the sake of peace and good relations. Thinking of you. You have our best, as always.

S mou! – You know what I always think about? I believe it’s an Italian saying, “Live your life like it was a movie.” So in that case, all the world is a stage, not just the living room. 🙂 Filakia

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