Living in Greece

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

Where’s my freakin’ cheese?


Friends who dine with me know that I have the misfortune of getting dark, curly hair in my food every time we eat Greek. It doesn’t happen to anyone else, and it never happens at a Mexican, Japanese, Thai or American eating establishment, only when I eat Greek food somewhere in Greece — Athens, Peloponnese, Greek islands, Delphi, Larissa, you name it.

At home, I get the occasional green thread in my phyllo dough, worm in my broccoli, rocks in my chicken breast or piece of plastic in the frozen vegetables. No big deal, doesn’t bother me. All in all, eating at home has proven to be less disgusting.

Tonight however, I went to grate cheese to make a pizza, and a corner of this cheddar block was missing. It was in an unbroken sealed package, no detached bits of cheese fell out when I opened it, and the break looked fresh. Returning it to the store isn’t an option since “the customer is always right” policy doesn’t apply here.

I’ve heard of opening a carton to check for broken eggs, but do I now need to feel up unopened packages of cheese in the supermarket to make sure no one has taken a bite?

Kat, “the cheddar mole$ter” does not have a nice ring to it.

For related stories, see “Shopping in Greece.”


  λ:ηρ wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 01:31

Cheddar on pizza? Where do you think you are? Green Bay? 🙂

  rositta wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 03:17

Start checking, guess that’s pretty much all you can do, isn’t it? …ciao

  Stathis wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 09:56

Generally speaking Greek Food Industry sucks…
They are in it for the money and only for the money. Merging in Trusts and always trying to get their prices up to the sky. The competition doesn’t work and that goes at some extent to the control services. although I think that they do a good job with controlling the quallity of milk and dairy products.

PS I haven’t had any cheddar since i came back from England 8 years ago!!

  The Scorpion wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 10:21

Kat, depending on where you bought it , you may want to try returning it anyway. Lately, the stores seem to be a bit more understanding. At a minimum, you could ask them if they prefer you tell your neighbor who works for Alpha Channel instead (lie a bit).

  yiannos wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 10:58

Stathis: what you say about the dairy industry makes sense. they are starting to make serious moves overseas now. And so they should; Greek Yoghurt is great.

  GP wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 12:42

I bet the guy on the cheese assembly line got hungry and broke off a piece before wrapping up the package. 😉

  FMS wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 19:02

I usually return defective goods to Greek shops/supermarkets, whilst realising that it will take a good deal of shouting and time to make them observe the law. The managers of certain Marinopoulos supermarkets now know how determined I am, even for 4 euros. Of course, it is not a matter of money: it is about how people or businesses should behave, both legally and morally. Shouting long and hard [creating maximal embarrassment] usually does the trick.

  Elisabeth wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 19:01

Can you blame them?

  FMS wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 22:15

Now you mention it, the last time I won the argument with the manager, when an assistant told the cashier to refund my money, the cashier asked why. The answer? “Xenos einai, de perazi…”. The concept of law, and in this case consumer rights, is completely absent. Just funny foreigners who win arguments…

  Kat wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 21:17

L – LOL, I wish I were in Sconsin, I miss the variety — Monterey jack, smoky Swiss, even cheese logs. 🙂 When I lived in CA, cheddar was always an option for pizza, used in a 2 to 1 mozz-chedd ratio, and that’s where my fiance picked up his preference from; I don’t eat it because lactose + gluten = 🙁 for me. This cheddar comes from Ireland through a Greek company, where it’s packaged, labeled and apparently sampled by employees. P.S. There’s no way I’m crumbling feta on a pizza (ick).

R – True, it’s not like complaining at the store or writing the company is going to change anything.

S – Haha! Stop being polite and tell us what’s really on your mind 😉 The milk should be top notch, we’re paying double what other nations pay for it. And what you say is true about dairy products being imported; I’ve seen Greek yogurt sold in Sweden and the USA in ordinary supermarkets.

The S – I have tried in the past, and people ask me, “how do we know you didn’t do this?” Please. Why would I bite the cheese, then take the trouble to bring it back? I once threatened, having a real connection at a TV station, and it didn’t do much. In fact, they dared me.

Y – I second what you said. Out of all yogurt I’ve tried in several countries, I like a certain Greek brand the best.

GP – Actually, that’s what I’m afraid of. LOL! The funny thing is, my fiance was angry and horrified, and I was the one who started laughing and making jokes. i.e. Cheese without a bite out of it costs extra; it now takes connections to get good tyri; lower your expectations, dammit! You’re so demanding.

E – No, I guess you can’t. Irish cheddar IS delicious.

M – That’s right. It’s not about the money, though we are being overcharged for this bitty thing (note: but we tried the cheaper ones and they suck). It’s just good hygiene, quality control and respect for the consumer — good luck with that (haha). My fiance (with few exceptions) doesn’t think it’s worth yelling, so that means it’s up to me to make a fuss, but they usually don’t take me seriously, chalk it up to me being a crazy foreigner and pretend they don’t know what I’m saying even though I’m speaking Greek. I never used to be a shouting, create-a-scene type person until moving here, but being calm, classy and reasonable yielded no results. It just seems that people ignore you or wait for you to give up and go away unless you act like a drama queen.

  Cheryl wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 22:26

Wow, that really sucks. It’s the “eewwww ” factor-to think that someone’s grimey hands were all over your cheese. I’d take it back. Funny, we’ve had a lot of food related incidents recently. The last 2 times I went to buy cereal for the kids I couldn’t find a box on the shelves that WASN’T opened. What? Someone wants the piece of crap toy for their kid so they take them all? Next, my neighbor came over on Sunday with a box of chocolate for the kids. They were so excited and as soon as she opened the box things changed. Chocolate that was supposed to be brown in color was kind of whitish-brown. We looked at the expiration date and of course, it had been expired. She was livid! (and the kids very disappointed). So, she left with the box and the wrapping in hand so that she could take it back. I always look at exp. dates here. It’s like playing Fear Factor with food here.

And what about the peach pit that I found dried up in my NEW roll of toilet paper? Fantastic. What the heck are the people in the factories doing here? Ay!!

  Amkii wrote @ February 13th, 2008 at 23:01

lol Seems like it just broke a bit before they wrapped it, or maybe that’s the way it got cut. Ha…cutting the cheese…damn. That was bad. Sorry. Either way, amusing and great blog…looks very helpful, as I’m hoping to work outside the US sometime. =D Thanks!!

  FMS wrote @ February 14th, 2008 at 06:25

Now you remind me, with expiry dates [a continuous fight these days] about a very early experience I had with a certain Kolonaki supermarket. It was probably 1995, when I was employed in the UK but rented an apartment in Athens. As I recall, it was nearly Xmas and I decided to splash out and buy some frozen lobster, salmon etc etc. I was poking around in the luxury frozen section, where the cheapest item was about 8,000 drachmas, and a Greek woman started jabbering to me about something on the label. I looked, and saw that her frozen lobster priced at 10,000 drachmas was a mere 10 months beyond its expiry date! She was incensed, and we went through the entire stock and realised that those people were criminals. Remember the date? 1995. So, for those of you who think this is a new problem, think again. And the biggest crooks are the expensive shops that are making all the profits.

  Kat wrote @ February 14th, 2008 at 07:14

M – Well, there you go. Crazy foreigner. 😉

C – Ugh! Very true what you say. In the USA of course, they check expiration dates, then have a sale if there’s too many on the shelves when it’s about to come up or the company has a program where the products are donated to shelters, given as slop for pigs or whatever so nothing is wasted. Here, it’s another story. My fiance never even checked expiration dates until I told him to, but now he overcompensates. (P.S. If people are as rich as they claim, why can’t they just buy the cereal?)

Maybe they wanted you to plant that peach pit and grow a tree. It’s a free gift. 😀

A – Yeah, I don’t think so. If it did break, how? By falling on the floor? These blocks always come in pristine solid squares. The edges were ragged and looked like teeth marks. There’s another point as well. With the corner missing, we did not get the full 200 g of cheddar we paid for. It’s not just the ick factor and quality control.

M – That’s true. I’ve been here since 1997, and it’s always been that way. Only difference is I’ve learned to build a tolerance, be vigilant about reading labels and lower my expectations. There’s a shop around the corner from where I live that charges 20 euros (29 dollars) for a box of American cereal normally costing 3.50 euros (4.99 dollars). I understand there are import costs and taxes, but a 600% markup is obscene. Someone is buying it though, otherwise they wouldn’t be selling it.

  graffic wrote @ February 14th, 2008 at 08:49

Machines working in food factories are not perfect, until the day they realise of their own existence. Tuntuntuntutun (Cheeseminator Theme).

Usually I claim when the matter deserves the time. If it’s 3 euros but it will take me one hour to go, argue and come back, I wont do it. But if its the second or third time with that problem…. I will say something.

The major problems I had here were with IKEA. I bought a lot of things and half came broken. It took 3 weeks get my things back.

With products… once me and a friend got a pizza in a restaurant near the beach. It was “a bit” expensive, but it was so late that we were desperate for food. She found a hair on her pizza, and of course we asked for another.

She also was the one to claim our money back when we tried to travel to Patra and the proastiakos was late and we lost the connection with the train. It took us some time but we got our 3 euros back.

She wasn’t so lucky when her macbook cracked and she went to rainbow. Even with valid guarantee, she had to pay. But the funny thing is that it was a design mistake, so the crack appeared again, and this time was the “guarantee” of the repair part. (Funny Rainbow stories).

With food, my biggest problem was when I ate not really good oysters and me and a relative (the only two who eat them) fell ill (better not to describe it). I made a blood test and analysis in order to prove my claims against the shop. But the analysis didn’t show anything and my doctor told me that I cannot try any oyster again in my life 🙁

  spyros wrote @ February 15th, 2008 at 13:00

Last year, I had a problem with very soft FETA cheese (instead of being hard), from a very big brand. I called the company, and they immediatelly send someone pick it up from my place, and gave me a bag full of cheese and products of the company.
My suggestion is: tell the company! They are scared of TV, journalists, publicity and they replace everything as soon as they can!

Super markets do not care at all and they always blame the customer

  jon wrote @ July 15th, 2012 at 09:06

Your comment was transferred to, “Should I move to Greece?

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