Celebrating Forty Years of Living in Greece and Forty Things I Learnt About the Greeks.

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The Greek stereotype

Forty years ago today, on Saturday the fifth of February 1977, I left England for a new life in Greece.

Passion made me do it, I had met my Greek God, (Yes, England had Greek Gods!) and I would have followed him to the ends of the Earth.

Sunday, the sixth of February dawned, and so began my initiation into the crazy, yet wonderful ways of the Greeks.

Forty phenomena I have grasped throughout my forty years in Greece.

  1. It’s all Greek to me

    It’s All Greek to Me: From Achilles’ Heel to Pythagoras’ Theorem: How Ancient Greece Has Shaped Our World by Charlotte Higgins 
“It’s all Greek to me”
Charlotte Higgins


Literally, I understood nothing; my question of the day was “What did he say?”

But, within a year, I was speaking fluent Greek!

  1. Punctuality is a dirty word

Living on Greek time

Time has no meaning, Greeks live for the moment!

  1. Ouzo, don’t go there

Lethal stuff, especially when your first encounter with it was “straight up”, no added water!

  1. Men wear skirts
Evzones-The Presidential Guards of Greece

They wear their skirts  with great panache, a proud “Evzone”, the presidential Guard, in his “fustanella” (Pleated white skirt), is a sight for sore eyes.

  1. Everything is better with feta
Greek Feta Cheese
Makes things better

Feta cheese, served with absolutely everything, and I don’t like it!

  1. Greece is not the name of the country

Greeks are adamant about this, the name of their beautiful country is Hellas.

  1. Traffic lights, traffic laws and the Highway Code, were made to be broken

The first time driving in Greece, I felt I was taking my life in my hands, I soon became an expert Greek driver!

  1. Everyone is someone’s cousin

All Greeks seem to be related to one another!

  1. Lemon, olive oil and oregano go with everything

Olive oil and lemons
The staples of Greek cuisine
Photo property of Julian Merrow-Smith
Artist Julian Merrow-Smith

If you don’t like olive oil, lemon or Origano, you starve.

  1. Every family has a Yiannis

Yiannis is one of the most popular boy’s names in Greece, and as the tradition is to name the first born son after the grandfather, every family has one, I have one of my own, my son Yiannis!

  1. Greeks are never wrong
Aristotle, philosopher, teacher of Alexander the Great, (384-332 BCE).
Roman marble copy of a Greek bronze. Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome, Italy


Well, seeing as they are descended from the world’s greatest philosophers, how could they ever be wrong?

  1. Greeks dance on tables

When Greeks dance, it’s as if they are on another level, and they are!

They’re up on the table, dancing with all their soul, smashing plates and crying “Opa”.

  1. Greeks talk with their hands

Don’t stand too near to a Greek; you are likely to be whacked in the face by their wild hand gesticulations!

  1. Greeks force feed their guests

Greeks are such generous people. Don’t bother trying to refuse food from a Greek, just accept everything and then diet for the next two weeks!

  1. Greeks keep count of how many times they visit the beach each summer

I still don’t know why they count the number of times they visit the beach, but it becomes quite a Competition between them, you will inevitably be asked “Posa bania exeis kanei?” “How many swims have you done?”

I’ve just popped back here to add this, many of you (And thank you so much for reading my blog) are telling me I forgot about the counting of ice creams!

Yes! I had forgotten that, Greeks count how many ice creams they have consumed each summer!

  1. Greeks are loud and proud
Self explanatory!

And so they should be, they have a lot to shout about, Greece is the cradle of civilization, they have been through thick and thin and they survived.

  1. Each and every Greek family owns at least one olive grove

Olive harvesting Photo by Costanavarino

Outside of Athens, it’s rare to see Greek mamas buying olive oil from the supermarket; they have gallons stored away, all from their own olive trees.

  1. Greeks do not know the meaning of the word “Queue”

Wherever, whenever, it’s a free for all!

  1. Greeks never say “I don’t know”

The Greek ego, I have learnt to my detriment, if they don’t know the answer, they’ll tell you anything, always best to check and double check from some other source!

  1. It’s Constantinople, not Istanbul

Sultan Mehmed II’s entry into Constantinople,
painting by Fausto Zonaro (1854–1929).

Don’t call Constantinople Istanbul if you value your life, Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, stolen by the Turks, a thorn in the side of every Greek.

  1. Pay cash, I’ll give you discount

You want to buy a fridge, a television, well; it goes for anything really, pay cash, you’ll get a discount, see that plasma TV there, 1000 Euro, give me cash, it’s your for 900

I like this!

  1. Greeks are consistently one year older

When you ask a Greek how old they are, they will always add a year, you see, if they are forty years old on their birthday, they are now in their forty first year, so, they are forty one, logical!

  1. Greeks don’t read tea leaves, they read coffee cups


Predicting the future with a Greek coffee cup

A variation on a theme, Greeks predict your future from the residual coffee grounds in the cup and on the saucer.

You drink the little cup of delicious Greek coffee (Don’t ever call it Turkish), the cup is turned upside down on the saucer, left for a few minutes, the residue inspected, and voila, you know who you are going to marry.

  1. Greeks spit at you

Don’t worry if a Greek spits at you, three times! They are only protecting you by warding off the evil eye.

  1. Greeks are passionate

Oh yes they are, in everything and every way, they love life, whatever they do, they do it


with all their heart and soul.

  1. Family is what it’s all about

What else is there?

Nothing is more important to Greeks than their family, they may fight and quarrel, they may not speak to each other for days or weeks, but, family is everything, the be all and end all.

  1. Greeks eat together

My big fat Greek family


Meal times are happy events; it’s not only about great Greek cuisine it’s about being together, catching up on news and gossip.

Most of Greece comes to a standstill at lunch time, around two o clock, shops and offices close, school is over, everyone heads home for lunch, always homemade!

Normal life resumes at five!

  1. Greeks never eat dinner before 10 pm

After the large quantities of food consumed at lunch time, often not over before three in the afternoon, is it any wonder they eat a late dinner?

  1. Greeks clap when the pilot lands the plane

They did this on my first plane trip to Greece, forty years ago, and they did on my last, they are just so relived to be back on “terra firma”, they are also applauding the pilot.

  1. Souvlaki is the Greek equivalent of English fish and chips
Food of the Gods!

In England, on every street corner, is a fish and chip shop, in Greece, it’s a slouvlaki shop.

  1. Greeks are hospitable, friendly and welcoming

Greeks will invite you into their homes, feed and water you, and would give you the shirt of their back if you need it.

An example, once, when visiting Crete, in the middle of nowhere a shepherd flagged us down to ask the time, and proceeded to invite us to his house for lunch, and to meet his family.

To understand the kind, generous and hounourable Greeks better, please read;


It says all there is to say about Greeks.

  1. Greeks love children

My little Greek
My granddaughter Melina

Not only their own, in Greece children are not meant to be seen and not heard, they are meant to have fun, who cares if they break Auntie’s antique vase? It was an accident.

Who cares if they smash that bottle of expensive wine? Never mind, never mind, “ Den peirazei”, the phrase on every Greeks lips when children are around.

  1. Greeks eat well

Not for the Greeks fast food and junk, they know the benefits of a healthy diet, full of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish straight from the sea and meat in moderation.

After all, The Mediterranean Diet originated in Greece.

  1. Always time for coffee


No matter how busy they are, Greeks will stop for coffee, not for them coffee in a cardboard cup, on the run, coffee means a time for friends, coffee is to be savoured and enjoyed.

On unexpectedly meeting a friend in the street, their first words will be “How are, let’s go for coffee” accompanied by much hugging and kissing.

This explains observation number two, “Punctuality is a dirty word”!

  1. Greeks approach difficulties with a sense of humour

Greeks get on with it, they’ve been through worse, is what they are likely to tell you in times of trouble, today’s austerity measures may mean cutting back on food, “Never mind”, they will say, “I needed to lose a few kilos”.

Inside they are terrified, unsure of the future, to the world; they put on a brave face.

  1. Greeks have relatives all over the World

Owing to the depression of the 50’s and 60s, after WII and The Greek Civil War, many Greeks left Greece to find a better life, in the factories of Germany, on the streets of America, in the snows of Canada and in sunny Australia.

And so, everyone now has an aunt in Stuttgart, an uncle in Chicago, a cousin in Toronto, or a nephew in Melbourne.

  1. Greeks are political animals

A poet and one of the Seven Sages of Greece, Solon was first elected by Athenians around 594 BC to enact reform at a time when strife among the social classes threatened to cause revolution.
The founder of Democracy

As well as being party animals, Greeks, (who, at the drop of hat bring out the ouzo and crank up the bouzouki, we’ve all heard the phrase “Party like a Greek”), are also political animals, in fact, the ancient Greeks were the fathers of democracy.

Visit a Kafeneon, the old-fashioned, traditional Greek coffee shop, usually men only, at any time of day or night, and you’re sure to witness an ongoing political debate, sometimes rather heated.

Greeks devour newspapers, never miss the news on TV, they know what’s what.

From Greek grannies in remote mountain villages, to smart business men in Athens, they know who the current minister of education is, who the treasurer is, who’s minister of culture, and, no doubt, what the Prime minister had for lunch!

  1. Greeks leave everything until the last minute

Trying to get something done in Greece can send you crazy, Greeks seem to operate in chaos, start a job from back to front, down tools and head for the kafeneon, and at your every protest, the answer is “Avrio, Avrio”, tomorrow, tomorrow, yes, major catastrophes occur, all taken in good humour, but, more times than not, “Everything is all right on the night”

  1. Greeks will prevail

Greece has had its trials and tribulations.

From 1453 with the fall of Constantinople until the revolution in 1821 Greece was under Turkish rule, after which, they fought a few Balkan Wars, endured the First World War, were occupied by the Germans in World War Two and experienced civil war immediately after.

The Greeks pulled through, and again, now, in this terrible economic crisis, the Greeks will survive, they always do!

  1. I am Greeker than the Greeks
Greek Mama-
Greeker than the Greeks

What have I learnt from my forty years living among the Greeks?

I have learned they are proud, patriotic, passionate people; they are kind, generous and hospitable.

Yes, sometimes, I can’t understand their mentality; Greek bureaucracy is a law unto itself, and their death wish disregard for safety makes me cringe.

Yes some days I want to be as far away from Greece as possible, yes, there are Greeks I don’t like, but, mostly, I love them.

Junior Greek God
My son Yiannis

I have turned into a big Greek mama, with my own big fat Greek family, and,  apart from my very own Greek God, I now have my personal Greek God junior, my son Yiannis, and my Greek Goddess, my daughter Nais.

My Greek Goddess
My daughter Nais


Enduring, as Greeks do!
Me and My Greek God Tassos

Oh, and mini Greek Goddess in training, my five year old granddaughter Melina.

“Na zisete”, I wish long life for you all, and “Sas agapo poli” I love you all very much.




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