Don’t talk to strangers. Unless you are in Greece

The concept of privacy, of minding your own business is not exactly an everyday value in Greece.  While I realized this as soon as I arrived, it has become especially apparent lately.  I am not criticizing this cultural norm, I am just trying to get used to it.  And I’ve been going to bed every night thinking that I was getting used to it.

 That is until Olga woke me up yesterday as she cleaned my floor.  No, Olga is not my fourth roommate-she is a woman who cleans our apartment.  Imagine my surprise when I open my eyes to see a woman who I do not know in my bedroom mopping my floor.  Not only was I just waking up, I was also quite confused that someone would even be cleaning my apartment.  “Kalimeraa Kalimeraa.  Tikanis?” Olga says completely normal, as if it was no big deal.  “poli kala, esis?” I said.  Meanwhile I’m searching my brain for “I’m confused?” “who are you?” in Greek.  But just like in class, I blank and continue to repeat the four or five words that I remember.

 Maybe she is a neighbor?  One of my classmates had a neighbor come into her apartment looking for a feather duster once?  Nope, she’s already got a mop.  Hmmm.  Flight or fight?  Definitely flight. (Have I ever chosen fight?).  My roommate informed me that she was our cleaning lady.  “We have a cleaning lady?”  I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one.  Olga continued to talk to me when I was eating in the kitchen, and flossing in the bathroom.  Apparently, my ratty boxers and morning breath were not going to prevent Olga from talking to me.  I only felt like an idiot for not knowing more Greek.  Generally, this feeling occurs later on in the day rather than immediately when I wake up.

 Later on that day my Professor took a classmate and I to an art gallery opening for American artist, Mark Titchner.  The Exhibit is called, “The Age of Happiness.”  It was great and had captivating installations.  She (our professor) offered to take the whole class but it came as no surprise that only I and another girl, my roommate Melissa, wanted to go.  Going to a gallery opening with a Greek who has connections? What’s the hesitation? On the way there our professor asks us every question under the sun.  She wants to know everything about us and she wants to help us in any way that she can.  Sure my professors at Elon are also interested in their students-but man, southern hospitality’s got nothing on Greece.  So we go, and meet the exhibit director and all these other important people with her. Everyone she talked to who worked at the exhibit wanted to know who we were?  What we thought?  It was strange to be amongst so many clearly upper class Greeks.  It was stranger when they wanted to actually talk to us and apparently to also know our life stories. 

 One vendor at the market today certainly acted like he already knew my life story, “you are form America.” (I only spoke Greek to him, again I think it’s the hair? Or my height?)  “You like george bush.  I like him. He is gay though.  I like obama.  Welcome to Greece.  You will like my oranges.”  I will not buy your oranges again malaka.

 It was only after that rather one-sided conversation with the smartass orange vendor that I fully appreciated “Greek nosiness.”  (not sure what else to call it)  Because unlike the orange vendor, most Greeks are not looking for a laugh from the blonde giant roaming their market.  They are merely curious and caring.  Their questions are genuine and so are their hearts.  Mind your own business?  What kind of rule to live by is that?  We are each other’s business, all of us. 

 Love

 TZEINA

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One Response to “Don’t talk to strangers. Unless you are in Greece”

  1. Mary Says:

    I love the blog and the only thing that would make it better are pictures! I want to see the market vendors, professors, your “hood” and YOU! Miss you….

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