Anjci All Over | Travel Blog

I mean, Greece is a great country. The food is generous and tasty. The islands are, erm, blue, white and surrounded by the sea. The sun shines abundantly during the summer and beyond. Greek pace of life is relaxed and seemingly void of stress so omnipresent in the Western world. One would think paradise on earth!

That’s what I used to think, too. Until I moved there.

Here is just a short list of less glamorous aspects of living in Greece; the ones that tourists fail to notice during their short and sterile stay in the country:

> Greek people. There are lots of them hanging around everywhere. No offence – it’s their country. Most of you would transpose the image of “Greek people” solely onto friendly islanders serving you spoon-sweets and inviting you for a cup of Greek coffee on their whitewashed terrace, Aegean Sea splashing about in front. Think again. How about unshaved Athenian urchins with unfinished secondary school education, brushing you aside on the underground, verbal accompaniment censored out? Sunglassed, high-heeled, all-knowing women smiling sympathetically when hearing your Eastern European accent (poor baby must have come here to find a Greek husband)? Their fellow sunglassed young men beeping insistently as you walk/attempt jogging along the road (for ladies only)? Drop by drop, little by little – all these add up.

> Queues. Everywhere and in supermarkets in particular. Greek supermarkets just do not seem to have yet embraced the concept of efficiency prevalent in the US or even the UK. The majority of check-out personnel display spectacular artistic tendencies, carefully taking each purchased item in their hands, lifting it gently, examining it with tips of fingers, looking at it longingly, what not – the rest of the queue following every such movement with bated breath. The process is crowned by check-out assistants being – indeed – of great assistance and packing all goods in plastic bags, which in Greece are still handed out free in numbers which would deprive an average Scandi-Saxon person of a goodnight’s sleep. This in addition to Greeks buying a disproportionate amount of groceries per average supermarket visit. Greeks enjoy eating; Greek housewives supposedly love feeding every member of their extended family to bursting point. As a result, Greek queues are just painfully long.

> Cars. Loud, fast, some more environmentally unfriendly than others, some posh and convertible, some old and awaiting conversion to scrap. Greeks swear by their cars, public transport having secondary importance and limited coverage. Unless you drive in Athens – or live literally on top of one of those occasional underground stations – trust me, you are seriously stuck. Having a car, however, does little to solve the immobility problem; especially if you are coming back to Athens after a weekend away – via one of those two or three bottlenecks Greeks humorously dub highways.

> Bureaucracy. Have you ever tried getting a gym or, worse, swimming pool membership in Greece? Forget it. I needed five different doctors’ certificates in order to qualify. Dermatologist, pathologist, gynaecologist, microbiologist and – what was the last one? – cardiologist. Note that no gynaecologist can be visited until the microbiologist’s results have been obtained. Pathologist comes last in the hierarchy. Dermatologists are by far the pickiest but also the cheapest. Cardiologists have the longest queues. Gynaecologists will seriously lighten your pockets, but try to see if you can skip the receipt and pay less. Good luck.

> Parea. Παρέα is a Greek word for a close circle of friends spending basically every spare moment of their lives together. It’s like, you call Giorgos, he calls Eleni, she calls Maria, she calls Giannis, he calls you, and that’s us sorted. We get together in our favourite coffee place in Kolonaki or Kifissia (full of cigarette smoke and Greek music, of course) and sit around for a good couple of hours not really discussing anything (you eventually run out of meaningful conversation material after meeting the same people 5 times a week for the last twenty years). How about fresh blood to the parea? Possible, of course. Some people in your parea may have their own, slightly differently defined, parea and occasionally let the two overlap. When you get into a relationship, you may join your partner’s parea. Thinking about joining a parea without your partner? Careful here – don’t forget you’re in Greece.

> Full window shutters. It is common knowledge that Greece gets plenty of yearly sun. A blessing, really. Sun should typically be enjoyed on an open terrace (in a private house) or a balcony (in blocks of flats). Sun should strictly NOT be enjoyed inside the rooms; bedrooms are a particular no-no. Every Greek window is therefore tiny and additionally equipped with a full garage-like shutter mechanism to prevent any sign of light from entering the room. As a result, nights in Greece are dark as hell. I particularly hated waking up in utter darkness and wondering what hour of day or night it could be. Shutting the sun away… isn’t the idea just insane?

> Football. Possibly my favourite point. I mean, I love good football. Ask my male friends how many fun hours were spent in pubs watching high-profile matches over junk food and cider. Sadly though, Greece and good football just do not go together; the only exception to the fact is by now pure history. Greek football clubs are even less superior (more inferior?) against the national squad. Still, they enjoy enormous fan support, with Greek football fans’ loyalties biased to the extreme. It’s like you’re born into supporting a particular team and are, by default, entirely colour-blind to any team in the world (!) not sharing your team’s colours. Let me give you an example. If you’re a Panathinaikos fan, you like Celtic because they, too, are… green. And you do not like Rangers, because, unlike Celtic, they are NOT green. Personally, I never quite understood this colour thing. I have a feeling I will die before I do.

> Absence of public pavements. Please don’t get me started on that one. I have written a full note on the subject a while ago, so see here:


4 responses to “Greece: Illusions no more”

  1. anjci says:

    Guys, thank you both. I loved reading your very different comments!

    Please don't make more out of this post than it is – an ironic rant about a country I love but where I could never live long-term. I am actually going to Greece on holiday next week (as I do every year) so, trust me, I have no dark feelings towards it. In fact, it could well be the world's finest place for a holiday, ever. I am also famously known for wearing nothing but a Greek flag on national days, am an honourary invitee to formal Greek events and a loyal year-long student of Greek language at the Hellenic Centre in London.

    Forgive the British cruelty to some of my language. I could perhaps live in Greece on my own terms and be somewhat happier than the above post may convey. However, I was living there with a Greek person who sadly imposed all of the aspects of life so foreign to some of us. I was not actually allowed to keep the shutters up. And I found it slightly annoying that spending time all together in a "parea" seemed to take priority over being just the two of us. About football… I found it strange that 40-year-olds could invest their time to spray their "gate" number over the rival team's on some fence. And yes, I find English football clubs ridiculous and not even particularly English, either.

    Thank you for your concern about my friends' circle : ) I do have a few very good friends and yes, most of them are married – which is great as we have our own lives and are never up each other's throats. I hope I will never have an obligation to report to any "parea" in my life again.

    To sum up, I am not taking anything seriously and not making a big deal out of anything – it is your southern blood boiling there : ) we northerners do not have it in our system to feel strongly or seriously about most things. The post was a laugh. Most of my Greek mates actually loved it. If you didn't then bad luck, this is actually my blog – but worry not, it certainly isn't the Bible so I doubt anyone is cancelling their visits to Greece right now because of it. Χαλάρωστε και καλό καλοκαίρι!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I just read this post, and I have to say that some things written there are simply mean towards Greece. First of all, I don't understand what is so wrong with the concept of "parea". I think you are presenting it with a lot more gravity than it should be. Parea in Greek means company, and not necessarily a 20-person one. Apart from that, it's not some unwritten "philosophy" or "way of living" that constitutes our lives. It's simply having friends, and having a good time with them and helping each other out. What's so weird about it? It certainly is not as you would present it to be. And no, we don't spend every breathing-sparing moment with them, this is just pure stereotyping. "Don't forget, it's Greece"…are you serious right now? You are making it quite a big deal I think. From what I've read, in your posts you are saying that you don't spend a lot of time with friends and that most of them are married, so I can only assume that it seemed strange to you, when you saw Greek people with their "parea". As far as football is concerned, you should know better how Brits are with their national teams. And any other people in any country for that matter; the fact that you chose to talk about Greece in this matter seems quite biased to me and a tiny bit risible. "Absence of public pavements"…Absence? They are smaller than other countries, yes, but not so small as for you not to see them. Please try to make your arguments a bit more well-rounded, because it's post like this that help spread the bad reputation people have for Greece. As for the shutters… excuse me but this is just plain ridiculous. I had no idea that shutters (whether rolled on or down) are so important for a country's image towards foreigners. "As a result, nights in Greece are dark as hell", right because our shutters are so powerful that bring darkness to a land where the sun shines 24/7. What are you talking about?! There is no sun after 22:00 pm whether it's summer or winter!
    I honestly don't know where you got these impressions, but they are a bit off and certainly very unfair and spiteful. I hope our "illusions" didn't bother you that much, perhaps you should try to visit Neverland, I hear it's great that time of the year!

  3. Skydancer says:

    Granted there is a lot of merit in what you are saying, however I felt that sometimes you overextend some things and concepts and become a bit cruel concerning your language, which is why I would like to comment on that. As a Greek, the things you describe are true-to some extent and they are indeed annoying, not only to tourists and foreigners who live in Greece but in most of the Greek people too. As far as your descriptions on the cars, bureucracy, queues, they are spot on. They are unbelievably annoying and indicate some of the deep problems Greece (Greek government) faces concerning its ability to handle such situations and improve them. Unfortunately, I have no faith in things becoming better, considering the corrupt government that there is in the country, As far as the Greek people (parea) that you mention, yes, it can be a little overwhelming, but not everyone conforms to this stereotype as it is mostly something that has to do with older people; but nevertheless I see your point. That being said, there is a good side too in having many people in your life 🙂
    About the full window shutters, well, it's just a matter of wanting to keep the bright sun out of the house when people are sleeping, I think it's nothing weird about that and you can roll them up and leave them there so daylight is always inside your house (that what I do anyway). Nights in Greece are dark, there is no midnight sun phenomenon or sth like that that would encourage people to leave the shutters on, and I guess it's sort of a routine -wake up, open shutters, sleep, roll them down-
    The football…yeah, that's really something isn't it? But from my experience with other countries, their people can be fanatic too, so I don't see the point of isolating one country. I think it has something to do with the whole concept of football whether you are Greek or not.
    And finally, about the Greek people, the "urchins" you mention, well I just want to say that I live in Denmark now and trust me, I have seen many of these examples that you describe here, more than once. When you tell Danes that are from a southern or an eastern european country, you almost instinctively know that their reaction will be similar to what you're describing here. Many of them will look down upon you with a condescending way. Well, to them (Greeks and other europeans who behave based simply on stereotypes) I only have to say, that I feel sorry for them and that I sincerely hope the younger generations will not become like them.
    Sorry for my long post, but I really appreciated you telling these things, I just felt I should pinpoint some other thruths too. 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the above thoughts, Anjči. They are clearly your honest views and as such are valuable. And helpful.


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My name is Anna and welcome to my blog! I work full-time in London and spend most of my free time travelling the world and taking pictures, with the aim to see as many of the world's less visited places as possible. My favourite parts of the world include Afghanistan, Chile, Falkland Islands, Greece, Myanmar and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Take a look at my stories and photos!


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