My first Oh Hey, Friday! in Greece. This is a link-up from September Farm and 5 on Friday from A. Liz Adventures, and I figured a listicle was a great way to address some of the differences I’ve noticed about daily life since moving to Greece. I’ll probably do this again on another Friday, because Lord knows there are more than five differences.
5 DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GREEK AND US CULTURE
1| Where the Toilet Paper Goes
As a U.S. citizen, I was raised with relatively recent plumbing and could therefore flush toilet paper without a second thought. Not so in Greece, whose sewer pipes are 2 inches in diameter (as opposed to 4 inches in the U.S) and were created centuries before the invention of toilet paper. So in Greece, every toilet has a little wastebin next to it. You wipe, then throw it away.
Some people on trips to Greece (or Turkey, or Mongolia, or anywhere with a culture older than ours) freak out about this. It doesn’t really bother me, since traveling inspires in me an “oh well” attitude toward unusual bathroom habits (see my story about going to the bathroom in Mongolia: Tricia Accepts the Inevitability of Peeing in Public). After all, the wastebins have lids, so you’re not looking at used toilet paper while you brush your teeth. And I have a room to myself, so it’s only my own filth, and I can throw out the bag any time I want.
For me, the problem is in remembering to toss the TP in the wastebin. But it’s been five days now, and I’m nearly at a 100% success rate.
2| No “sh” in Greek
I was so excited to learn this, because it solves an 11-year-old conundrum! The Greek language does not naturally have an “sh” sound. That’s why, when introducing myself as Tricia (Tri-sha), Greek people would immediately respond, “Hello, Tree-sa” or occasionally “Tree-see-a.” While that version of my name sounds exotic and kind of beautiful, I could not understand why they had instantaneously forgotten how to pronounce my name. Now I know! They’re mouths aren’t used to the “sh” sound.
I can fully empathize, since one of my new friends is named Olga. You’re probably pronouncing it like me, with a hard “g.” But the g in Greek is a gamma, which is actually a kind of h/y mix sound made in the back of your throat. It sounds really beautiful when a Greek person is speaking, but I just sound like I’m hacking up a furball. So Olga calls me Tree-sa, and I call her Ol-gyah, and we both just accept our inadequacies.
3| State Mandated Quiet Times
I read the school’s handbook during my flight, and was shocked and delighted to read this subheading:
Quiet hours required by Greek law are between 3:00 PM – 5:30 PM and after 23:00 PM -7:00 AM (from the 1st of April until the 30th of September) and 3:30 PM – 5:30 PM and after 22:30 PM – 7:30 AM (from the 1st of October until the 31st of March) each day. Please wear ear-phones for your music at all times. It is definitely forbidden to play sports on campus during quiet hours, as we hope to do everything within our power to maintain a positive relationship with our neighbors.
True to form, classes end at 2:00, everyone eats lunch, and then by 3:00 we’re all in our rooms napping or reading or…well, that’s what I’m doing. Whatever everyone else is doing, it’s quiet. I love this so much.
4| Meal Times are Later
As you may have noticed in the previous heading, lunch is way later than in the U.S. Here’s how a Greek meal schedule goes:
Lunch is also the biggest meal of the day, so dinners are smaller and lighter. I love this schedule! I tend to sleep through the school-provided breakfast, so I eat at 9:30, skip the snack, and then pig out at lunch. All I want in life is for everyone to abide by my preference for backed up schedules, and Greece does! Lovely.
5| Bag Your Own Groceries
I have gone to a grocery store just about every day since I’ve been here. Sometimes because I’m bored, sometimes because I forgot something, sometimes because I keep looking for a little dish rack and can’t find one. Have I mentioned that there are three grocery stores within easy walking distance of the school? IT’S AMAZING.
Anyway, when checking out, it’s very easy to be foreign, because their machine points right at you to tell you your total. What I didn’t realize, the first time, was that there are a stack of plastic bags at the end of the conveyor belt, and you are responsible for packing your own stuff. Although it was a little embarrassing that first time, the cashier and I staring each other down in confusion, I love this system. Nothing irks my organizational tendencies more than when a grocery clerk in the U.S. puts, like, two things in a bag and then goes for another one. Or puts bread in a bag by itself!!!! That is so wasteful.
With the Greek system, I can cram my bags as full as I want.
So far, pretty much all of the Greek differences have me siding with the Greeks, which seems like a good sign as far as adapting to my new home. We’ll see what the coming weeks reveal!
Your description of the toilet paper disposal system reminded me of some of my adventures in Mexico. Everyone should have at least one experience at a Northern Mexico truck stop. The toilet paper goes into an open cardboard box alongside the toilet. The problem is not so much small diameter drain pipes as it is no pipes. One should also have a meal at a truck stop. The re-fried beans are really re-fried, maybe 3-4 times. They are full of lard and really delicious with warm tortillas. Be careful of the chorizo sausage though, it may contain meat that you do not want to know the origin of. (Dang! another sentence ended with a preposition!).
Also be careful driving at night. The truckers run with no lights, using moonlight, which gives them a much longer line of sight. As you are driving along with your lights on and one of these behemoths pops up out of the dark and blows by you, it is hard to keep your wits about you.
I have lots more stories, both from Mexico and from Morocco so your blog descriptions of Greek life may stimulate me to respond once in a while. Not trying to steal your thunder…just enjoying your great writing and excellent descriptions. Living a vicarious life through you, sort of.
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