People keep asking me what I’m going to miss the most when I leave here and I’ve finally managed to narrow it down to two things. This isn’t including things like the weather, the access to islands and living in an apartment that is only slightly smaller than the Palace of Versailles.
The two things I’ll really miss are: cafes and the directness of Greek people.
Most cafes here still have waiter/ess service. Eventually. But the point of going to a cafe isn’t to be in a hurry, if you’re in a hurry for your coffee then you order it to take away with you. The point of going to a cafe is to sit, make some phone calls, chat to friends, read the paper, watch the world go by and yes, if you insist,have some coffee. When you arrive you’ll be given water and an ashtray (Greece outlawed smoking indoors about three years ago and you can imagine how successful that was*). You won’t be expected to give up your table when you’ve finished your coffee and water will continue to be brought. Some cafes will leave a carafe of water on the table. Most cafes (apart from the Starbuck type) will also sell some type of alcohol; at the very least you’ll be able to get beer and wine so that solves the problem of where to go for that early evening jaunt when one guest wants coffee, their children want ice cream and you need a drink.
The other thing I will miss is that I will never have to wonder what it is I might have done to annoy a Greek person. In England you are expected to know by some sort of osmosis why you are being given a grim look and there are muttered tuts going in your direction. If you ask the person if there’s a problem then they’ll assure you absolutely that there isn’t while continuing to make pointed comments. It’s not so much ‘least said, soonest mended,’ but ‘least said, let the war of attrition begin’.
Shortly after moving here I was over enthusiastic in cleaning my balcony and managed to shower my neighbour’s clean laundry with a lot of dirty water. She was up at my apartment door like a rat out of a trap and spent what felt like the next twenty minutes cursing me from here to hell and back again. After finishing with me she stormed off and I was left wondering whether or not we ought to move house. I spent hours worrying about it and how I could make it up to her and how I’d managed to queer our pitch here. In the end I went and threw money at the problem and bought her some flowers and turned up at her door to offer huge apologies. She was baffled as to why I should do this. She hugged me and laughed and all was fine. Passive-aggressive doesn’t exist in the Greek language. You will never hear a Greek say, ‘well I didn’t like to say anything’ whilst they plot your downfall for the next twenty years.
*One of my husband’s colleagues continued to smoke at her desk and the big boss would explain that she should go outside and she would insist that she was outside because the window was open.