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French and Russian undergraduate student, trying my hand at the real world.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Cultural Observations Part Two: The Greeks

So after a few days in Istanbul, we headed west to Greece, which I was hugely excited for. I had never been to Greece, but had been lucky enough to have known some lovely Greek people during my time at university, so I felt a trip was long since overdue. I was not disappointed.

It was fantastically hot in Athens, around 28 degrees every day. It was a dry heat, the kind I like, where there is some hope of respite in the shade. It was dusty too, which meant that the place looked artfully shabby and dishevelled. We were lucky enough to be staying in the area near the Acropolis, which was visible from our hostel.

It was in Athens that a lot of my pre-existing misconceptions were demolished. I'm not sure exactly what I mean by this, it lacks clarity in my head so I'll try my best to put it into words here. I guess it can best be described by the buildings and the culture. By culture, I mean the way that people are so relaxed in Greece - more so than the British. I felt alienated by the buildings and felt as though a way of life so laid back as this could not possibly function as efficiently as ours in England. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a superiority complex, despite my phrasing of that sentence - it was more of a lack of understanding than a belief that my country was superior. But when you look under the dust and amongst the white, airy buildings, you appreciate that what is different is not necessarily wrong. It is simply different. It is not just with Greece that I thought this, I should point out. I have thought similarly of countries which are so different from England. This was pure ignorance on my part, due to lack of travelling experience, but I can proudly say that I have since realised the error of my way of thinking.

As it happens, I think the English would do well to be more like the Greeks. I've discovered that the English have a national hobby, which is not, as you may expect me to say, queuing. English people love finding things to get offended about. We like to find the smallest details about other people's lives and decide we are "offended" by them. These include: people eating their lunch on public transport, gay marriage, following the rules of the highway code (when the offended person is not) and many others besides. We have not yet mastered the art of picking our battles wisely and risk losing our integrity over something that really does not matter now, let alone in three weeks. The internet is prime battle ground for this - but I think I'll leave that for another post.

As it is, the Greeks actually have things to complain about, though, on visiting the country, you would not know of this. Greece is too hot a country to get stressed and in a flap in over petty, banal things like eating on public transport. The Greeks are far less conniving than the English. They just don't consider it a necessary way of passing the time. Their customer service is fantastic and as laid back, but efficient, as the people.

My next holiday destination will be Greece, I'm desperate to go island hopping - but perhaps not to anywhere where there are any 18-35 holiday camps.

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