Place: a Romanian in Greece
By Alexandra Pintea
Greece, a country with ancient history, beautiful islands and clear waters…for most of the people there are the symbols of the Greek culture. For me though, Greece represents a possibility to escape the Romanian reality, a chance to make a career in tourism and the best environment to make friends for life.
My story starts four years ago, when I decided to work for the summer in a hotel by the sea. Since then every time I feel summer coming, I race back in sunny Greece for one more unforgettable season. While working and living in their world, I’ve learned some useful things about Greeks and Greece, things that I am more than happy to share with everybody.
First of all, you must keep in your mind that Greeks, like every other nation, has good people and people from whom you need to stay away, but the particular thing in Greece is the fact that most of the problems you may encounter are made by the immigrants (Russian, Albanian, Bulgarian or Romanian). Putting aside the problems I had especially at work with immigrants of Greeks, I’d rather remember the good times I had with the helping, kind, out-going and ready to party Greeks I’ve met.
Probably one of my advantages was the fact that I’ve learned Greek, my language skills impressing every time in a positive way the people from work or the ones I met in my free time. Knowing the language makes them see you like almost one of them, because you show respect for their culture. They appreciate the try you are making in learning such a difficult language, encourage you and correct your mistakes in a kind way. Why am I telling you all of this? Not because of the discounts you can receive by speaking Greek with the sales man, but so that you understand they are very proud of everything concerning their culture-from language to history. So remember: do not say bad things about their country cause they will get angry. This advice goes for the immigrants, for the people that wish to make a future there, cause if you are a simple tourist, you can say anything you want about them, they will only charge you more on your bill and move on.
Greeks have a unique way of arguing with each other, they shout and scream now and in a few moments they fix the problem over a beer, laughing about football or politics. Don’t be fooled by their charm though, they will try to exploit the foreign workers, try to steal from you. If this happens, just go with the Greek-way of solving problems fight and scream for justice and they will, hopefully, calm down and give you what you deserve.
My biggest regret from living all this time in Greece is that I never experienced living with a traditional Greek family. However, from my relationships or my friends, I’ve learned that the family is the most important part of the Greek live, so even if they have different family traditions in different regions of Greece, they seem to care more about family values than other European nations.
So now, after I tried to make a more complex image of Greece, completing the “sun-sea-fun” icon everybody has on this country, allow me to tell you how it feels to live with them. At first, it could be strange cause of the mixed emotions you can get from the people that smile at you or help you today and tomorrow they shout like crazy so after 5 minutes they are your best friends again. Once you get used to this somehow bipolar behavior, you find in them good friends, which can make the difference between professional and personal. They will try to help you get a job for the next season as the system there is based more on recommendation and networking, rather than extensive interviews (at least in tourism). The men will not undress you with a look as you walk down the street, they will politely ask you to go on a date and if you say no, they will accept your answer right away.
I definitely feel more safe in Greece as I found out I can walk alone on the street, no matter the hour, without anything bad happening to me; I can take a day of in full season and the next day the boss will ask you if you are ok; I can go at beach parties or in their famous bar streets and not be attacked by strangers’ hands; I can sleep with my door open or walk in the city with a lot of money on me without being afraid; I can be myself and I can be safe. This is what Greece gave me: freedom, independence, jobs, love stories, friends, money, but never forget that all of these are not free. There is a price to pay for all of these advantages, cause you will get very tired, exhausted actually, you can damage your health, you can have bad-luck and make friends or work with the wrong people. In my opinion, you just have to be aware of the danger, trust, but not 100%, work but not 100% (cause they will give you more to do), love but not 100% (the season does end in October), so just open your mind for the great possibilities Greece can offer you.
I’ve met a lot of great people from all over the world in my 4 years of living in Greece, tourists are nice and open minded-most of them, the bosses are difficult but at the end of the season they will thank you and tell you to come back if you want. So, in the end, you realize that all the pain of working is worth it cause you go back home with a lot of memories, with friends for live and with one more love story to warm up your soul in the cold winter. The strange thing of the relationship you make in Greece is the fact that no matter what happens and no matter the time you don’t see or talk with the others, when you do finally talk again, you feel a special connection with them, cause you did share some intense moments that act like a bond nobody can tear apart.
Since I do have the opportunity to share my knowledge on Greece, I will give you some advices for survival between strangers. Give people a chance, try the Greek food-is great, live with a Greek room-mate, go in the places Greeks go, don’t listen to the gossip they say about you, party and have fun all you want, but always be on time at work, be open-minded about a one season love story with a Greek-he/she will make your live easy by helping you forget all the chaos from work. Last, but not least, find people from your country, speaking your language helps you by maintaining a bond with your culture and makes Greeks crazy for not understanding what you are talking about! J
No matter what happens, good or bad, it will teach you a lesson! My experience in Greece taught me to me responsible for what I do or say, for the money I earn and how I spend them, for my image in the companies I worked for. With all of these said, I can only confess one more thing: I do love Greece, with all it’s imperfections, cause at the end of the day, is the faults that make it special, so if you get the chance go and experience at least for one season the Greek reality, even now when the world shouts the crisis in Greece – is not as bad as they say!!!
About the photos: I wish I could show you the proof of how intense living in Greece was for me, but for you it will only be another photo with strangers while for me it would mean to share my private and crazy memories with friends or boyfriends, so instead I’d rather show you the places I’ve been to: Halkidiki and Kos, hoping you will gather the courage to go on such a life experience.
Back to the start of the story.