Last Thursday really wasn’t a good day for me. First in my morning Greek class certificates were passed out and I didn't get one despite passing the test because I missed more than 10 hours of class. I went to talk to the office, explaining that I knew I would miss some classes towards the end of December so I had warned them in advance and they had told me as long as I sat the paper before I left I'd have no problem. The lady looked at me, opened her mouth, and that my friends is the moment I got my first bitter taste of the Kafka-esque world of Greek bureaucracy: “It’s a matter for the head office, I can’t do anything about it.” Great! Thanks a lot sweetheart! I’ll just go then.
The next incident was downtown on Thursday evening after my evening class (note how bad things connected to me learning Greek). It was Tsikno Pembti, Burnt Thursday so I was in a hurry to get home. Tsikno Pembti is the 10th day before ‘Clean Monday’, the deadline up to which you can eat as much meat as you want. It’s some Easter thing and I’m not entirely sure what the deal is as there are lots of different theories, but all I understood was BARBECUE, MUST GO HOME.
I had no bus tickets so I went to buy some from the ticket booth. Inside the booth was a round-faced girl blabbing on her mobile and chewing gum, who by the looks of it didn’t know how to apply eyeliner properly. I know I’m being mean, but she deserved it. I asked for 10 tickets at 50 cents a piece and she handed them over. I gave her a 50 euro note and apologised for not having any change. She looked at me, sat back in her chair and folded her arms. “Well I don’t have any change either, move on.” Okay I said, how about if I buy 20 tickets? “No”. Did she really expect me to believe no one had bought enough tickets all day for her to be able to give me change and that there was no other polite way for her to say that to me? So rude! When I deal as an obvious foreigner with everyday Greeks on my own, three things can happen:
1) No problem at all (this is usually the case)
2) No problem until I get the bill (sometimes happens with taxi drivers who like tricking hapless foreigners)
3) A ‘I can’t be bothered to deal with this’ attitude (rare, and unfortunately almost always has come from women in my experience)
With a situation like that, it’s not the fact that someone has been rude to you, that happens anywhere you live, it’s the fact that you don’t have the language skills to put them in their place.
Things picked up on Saturday night though. It’s carnival season in Athens and we got invited to a costume party. Brilliant fun! Everything said and done, no one parties like the Greeks.