Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Computer Says No

As I write this I am wracked with anxiety because in a few moments I have to go carry out an errand for Mr Zeus at the bank.
My number one hate of living in Athens is how simple every day tasks have become such a chore. Going to the bank is a task that takes me less than a few minutes in the UK. Here, I have to dedicate my whole lunch hour to it.

At the post office they know me now - not by name of course, I am to them what I am to everyone else, the Little Dark Skinned Foreign Girl. The ladies behind the counter keep chitchat to the minimum and help me when I don't understand what they are saying by describing alternatively.

The bank is a different story. I have stood in line so many times praying that I'll get one of the guys behind the counter because I find them generally more patient with my bad Greek. But no! Each time I get stuck with a gum-chewing female, bored and irritated and suffering from a chronic avoidance of actually doing any work. I'll be sweating with nerves by this point as I try to explain what I need, she'll try to tell me something back, I won't understand and then she'll get up and say loudly "MARIAAAA!! Can you come here and help this foreign girl, I don't know what she's talking about."

Cue the other people in the bank doing that unnerving thing Greeks do of just staring at whatever excites their curiosity. Roll up, roll up, see the Little Dark Skinned Foreign Girl attempt to carry out an everyday task! Watch in wonder as the sweat rolls down her face! Win a prize for guessing her stress level correctly!

And what do I do? I just stand there mutely like a mouse in a lion's cage, because I am scared of Greek women and I sure as hell don't want to get into a fight with one by telling her that I can understand her if she just tried explaining a little differently.

The last time I went to the bank I was in there for about 15 minutes. It took me a good two hours to come off the adrenaline. I can take comfort in the fact that most Greeks I know tell me their own bank experiences are not all that different to mine.


Hope said...

Oh Bollybutton,

It's so true! Even though my Greek is fluent, I don't understand 'bank' terms in Greek.

Each time I go to the bank-without exception-I inevitably get into a passive-aggressive fight with a teller (male or female).

I sigh loudly and give them the meanest look I can. Because seriously? Why is it that instead of slowing down their pace, they just RAISE their voice.

Yes, the problem was that I could not hear you...!

Good luck at the bank, hon!

Anonymous said...

LOL! You've perfectly described my experience here in France where (alas) I don't speak the language as well! At first I was shocked, then just stressed out by all this attention my plight of communicating got from curious onlookers, and now I'm beginning to enjoy the attention. Give me a few more months here and my personality shift will be complete and I will actually seek out uncomfortable situations like these when there is nothing better to do... see I discovered the problem: it is not the other people making you uncomfortable but yourself! Your greatest enemy is you! :-)

AL said...

Sigh... i understand too. Hearing your plight (now ours) it gives me courage. I always feel defeated too, I don't even answer the home phone now if i dont recognise the number. Even calling the telcos helpline and speaking to the english speaking 'customer service' personnel is intimidating. You have given me the strength... we should STOP being intimidated from these..these.. these...&^^$$% From now on.. i'm going to take a deep breath... and paste on a thick thick skin. ... repeat with me dear..."its is their promblem not ours!" We are the customers... they are at our service... we OWN their asses! (hehe) If we are having a problem... so are they, they HAVE to fix it. They HAVE to help us.... THEY are the ones who are FOOLS!
Gosh... i wish i could go to a shop and buy a few layers of thick skin.