The fact that I am posting means my parents visit is over and that it all pulled off quite nicely. So, if you're wondering, here is what happens at a Greek official engagement: the families get together, then the rings are presented by a parent of the man to the woman, and vice versa. Gifts are exchanged on both sides for the couple, and then of course a lot of food is consumed. For once, the one-size-fits-all greeting of xronia polla (many years/a long life) is not used. In its place is favoured na zisete (may you live long) to the couple.
What did my parents make of Greece? They didn't like the food much, but I can't really blame them coming from such a spice-rich culture as we do. They liked pretty much everything else, and I think part of them now understands why I wanted to leave Britain. They were supremely impressed that the garbage is collected daily, seeing as how they have to cope with a twice monthly collection in the UK and had maggots in their bin last summer.
I forgot, however, to warn them about the Greece Invented Everything conversations, which come flying at you from every direction on your first visit to Greece.
"Macedonia, yes they like to call themselves a country, but Macedonia is Greek"
"That's a Greek word."
"This rock/monument/yiayia is over 5000 years old. Imagine that. 5000 years."
"XYZ came from Greece. So and so's ancestors were Greek."
Is this adorable pride in your history, or is it like a fading beauty who has removed all the mirrors from her house so that she doesn't have to face her less than dazzling present, choosing instead to brood over images of a glory long passed?
Anyone with Greek friends will notice that few of them can just stand around and admire that something is pretty - they are obliged as a term of their nationality to tell you the entire history of everything, even if you've heard it a 100 times and even if all you want to do is look at how beautiful it is. Which is fair enough. It's their country after all.
What's the nicest thing about having family and friends visit you in a foreign country? It helps you look at the familiar with new eyes and appreciate the details that you take for granted, like how the laiki is not infested with flies, or how despite there being no physical barrier to getting on the metro without a ticket, most people will still do the honest thing and line up to buy a ticket. It helps reinforce my belief that after all the tears and the upsets, I have done the right thing for my life.
Image: adapted from http://www.funonthenet.in/images/stories/forwards/Taj%20Mahal/taj-mahal.jpg