Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Friend Wanted - Must Not Be in Denial

One year and six months after moving to Greece and my life is pretty much the way I wanted it. I now have social options I never had before, as in I can choose to entertain myself, or call a variety of friends to arrange coffees with and stay out late and then be able to direct a taxi home. Don’t ask about my Greek, it could be better, and I am being nagged nagged nagged about it. More on that in another post.

One thing I do feel very frustrated about is the information blackout I receive on all things Greek with my Greek friends and contacts. They will talk to each other about how bad a certain law is, but if I bring it up, they’ll paint a rosy picture and tell me I’m wrong, or get irritated and start comparing the laws of other countries (where I don’t live so not interested) or ask me how much better things were in the Home Country (ditto), remind me that Greeks Invented Everything and close by saying I am a foreigner so it’s not really my fault that I don’t get it. All this without trying to help me get it by talking to me as openly as they would to a Greek.

Don’t understand how this works? Here’s a fantasy scenario to help:

Bombs are raining down on the streets of Athens and Kostas is thinking to himself:

Kostas: Popo look at this. Look at what our country has become. There are bombs falling on the streets of Athens. Our politicians are IDIOTS! We deserve better than this. This is how we are treating our people in 2007? Very bad.

*Bollybutton comes crashing into the room*

BB: There are bombs falling outside!!! Oh My GOD!

Kostas: Aaaah BB. Welcome! No don’t worry it’s nothing.

BB: Nothing?! How can you say that!! Those are bombs not nothing!

Kostas: *shakes head in a pitying manner* Silly BB, those are not bombs, they just look like bombs to you. It’s just a matter of Greek politics.


Kostas: What they’re doing is they’re taking the tarmac off the roads because it needs redoing.

BB: Kosta. They are not taking the tarmac off the roads. They are bombing the city. Look! That building just got hit.

Kostas: That needed demolishing anyway, you know how slowly the mayor gets around these things and then they have to rush. Seriously it’s all under control.

BB: Why are you saying that. Do you think it’s normal for bombs to fall from the sky?

Kostas: *irritated* So? We can make our own laws. You think America isn’t dropping bombs in Iraq? At least we have democracy here.

BB: But can’t you see that this is WRONG?!

Kostas: BB it’s Greek politics, you can’t understand because you’re a foreigner. Don’t forget the Turkish occupation.

BB: Yes, the Turkish occupation, I know and I understand. But that’s over now, you have EU funding, things shouldn’t be this way! I mean really, bombs are normal?

Kostas: I’ve told you already they’re just taking the old tarmac off the street.

And so on and so forth. So I am advertising a vacancy. I want a Greek friend who will talk to me openly and honestly about Greek politics and life without:

1) Trying to make things sound better than they are
2) Jumping straight to defence mode
3) Refusing to accept that Such a Thing (insert as relevant) happens in Greece
4) Blaming it all on the Turkish occupation
5) Blaming it all on the Americans
6) Making irrelevant comparisons to other countries
7) Deciding that I won’t get it because I’m a foreigner

Applications on a postcard to this blog.

I live here, I want to understand how this country works. Tell me the truth, I won’t run out and erect billboards saying “Greece Sucks”, every country has its own issues and I want to fully understand Greece’s. Give me a chance.


AL said...

Have you read "Zorba the Greek"?
I think that Greeks are a complex bunch. No matter how much in the years to come i begin to understand them... i will not try anymore to 'be' them. I never will, i will never have part of their history coursing through my veins either. I think the closest i will ever come to being 'kin' is perhaps when/if i have greek children... through their blood perhaps i will be granted kinship if not a relation to who they are. For now... just stand back and admire and behold. :) Its like talking about someone elses mother perhaps... it's just not accepted. I think access to 'honesty' and such... has to be earned here... maybe if we were to have been here for 20 years... just wanting to be here and being here for now is not good enough. I've realised the difference with greeks compared to some (not all) countries... esp the newer ones that don't have at least 6000 year histories... here nationality is deeper than blood... deeper than roots, I've finally 'seen' what belonging means. Their roots are so deep to this land. Anyway i'm rambling... i think i'm learning ounce by ounce...

itelli said...

We decide who criticises us. And that's us and only us. We have every right to moan about ourselves, but if a foreigner does it it's always malevolent.

U might have come across this. If you haven't, then I'd suggest u have a read. I'm pretty sure u'd finish it in a day.

In fact, I bet u would.

Anonymous said...

God love them, and I would get up in the dark to clean thr shoes of my own adorable Mr Zeus but the greeks say that they have thousands of years of history and on good days i don't disppue it but on the other hand less than 100 yrs ago Thessaloniki, where I live was part of the ottoman empire, people spoke turkish,after the exchange of populations in 1922there was obviously a need for a lot of nationalistic fevour and then they had a world war, civil war, hunta, massacred unarmed students, lots of poverty and everything is someone elses fault 'maybe because they have such a deep seated distrust of government. do you know anyone who pays taxes fully or hasn't bribed a government official? i criticised the greek government during the fires and my father in law replied it wasn't his government. Yes you will get kinship when you have greek children and along with loving your children and their greekness in its entirety you will worry yourself sick about what the future will hold for them and start saving so that you can educate them overseas unless they want to be a plumber which would be the occupation of choice for anyone with sense in greece at the moment.

Διαγόρας said...

Bolybutton, where on earth did you get these notions? We Greeks are not at all like that! It may seem to you that we are like that, but in fact we are not! We are not in denial! (To make it a bit more clear, lest I be misunderstood: I wholeheartedly deny the slightest suggestion that we are in denial!)

No, seriously, nice article. If you find such a Greek friend, please introduce them to me, too --I'd like to meet someone like that --and I *am* Greek.

Hope said...

Great post!

I would offer my services but me and Greek politics? Yea, don't really get along. I hate that I am ignorant about it but every time I try to get back into the game, I get so frustrated by the nepotism, corruption and the fact that on the news? Politicians just talk over each other, shouting like school children that I choose not to concern myself with politics unless I absolutely have to.

I was going to suggest that a Greek-something like me might make a better conversationalist. But then again, some Greek-somethings are much more nationalistic than Greek Greeks.

Having said that, I am sure there are Greeks out there that are capable of holding a conversation with you without bringing up the Turkish occupation. I just don't know where you can find them. :)

tk said...

Hey BB. I may not know much about Greek politics but soon enough *crosses fingers* I'll be moving to greece. Maybe then we can get together and just talk about what we don't understand and you can fill me in on all of the things you've learned...

Anonymous said...

Nice apple by the way!


Anonymous said...

This is why I like reading your blog! You describe perfectly well what I hate the most about my people: irrational nationalism, Griechenland uber alles, the sad result of a myth sold to the greeks after 400 years of ottoman occupation to bring them back quickly into speed with post-enlightenment europe. The greeks missed completely the whole Renaissance and Enlightenment periods of Europe and the opportunity to discover a solid and true identity. So we have been latching on the mummified corpse of "ancient greece", like bereft orphans would have next to their parent's deathbed. Here's some food for thought to throw in to the greeks and watch their reactions: modern greeks have no identity, that's why they compulsively imitate anything thrown at them, cultural or political, in search for one...

bollybutton said...

Wow! I am amazed no one told me to leave if I don't like it. Thanks pals, I feel comforted that I didn't just dream up this feeling of being left out.

Nameless said...

I actually found this blog by accident (luck!). I am a greek citizen and I can speak greek fluently, which allows me to criticize Greece, Greeks, the government and anything in this country. So uhm .. why I decided to post a comment here? Because of the truth BB's statements hold. Greeks are weirdos when it comes to criticizing. We hate the government, we hate our very selves, and everytime a problem or a major crisis arises, we blame everyone but ourselves; the Americans, the Turkish, the European Union - these are the usual suspects for our mishaps. What the Greeks seem unable to grasp is that they keep their fate in their own hands. We can't possibly blame the government officials for bribery while it is us who we hand them the money. A complete oxymoron!

Judging from your comment "I am amazed no one told me to leave if I don't like it", it seems that someone already told you that, in real life, thus you were expecting the same behavior from the online community. If that's true, don't take the "if-u-dont-like-it-leave-now" attitude seriously. I was told the same thing once when i was heavily criticizing the "Greek standard of living", especially when I did some realistic comparisons to other European countries. Many people live in complete denial of the truth, and sometimes that reaches hostility and mistrust when the criticism comes from foreigners. I am not sure if you can ever get used to the greek way of dealing with things, but if you feel annoyed about it, rest assured that you are not alone here! :)

deviousdiva said...

"Bolybutton, where on earth did you get these notions? We Greeks are not at all like that! It may seem to you that we are like that, but in fact we are not! We are not in denial! (To make it a bit more clear, lest I be misunderstood: I wholeheartedly deny the slightest suggestion that we are in denial!)"

I reckon this must be a contender in the funniest comment of the year awards


"nice apple"

is the runner-up.

I'm amazed too that you didn't get any "go home" comments. Progress! Yeah!