Jewish Life in Greece - Adina Mindick

Jewish Life in Greece - Adina Mindick

Adina's experiences studying the Jews of Greece on Crete and Rhodes in summer 2007

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Posted by Adina Mindick at 2:27PM   |  Add a comment
They REALLY aren't lying when they say "fresh fish" on the menu

Things Are Just A Little Bit Different in Greece

So  for everyone playing the home game I thought I would take this opportunity to enumerate the cultural differences that I have discovered here. I find them incredibly interesting, and many of them are pretty funny…once you get over the shock and confusion. It should be noted that these observations are based solely on my personal experiences in Rhodes and Chania, Crete, which are very tourist-oriented areas. Some of them, as I have been told, are common throughout the Mediterranean and some are not, but they do not necessarily reflect common practice throughout Greece or among Greeks in general.

*Please note that this research was done strictly with anthropological educational purposes, discovered largely by accident and should be taken lightly J Enjoy!

•         Proximity with which people stand next to each other : In the States this space varies but in general strangers keep a polite distance ( Not having ever measured this space this anthropologist hereby promises to immediately make use of a ruler as soon as she is back in America). In Chania, it is not uncommon for people to actually, physically move you out of their way, or stand so close to you in line at the grocery store that their milk and frozen pizza actually make contact with your skin.

•         Pace of life: In the U.S. everyone wants everything immediately; if not sooner, in fact if it was already done yesterday then it’s perfect. In Rhodes&Chania– you will sit in a restaurant for the rest of your life unless you flag down your waiter and ask him or her for the check. 

•         Store hours: In the US: You can pretty much work around a 9am-5pm schedule. 7-11, many fast food chains and my mom’s kitchen are open 24 hours a day (thank God!). Retail stores are usually open until around 9ish and don’t even try and figure out when the cable guy or plumber will actually grace your home with his presence. In Chania: Many places are open by 9 but many businesses take a siesta between 2-5:30pm. On Tuesday, Thursdays and Sundays they reopen around 6, but on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday they don’t reopen at all. If you are bleeding from the head and need a pharmacy the 5 that are closest to you are probably not open but they will have a piece of paper posted with the names and addresses of one other pharmacy in the area that is open…but it’s in Greek.

•         Animals: In the U.S. dogs and cats are pets. If you see either of these animals they are usually accompanied by an owner. You may pet the animal if, with or without the owner’s permission (because after all, this is America!). In Greece: 99% of the dogs or cats in the streets are strays, flea-ridden and homeless L They will look at you with the saddest little eyes you have ever seen, you will want to gather every 4-legged creature that crosses your path, personally feed, groom and give a home to every one of them. Do not even think about it!

•         Tone of voice:  In the U.S:  Every day conversation is usually conducted in a casual tone of voice. If you hear yelling, screaming or wild hand gestures you can assume that the person speaking is upset, angry or possibly intoxicated. Please note, exceptions include: any and all 12-16 year old girls and anyone on a cell phone in a Starbucks or subway. In Rhodes&Chania: Normal conversation is casual but can quickly change to yelling which is always accompanied by hand gestures. Do not assume that the speaker is angry; in most cases they are not upset but are merely enthusiastic or passionate about the subject.

•         Eating in Restaurants:  In the U.S. – if you would like to eat at a restaurant, you select one,  possibly examine the menu before you sit down, or just asked to be seated. You will always be given ketchup if you order a meal with French fries. You will also be given the check whether or not you’d like to sit and chat with your friends or family for longer than the length of the actual meal.  In Rhodes& Chania (the tourist areas) – if you walk by any sort of eating establishment you will be greeted by a waiter or waitress who will inform you of how wonderful their food is, how nice a place it is or simply say “come have a drink/something to eat.” If you have the unfortunate luck to be in an area in which there are many restaurants right next to each other be prepared to have this conversation with the people standing outside every restaurant you pass. When ordering a meal with French fries you must ask for ketchup.

•         Prices: In the US: prices are set, rarely can you bargain with the employees. In Chania: “The price is 200 euros…but for you 175. Where are you from? Oh you’re from NY? Then it’s not too expensive…”

•         Price of bottled water in the U.S. - $1.50-$2.00

•         Price of bottled water in Chania:  .30-.50 euro which is equal to about 45-75cents.

I find all of these differences fascinating and quite humorous.  More soon!



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