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Monday, July 2, 2012

Common Misconceptions About Greece: Guest Post from Bex at Leaving Cairo

        Bex blogs at Leaving Cairo, the UK, and Back to Greece.  She is quite the world traveler and she writes about places that many of us will only dream of ever going.  Visit her blog and let her take you away.  Today she takes us to her adopted country of Greece.  This country has been getting some bad press of late and Bex wants to address some of these issues in this guest post.

Common misconceptions about Greece
            As an EFL teacher, I had started my career in Sri Lanka pre-CELTA as a volunteer for 3 months.  I soon realised I loved teaching and after completing the CELTA, decided I wanted to continue my visit to far flung destinations, anything in Europe to my mind was not far enough removed, both geographically and culturally.

         How wrong could I be?  Thinking I would spend just one year in Greece to gain experience and move on, 3 and a half years later I find myself loving this diverse country and choosing to stay.

            Unfortunately there are some common misconceptions about Greece and the Greeks, especially with the International media’s reportage.  I hope to give you a slightly clearer picture here:

1) They throw plates a lot

            Er, no – it’s not even really traditional.  They actually have a special Greek dance called “Zebekiko” where women sit in a circle (or men) and in the centre, a man dances to the women (or visa versa) whilst the admirers in the circle clap and throw flower petals at him/her.  The dancer is expressing their love for someone in the circle – you have to hear the accompanying music to appreciate how expressive it is, and how FREE people are when they dance to this.  It brings tears to the eyes.

2) Greeks are lazy

Fisherman mending his net.
            OK, this is clearly a racist comment, particularly flouted around in Northern European countries like Germany to discredit the Southern European states. The Office of National Statistics shows us that, ironically, Greeks have a longer working week that Germans (42.2 hours per week compared to 35.6 hours).  Many Greeks, due to recent austerity measures, hold down 2 jobs and I think what people need to concentrate on is the inflated public sector.  But not every Greek is a public sector worker, remember that.  And not every Greek is a tax dodger!!  Look at the people in the upper echelons of every nation – THAT’S where you’ll find the tax dodgers.

3) Greeks are always rioting

        Oh dear – the International Media have a lot to answer for don’t they?!  Bombarding us with pictures of rioting Greeks in Syntagma (Parliament) Square. 

       Greeks have always been a passionate race and due to hard austerity passed down to them, instead of sitting around moaning about it – they take to the streets and demonstrate.  Unfortunately, occasionally these demonstrations can turn nasty – but invariable it’s by a minority of people instigating it.  I’ve been quite happily sitting at home, updating my blog when the phone’s rung and a panicky voice of one of my friends had bleated down the line:

“Oh my God!  I’ve just seen the news – are you OK?!”  for me to reply“What are you talking about?” 

          I’m sure the media use ‘library footage’ a lot.  Remember, the majority of Greeks are NOT violent people.  Which brings me onto: 
Old house in Kypseli,
Athens Greece
4) Athens is constantly burning

            Athens is not in the midst of mortar fire constantly.  Interestingly, I have been sitting down having a coffee (a famous Greek pastime) whilst round the corner a demonstration has passed by…with no problems!  Which reminds me…

5) Greeks spend all day in the coffee shops/Kafeneos

            Hold on, you don’t hear a Greek saying “Well, the British spend all day in the pubs don’t they?”  And I ask you – what’s a more civilized picture in your mind: a Greek sipping on a frappe with his mates, slapping each other on the backs in a friendly fashion or a British man drinking ridiculous amounts of beer and spoiling for a fight (see what I mean about stereotypes)?

          So I do hope you’ll come and enjoy all this country has to offer.  I, for one, feel like an honorary Greek, which is an honour indeed.  These people have taken me into the bosom of their homes, fed me, looked after me and accepted me.  I love Greece – may she continue to fight against the negative stereotypes bestowed upon her.


Sunset --Paros Island
Paros Sunset

        Have you ever been to Greece?   Have you been to Cairo?  What is your dream place to visit?   Perhaps Bex has been there and can tell you about it.

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Unknown said...

Ohhhh Lee! Thanks for featuring me in this guest post. I hope I've managed to pursuade readers that Greece is SAFE and, moreover, hospitable. Any other Greek stories would be great and I am inviting people to email me with any stories...I will aim to feature them on my blog.
Email address found through my blog:


Unknown said...

Great post - I can sympathise because I live in Portugal and much of what you say applies here. The tax dodgers are in the upper echelons, without doubt, and should be targeted. People are suffering greatly from austerity measures - but their hardships aren't focused on, only if they demonstrate about it, and then they're pinpointed as being violent and anti-European. (I'm also an EFL teacher!)

Karen Baldwin said...

Thanks for YOUR introduction to Greece. Yes, the press can paint a nasty picture of other countries. I know, I now live in Mexico and my family thinks cartels are going to snatch me at any moment for a ransom. I do hope to visit Greece one day.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Great post, Bex. Sterotyping is a waste of time for sure. We miss out on reality when we label others.


Unknown said...

Em and Susan,

Thanks - I'm glad you could find yourself relating. I like to be able to reach out to people.

Susan: I tried sending you an email, but it bounced back. I was exploring the fact that EFL teaching is great isn't it? Also how I'm in the process of (trying!)to write my own book. Check out my blog for my email address.

Em: I will follow your blog religiously now!

All the best,

Unknown said...

Couldn't agree more, Teresa :0)

Jo said...

I have spent time in Greece and love the place. I always felt I belonged. I cruised (on family boat) from Athens through the Corinth Canal ending in Kerkira or Corfu. Actually we did end up dancing with plates being thrown - not in the Zebekiko but just a general melée of Greeks and us. This took place in Lefkas.

Marta Szemik said...

I really enjoyed your post! Greece has always been a dream place to go to for me because of its unique architecture.
Thank you for sharing!

Jarm Del Boccio said...

Our family visited Greece 5 years ago on a "Footsteps of the Apostle Paul" tour. The ancient ruins were fabulous, and so was the food. We found everyone friendly, and even learned a few words in Greek!

PR said...

Oh you're so lucky. I've always wanted to visit both Greece and Egypt, Greece even more so after reading this :)

Jo said...

This blog prompted me to blog about some of my experiences - I have linked back to your blog

Unknown said...

I'm glad I've inspired you all. Go to my blog for more inspiration with lots of lovely articles and pictures.

Jo: Ahhhh, I think you were caught up in a tourist attraction maybe :0)

And once again, thanks to Arlee for featuring me here and allowing me to promote my adopted and loved country!

Jo said...

Nope Bex, certainly not a tourist attraction. We were at a remote taverna, taken there by my boyfriend of the time. Just my family and the Greeks. I suspect it is different wherever you go in Greece.

Unknown said...

Thanks Jo - will look out for it

Unknown said...

Ahhh, then I offer my apologies. I have to say, it's a first for me. My experiences of plate throwing have beenin Greek restaurants in the UK and when I ask my Greek friends here, they always look at me like I've lost my marbles! And I often get asked "What, you think we do this all the time?"

I'll look forward to your post

Tina said...

Great guest post, Bex. I've always wanted to visit Greece. I've seen scenery in movies and glimpses of the culture and I'm just fascinated by it. Glad you're enjoying living there. Have you learned the language yet?

Tina @ Life is Good
Post A-Z Road trip!


I have never been to Greece or Cairo, Politics and I are not very close. I have trouble understand our own politics yet alone other countries.


Arlee Bird said...

Bex -- Thank you for visiting the A to Z Blog and I look forward to your visit to Tossing It Out in September.

Tossing It Out

Unknown said...

No plate smashing? Complete deal breaker :)

Thanks for dispelling some of the stereotypes; from what I hear the current economic crisis isn't as fire and brimstone as the media is portraying it.

Unknown said...

It certainly isn't Jamie. It's a media war and for some reason, they've got it in for Greece. No-one is saying that they are perfect (especially not me!) - but there is too much badness being said about them.
I hope you come to Greece and experience the true hospitality for yourself.

JoJo said...

I have never heard of any of these things about Greece before at all. The only time I saw thrown plates was in a really funny episode of "Frasier" with his very passionate Greek aunt. All the Greeks I ever came into contact with around here own restaurants and pizza places and they work pretty darn hard! Athens on fire? Never heard of that...when I think Athens, I think amazing antiquities from the ancient world.

Nicole said...

I don't think I've ever been familiar with any of these misconceptions except for maybe the Athens one. No, I haven't been to Greece nor Cairo but would love to visit that outdoor cinema in Athens as well as the Epidaurus Theater...would be cool. My dream place to visit doesn't stop at just one so rather than list most of them here, our just stay local and go with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando park :)

Actually, some of the places that I wanted to visit are places where we're not allowed to be such as Cuba. So, I guess I'll have to stick with Disneyland and sorts, lol.

Blog: The Madlab Post
@MadlabPost on Twitter

Anonymous said...

What a fun post! Thanks for enlightening me on the Greek people and their culture.

Now, I have heard Greeks have webbed feet and an extra set of big toes. Is this also a misconception?

Unknown said...

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loverofwords said...

I love Greece. My son was married there two years ago. The wedding took place on one of the islands they reached by sail boat. As the sun set over the Adriatic, church bells rang from the tiny church higher on the hill, goats wandered about, flowers from the local inn's garden created the bouquet, and later a wedding feast at the inn at the bottom of the hill and ouzo toasts all around. Sigh. . .too romantic.

Jo said...

That sounds like a gorgeous wedding

Unknown said...

Yes, the wedding sounds idealic. I have recently returned from Agistri island and will blog about it - watching the sun rise over the sea in the morning, bliss!

I stand corrected Jo: A friend informed me that plates USED to be thrown, but that was stopped for safety reasons a long time ago, hence rose petals. Much nicer I think.

Ruth said...

The only thing in this post that even sounded remotely familiar was throwing plates, but I don't know where I heard it, and I never even thought about it until reading this post. And I would have never thought it was Greek culture. As far as I knew, Greece was a fine country. And I certainly do after reading this post.

I had a friend in high school who lived in Greece for a while (she is African American), and she loved it there. I thought Greeks were fun-loving people who enjoyed celebrations and dancing, but that was the only "stereotype" I knew of. I think the rich history of Greece would be a fantastic thing about Greece--I would love to visit. And after all, my concepts of "Greece" were developed while watching "Full House" on TV when I was growing up! Great post! And I am also following this blog from Mom's Mingle.