1. Don’t be alarmed that we’re constantly being spat on
“FTISEEEEEEE!!” (Spit!) You hear it constantly. Spitting for the Greek culture is a way of detracting any form of evil presence, taking the jinx off something and basically not tempting fate.
“Mum, my new job is going really well!” Mum: “Ftise!”
Mum to me: “You look so beautiful in that dress” Me: “Ftiseeeeee Maaaaaa!”
Spitting feels like second nature to us. When we have instinct to spit, to ‘protect’ someone and we don’t spit, it doesn’t feel right. Oh, and its always three spits. FTOO. FTOO. FTOO.
2. We call EVERYONE ‘malaka’
Have you heard Greek friends address each other? Or how about angry taxi drivers in Greece? Or even when a Greek is supporting his/her favourite sports team, but they’re losing? Basically, they are all “MALAKES”. Singular form being “malaka”. And nope, it’s not everyone’s name, it actually means ‘wanker’.
It’s not always used aggressively, insultingly or angrily, but essentially endearingly. I often call my sister on the phone and say: “Ela (Hi) malaka!” Believe it or not, I’m not calling my sister a wanker, but rather, in some twisted affectionate way, “sister”.
3. You’ll have to understand phrases like ‘ta matia sou dekatessera’
Our parents’ and grandparents’ favourite phrase to say to the offspring when they’re going on a night out, going on holiday, going for a walk, going on a date, crossing the road, ANYTHING.
Direct translations of our language always make me laugh, and by literally saying “your eyes fourteen”, our elders are pre-warning us to be careful. So careful we have the equivalent of fourteen eyes. Yes, that’s fourteen eyes around your head.
4. There’ll be a lot of leg slapping
In particular, my Gran’s favourite move: the thigh slap. The action normally follows the words of some form of disbelief. “Den to pisteuw!” (I don’t believe it!) !SLAP! ‘Axouuuu!’ (A worried tone of really or no way?!) !SLAP! ‘Kai meta tou eipa… kai xeris ti mou eipai?!…. (And then I told him… and do you know what he told me?) !SLAP!
We all leg slap. It’s just what we do. Just nod along if you don’t get it.
5. Oh, and hand slapping
Nothing says passion like the hand gestures of a Greek person. As I write this, I’m laughing, because I know just how much we use our hands to express our words. Let me try and put this into words. Make your four fingers into a half Pac Man and press them against your thumb. Turn it around so your hand faces you rather than doing a snakehead facing forward. Then you sort of move it away from and back towards your chest. This hand movement is used when it comes to situations where you are explaining yourself to someone, placing emphasis on a point you want to get across and or even when you want to end the conversation. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.
6. We get VERY passionate about football/Eurovision/any other competition that Greece is involved in
When a particular player or team is doing well, especially when it comes to football, they are our best friends and our gods. Our heroes! We act as if we know them personally. ‘Bravo Karagounaki mou! Bravo file! Bravo agapi mou!’ Or ‘Omadaraaaaaaa mou!’ (My team).
Whoever lives in London will know that in particular North London went mental last year when Greece won against the Ivory Coast with a penalty during injury time during the World Cup. People had filled the streets by foot and by car, shouting, singing, hooting, waving flags, acting like we had actually won the cup!
7. We have face conversations
Did you know you could have a whole conversation with another Greek, just by using your facial expressions?
THE TILT HEAD DOWN SLIGHTLY TO THE LEFT AND OPEN/CLOSE EYES SLOWLY:
This means yes.
THE TILT HEAD UPWARDS, THE EYEBROW LIFT, AND THE MOUTH PULL DOWN:
This means no.
THE CENTRE FACE, MOUTH PULL DOWN, NECK STRETCH FORWARD:
This means I don’t know.
I bet you did it while reading.
8. You’ll wonder why our Grandma only wears black
It normally means our Yiayia (Grandma’s) husband has died and she has never worn colour again out of respect for him.
NO. COLOUR. EVER. AGAIN. *straightface
9. Our age isn’t our *actual* age
I have these arguments with my Dad every year. “No, this is my actual age Baba!” In the Greek culture, for some reason, unbeknownst to me, an extra year is added to your age. “Ekleises kai bikes.” (Closed and entered)
If you’ve just turned, in English terms, 35, the Greeks will say you’re 36. They will say you’ve just closed the 36th year of your life.
Just let me live! Please!
10. We’ll try to tell your future from a coffee cup
How many times has my Yiayia told me my fortune by looking at the coffee stains of her ‘Eliniko café?’ (Greek coffee). Too many to mention.
Some Greeks believe in the fortune telling of a coffee stain on a small cup so much, they will base their lives on that morning cuppa! It makes me giggle. But honestly speaking, superstition put aside, the coffee stains do really create images. I’ve seen hills, animals, love, money, people. Sounds strange when I actually think about it. But its what we do.
11. We get rich on our nameday
Most Greek names have Saints associated to them, which means that almost every Greek person will have a name day to celebrate within the calendar year.
My name day is on the 15th August. Greeks consider name days to be of more importance than that of birthdays and tend to celebrate in a huge way. Normally with a lamb on the spit and money. And by money, I mean money sneakily given to you by your Yiayia as if the best drug deal was about to go down.
12. We know EVERYTHING. Because everything is everyone else’s business.
Ever told your Mama something and told her not to tell the rest of the family? For instance how you may have met a new man? You would come home after work (Yes home to your Mum at age 42 because we never leave home) and your three Thies (aunts) are there and your Gran too and the first thing they ask is, “Who is the new man? Is he going to marry you? Oh FINALLY you can get off the shelf!’ FINALLY someone wants you!”
Nothing remains a secret with Greek families or Greek people. Everyone knows everyone elses’ business and make it their business to know everything!
13. You’ll ALWAYS get fed
We love feeding people. Yes, we are feeders. We will make you eat. You will always be offered food. Never reject food. We take it personally.
14. Our Mums always open our mail
So there’s no use writing us love letters. We’lll come home and be given our post by our Mum with the line, “Sorry I thought it was for me!”
This is the biggest lie ever told. Greek Mums always open your post to make sure that the ‘paidi’ (the child) is ok and not in “TRUPPLE!” (trouble said with heavy accent).
15. We get called to paidi
If we’re the youngest of the family, regardless of our age, we will always and forever be called “to paidi” (the child).
My Yiayia still calls my youngest uncle ‘to paidi’ and I am still referred to as ‘the paidi’ or ‘the mikri’ (the little girl) in my family.
You could be 72, 43 or 21 and you will always be called, the child.
16. We ALL have at least one Maria
How do you solve a problem like Maria? Well, in my case, just feed me! ( Refer to point 13).
As tradition, we take the names of our grandparents and so therefore the names duplicate. As a matter of fact, there will always be at least a few Marias in every Greek family. FACT.
17. When we travel we pack heavy (with spices)
Customs? What’s that? Every Greek person has that one family member, normally a Yiayia, who travels back from wherever they’ve been with a suitcase filled to the point of explosion with spices.
If she’s been to the xorio (the village) you’ll find chamomile, oregano, basil, sage, thyme, cinnamon etc. and probably some spinach thrown in; and a stem of a plant they came across and ripped out the ground to plant in their garden at home.
18. We think we created everything
The amount of times I’ve wound my Gran up by telling her that the Greeks didn’t create the English language, or Western civilisation or that the Olympics were invented by another country. She bites every time.
*in a heavy Greek accent but spoken in English; ‘THEE GRIKS CREATED EVERYYYTHING!’ she says.
But no seriously, we created A LOT! Including civilisation, the English language and the Olympics.
Oh and before you say anything about the current economic state of Greece, well don’t say anything, because if we didn’t create the English language you wouldn’t be able to say it!
19. No-one is better than the Greeks
We genuinely believe this.
20. We always like to go on holiday to Greece
Greeks living in Greece love Greece so much that they even want to holiday in Greece. PERIOD.
21. There’ll be a LOT of cousins names to remember. Like, 25.
Okay, twenty-five is a little excessive but no seriously, we come as tribes. Our families are huge. Our Great Grandparents and Grandparents didn’t have iPhones, or iPads or even TV’s back then so you know… they had time. I suppose?!
Oh and that person that lives 300 miles away in a village who doesn’t even share your family name is your auntie. We have many relatives who aren’t actually relatives but everyone is ‘Thia’ and ‘Thio’. (aunt and uncle).
22. We believe everyone else wants to be Greek
There are two types of people in this World. Greeks, and everyone else who wants to be Greek.
23. We feel music beyond our souls
NOTHING gets us like our music. We feel every single word with passion, with an ache. Unless you’re Greek, you wouldn’t understand.
Greek songs are almost always about undying passion, or passionate pain, or passionate love. We don’t do passion by half measures, and especially not in feeling and expressing the love for our music.
*currently just listening to Remos and doing strofes. Clapping. Ok throw in a Zebekiko.
24. Our families insist we should find ‘a nice nngreek boi’
Families, especially meddling mothers and granny’s try and set up the girls with ‘a nice nnGreek boi’ since the beginning of womb time!
Even if Stavro over there has a natural coat of back hair, sideburns which touch his shoulders and breath like a dried tongue stuck on a cactus in Nevada, if he is Greek, he is a nice Greek boy.
To be fair to my roots, times have moved on from the likes of Stavros and we are now in the period of Kostas Martakis. Have you seen this Greek God? Google him please. If you know him, tell him I exist please.
25. Know about The Mati
The evil eye. We believe in the power of the evil eye categorically. We believe that if someone is envious (in a good or bad way) of you, the evil eye will be cast by him/her, onto you. If someone is jealous, doesn’t like you or even likes you, they can cast the evil eye.
When you are dizzy or have a headache and yawn a lot, we believe that you are ‘matiasmeni’ (the evil eye has been cast upon you).
You can have the ‘spell’ taken off by someone who knows how to do the ritual. Both my parents know how to do it and so they are my go-tos whenever I need.
It’s a ritual done with oil, water and prayers. Sound strange? It’s not, really. Even the Bible talks about it. Look it up.
HAVE I MENTIONED THAT I LOVE BEING GREEK?