Photo: Alvaro German Vilela/Shutterstock

9 Greek Habits I Had to Lose When I Moved to the US

Greece United States
by Joanna Kalafatis Jul 1, 2016

1. Calling waiters by shouting and/or waving my hands.

There are a number of ways we call waiters in Greece, including raising our hand and clicking our finger, shouting out “φἰλε” (friend), or just generally making enough noise until they notice us. I learned in the US it’s a good way to get someone to spit in my soup and have my date ashamedly pretend not to know me.

2. Telling someone with a headache they might have the evil eye.

Are you feeling tired? Out of it? You’re matiasmenos (ματιασμἐνος). Want me to call my aunt for xematiasma (ξεμἀτιασμα) to get rid of it?

For some reason the phrase “evil eye” in the US conjures up some image of weird black magic practices, while in Greece it’s considered a very frequent occurrence. Basically, someone was jealous or envious of you and made you sick with their negative energy. No matter your feelings on the subject, I still think the eye bracelets meant to ward off the evil eye are quite pretty to wear.

3. Stopping at the bakery every morning for coffee and tiropita.

I don’t remember the last time I went to a bakery in the US. In Greece, it’s my pretty usual morning routine to stop by for coffee and tiropita (τυρὀπιτα) — cheese pie.

4. Expecting there to be a beach and beach bar within one hour driving distance max.

Greece has lovely beaches on pretty much every stretch of coast. What’s more, we love to spend a lot of time at the beach, and have built up plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars right on the sand to help us in this endeavor. In most places in the US (with the exception of certain parts like Miami), the beach is meant to be an infrequent day trip where you just lay on the sand with friends. I also had to come to grips with the fact that for a lot of the US population towards the center of the country, the beach is barely accessible at all.

5. Eating dinner at 10pm.

I remember the first time in the US I was invited to my friend’s house at 5 PM. For dinner. My stomach didn’t even know how to process anything at that time. Best just to consider it a late lunch.

6. Staying for an hour or two after dinner at a restaurant to chat and drink and generally be loud.

This is expected in Greece, but when I do it in the US, the waiter starts giving meannoyed glances and stops by my table every 5 minutes to ask if everything is OK and maybe perhaps I should get the check now, hmmm?

7. Having bread and feta served with almost every meal .

Why don’t Americans realize that feta can be eaten with almost everything?

8. Blowing through red lights and one-way streets.

I learned from my first time driving in Greece that red lights and one-way street signs are more like suggestions than actual rules. There is an intersection with a main road by my house where some helpful local soul put up a sign saying, “Be careful, drivers run the red light on the main road”. When I go back to Greece with my American driving habits, people start looking at me strangely if I’m stopped too long at a red light with no one coming.

9. Getting crepes after the bar.

This is one of my favorite traditions. I don’t know how this came to be, but much like In N Out in California or oversized pizza in New York, crepes in Greece are our ultimate after-bar/club food. Nothing better than a chocolate and biscuit crepe after a long night of drinking and dancing.

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