This is the first entry in the New Diaspora Diary: stories of Greeks who moved abroad from 2010 until now. Send your stories at email@example.com
November 1st, 2010, somewhere in the Netherlands
from an anonymous friend
First of November, the spirits are high, hundredandthirtysecond month in a row away from my homeland, and counting…
Everything all right in general, work is fine, nine to five, with a cigarette break at 10, 11, 12, 1, let’s say every hour. It’s cold but little you can do about it, here. The metro on time, the train on time, the bus on time, a-ok….
I open the door, my hood is covering half my vision and the temperature difference brings all the smells of the house to my nose; food, cigarettes, home. Inside, at the end of the corridor, I see the figures of my friends, lounging on the couch with my roommate. I do not lift my head and walk slowly towards them. I know. They have the special gift to make my day. The youngest of the group sits at the other side of the room, he looks at me but says nothing. He has his eyes fixed on me and I see that he reaches for something in his pocket. He finds it and throws it to me, towards the TV. The others are watching without having noticing me. He talks down to me.
- Hey Greek, fetch 2 euros to get something to eat
Two seconds of silence and the others are laughing their asses off, while he and I remain serious, with our eyes fixed on each other. I turn around, I am kind of smiling and pick up the coin. I stand up, I toss it in the air and put it in my pocket, still smiling.
- Thanks mate! I just got tomorrow’s cigarettes
Inside I am thinking, all right, if this happens in my own house, what should I expect outside? Never mind, they are my friends, I can take it.
A little earlier, before I got home, I dropped by the “taverna” where my best friend works to have a quick drink and a chat. The pillars at the entrance make me laugh again as I go in, everyone knows me, so the whisky is already served before I finish shaking hands on my way to the bar. This takes no more than a minute, brief phrases, the Greek way.
- Where are you mate?
- Here. And you?
- Me too. Here
- There he is, what are you doing?
- Everything, what would you like?
The whisky was still behind the bar until I took the last two steps and let my best friend, the barman, know I am here. In a second, the crystal glass appears, slides on the wood and stops just in front of me. The barman looks at me, nods with his eyes and eyebrows, smiles in recognition and turns around to take the next order.
I feel at home here, I don’t need to pay attention to anybody, I am young, independent and live thousands of miles away from home, by the way I would live there. This freedom gives me a strength that empowers me, it makes me more confident and sure of myself.
Not much later, I turn my head and exchange the first looks with the people around me. I especially avoid the serious ones. I will not stay long anyway and I am not in the mood for a philosophical talk. I have been here before, the faces are familiar, some are waiting for the next available table, some are just relaxing with a drink. When my friend has a break, we exchange some words and he introduces me to the people next to me when he gets the chance, simple social rules of good behavior.
- I assume you know each other?
- Nice to meet you
- The pleasure is all mine
Being polite is so easy! Internationally. I am glad to meet new people, my goal is to meet at least one person every day. I like to listen and learn, feeling that I recycle the same over and over again when I am at work or with friends.
But today something new happens, and before long.
- Are you Greek pal?
I nod in agreement and answer with a loud “Yes”.
- What do you think of the situation? He asks, raising his eyebrows.
- What do you mean?
- Don’t you listen to the news?
- No, not yet, today, tell me
- Things do not look good my friend
- Really? Why? Tell me
- I am not an expert, I just hear the news on TV, but is seems that you spent it all and now ask for more. But, you know, I will not be working like a dog so that someone else has a good time. Enough is enough
- You are right my friend, I wouldn’t like it either.
- Now we’ re talking!
- But don’t worry, I informed my people down there. We built the villa with your money, so… Anyone who goes stays there for free.
- Are you serious? No, you’re joking!
- Why should I be joking? You have my word.
The time passes and although we have only exchanged names, we have talked about politics, economy and most of the shocking subjects of the local community. I love discussing these subjects with people who do not have a clue and do as if they know it all. Thus people like me…
It’s getting late and my mates are waiting for me with the console ready for games, it’s time to get going. I say goodbye to my friend, I shake hands.
- Nice to meet you
- Nice to meet you too, don’t get lost
- How could I? I live just upstairs
What are your thoughts on this story? How open you are to the culture / people of the country you live?
The editing team
Giannis Kyriazis was born and raised in Thessaloniki and lives abroad since July 1999. Professionally, his passion lies with translating data into information for strategic decision making. He is responsible for managing Master Data and Systems in a tax effective supply chain department of a well-known bio-technology company.
In politics, he is mainly interested and more actively involved in issues concerning education and culture, entrepreneurship and repatriating of Greeks abroad. In his free time he enjoys running middle and long distances, playing golf, traveling, practicing yoga and reading.
Vasiliki Magoula was born in Thessaloniki and lives abroad since 1999. After her studies, she worked on the coordination of clinical trials in international pharmaceutical companies. A clinical trial is the necessary experimental procedure needed before a new medicine is approved to be distributed in the market.
Next to this, she is interested in reading, walking, travelling and learning foreign languages, but also about the history and culture of each country. She is also interested, and is planning to start additional education on bioethics, in which she would like to work on the ethical questions of subjects like euthanasia and assisted reproduction.
Vivian Chiona is the founder and director of Expat Nest, a site that provides emotional support to expats and their families through online counselling services. Having spent most of her developmental years in Greece, she has been living in the Netherlands for the past ten years.
A bicultural, multilingual expat with family all over the world, Vivian is familiar with the blessings and challenges of a mobile life.