What does the youth around the globe think about Greeks
Illustrations by Katerina Karali
A cocktail of opinions coming from residents of various countries of the world about what -they think- we are like.
Are Greeks the less expressive people of the Mediterranean? Are we hedonistic and mysterious? The internet has given us the chane to open a window to the world, but how well do we know what is happening right next to us or on the other side of the planet? What do people think about Greece and its people? How do the news affect a country’s image? We asked friends and acquaintances abroad, in order to get a better grasp of what they imagine.
“Actors in old movies that say “khabibi””, Ramy, 28, Egypt
Personally, I adore Greek people and I find them very friendly, cheerful and “lovely”. As an Egyptian, I always feel that Egyptians and Greeks are really similar to each other because of history and neighboring in the Mediterranean sea. There were always a lot of Greeks in Egypt and we know they love Egypt so we love them. One more thing, we used to always have a Greek character in our old movies who can speak Arabic and is always saying “ Khabebe” instead of “Habibi”.
“Mysterious women figures”, Aregnaz, 27, Armenia
To me, Greek people are very bright, friendly and talkative. I think they are open and warm hearted. They are deep, unique and strong, thanks to their history. I think they are also a bit mysterious -especially women, there is a goddess hidden in every Greek woman. People in my country usually say “Greeks are like us -Armenians- hospitable, friendly and traditional”.
“Loud like an Italian family”, Nicolas, 20, Argentina
In Argentina, we don’t really know what happens in some parts of the world. I think Greek people are cheerful and very temperamental. They meet with family to have lunch on Sundays. Theirs meetings are very noisy, like an Italian family. Basically, I think Greeks look like Italians, even though I know that’s totally wrong hahaha. If you ask me “What do you know about Greece?” the first things that come to mind are the Parthenon, economic debt, and the Olympic Games. The people of my country think that Greek people are cheerful. But, whoever I asked talked about the economical crisis, that the Greek people have to suffer. One of my friends said to me “es un pais que nunca prosperó como se imaginaba”, which translates as “it is a country that will never prosper as it imagined”. Here we are suffering a neoliberal government right now.
“Passionate lovers”, Julia, 24, Austria
To be honest, I don’t know many Greek people, unfortunately! There is one girl I met during my Erasmus semester in Tallinn. She is probably one of the kindest Erasmus students I met back then in Tallinn! Maybe it was just her personality, but I really liked her. I guess sometimes when speaking of European people or countries, people don’t think about Greece at first instance — I don’t know the reason for that. Maybe because people still see Greece only as a tourist country that is not as attractive anymore, as it was several years before?! I really believe that the interest in this nice country will come back in the near future! Furthermore, I see Greek people as very kind, happy and sunny personalities! Two years ago I even had a Greek boyfriend, I met him in my home country where he worked as a shaper in a snowboard park. I really liked him — and still like him as he is very funny, empathic, friendly, motivated and social. He was also a very good kisser, with a lot of emotion. In other situations I felt very comfortable and good, as he was very passionate in specific circumstances. Haha. Maybe Greek people are passionate in general? Probably.
“With big history and syrtaki”, Madina, 23, Azerbaijan
In my opinion, Greek people are mainly hospitable, social and friendly. They are into socialising and partying. The only negative thing I can point out is they can get too emotional. I think Azeris think of Greeks as people with ancient history. Also, since Azeris are emotional people as Greeks, we tend to find them really friendly. Another things that stands out for us is Greek music and dances. I bet everyone in Azerbaijan knows syrtaki.
“You shouldn’t get into the EU”, Mike, 25, Belgium
I think Greece is an awesome country with lovely beaches and great culture. I would love to travel there. From a financial standpoint, it wasn’t maybe the best idea for the EU that the country joined, but the crisis was the fault of a few individuals. EU is about cooperation between countries, which has its pros and cons. We see Greece as a nice country with a lot of problems. This is not an insult to your country. We should give you more help now with refugees, although some people in my country would not agree with me.
“Huge respect for ancient history and traditional fairs”, Nini, 23, Georgia
I haven’t met many people from Greece. Generally I have huge respect for the country, because of its ancient history and everything the philosophers, writers, scientists have given to the mankind. A big number of Greek families have emigrated to Georgia during the last century and they have integrated quite well. One of my best friends is also half Greek from her mother’s side. They even included some Greek elements during her wedding and danced syrtaki. I have only good things to say.
“Politically awake, but extreme, with dirty language, they eat olives all the time”, Luna, 29, Denmark
I find Greek people very sweet, welcoming and warm. I also find them politically awake compared to Danish people for example. They are willing to think outside the box, at least the ones I’ve met. Most take the time to ask you how you are and what is going on. On the not so bright side, the language of many Greeks I know is rough, dirty and jumps easily to extreme conclusions. A discussion can escalate in no time, which is a bit frustrating sometimes. I know; I sound like an old lady, which I’m not. I have no idea what the rest of the Danish people think of Greeks. I hope they think a lot of different things but stereotypes do, of course, exist. Some are that the Greeks are passionate, corrupt and eat olives all the time.
“Emotional, weird, hedonistic and greedy”, Raido, 22, Estonia
I see Greek people as quite open, passionate, emotional, curious… yes? I think that Estonians have the misconception that Greeks are lazy or greedy, because of European loans and the financial situation that has been going on recently. Or maybe too hedonistic? But yeah, I think you are definitely warm hearted.
“Alive, unabashed and rebellious, they exhibit very little concept of time”, Alyssa, 22, Las Vegas, USA
I see the Greek people as one with a culture who love life. Not that they love everything that happens, but that they fully invest in the moments and in the people they fill their lives with. I see them as loud, unabashed, rebellious, a little jarring at first, and exhibiting very little concept of time. But I think it comes not out of disrespect, rather out of respect for the moment and the current conversation. That’s what you seem to value. I think Greek people have a tendency to seem lazy because things get done quite slowly, but honestly I also think Americans can learn a bit from you all about how to slow down and better appreciate ourselves and the world! The rest of the people in the US seem to see Greeks as very exotic — they think everyone has perfect tans and is stunning. Most Americans know very little, but consider Greeks asrelying on tradition and patriarchy. Everyone knows the word “ώπα” but no one knows what it means.
“Not so expressive as other Mediterranean people”, Fernando, 35, Spain
First of all, I love Greece. These past two years I had the opportunity to visit it a few times. I always discover new things. For me, Greeks are a little different from Mediterranean people. I find so many more similarities between Portuguese, Italian and even Turkish than with them. I think it has to do with the Balkan influence. Greek seems to me a very intense language. Sometimes I think people are arguing and then they end up laughing! I have some close Greek friends that I know well and I love very much, but I find Greeks less expressive than other Mediterranean people. Also, the Greek people I know are probably the most hard working people.
The idea that people have about Greece is, unfortunately, what has arrived through mass media in recent years; tired, suffering, and combative people. Last year there was a lot of news about Greece. This year we hear little about what is happening over there. Some topics are that the food is excellent, Athens is a dirty city and that the islands look like paradise.
“Loud people with nice myths, they will never prosper”, Edward, 24, Colombia
I see Greeks as really family oriented people, they like to live in big communities and enjoy having people around. What makes them a little bit similar to Colombians, is that they are really loud and energetic. Maybe even more than ourselves! In my opinion, it is a little surprising that Greece is in crisis and that Greeks are in a bad situation, since you have a long and really defined culture. Unlike Colombia, whose history was erased when the Spanish arrived in America and destroyed all the indigenous cultures. I would assume that people with a long history and culture would be stronger as countries.
It is hard to say what the Colombian point of view is, but I think most of them think of Ancient Greek culture and nice myths and legends. But the last years, Colombians think about Greeks as people in crisis, without jobs. This is because of the news. Of course, we have the idea of Greek people as happy and kind, but I think the crisis has ruined Greeks’ reputation, at least in our country.
“You don’t work as much as in the Northern countries”, Elena, 23, Belarus
The common thinking here is that as a southern nation you are open and friendly, communicative people. I also often hear discussions after the news about credits from EU that the Greek people are so relaxed and not so hard working, as the northern countries for example.
“We like to be relaxed with you, but you don’t respect money as we do”, Tomasz, 31, Poland
I really like Greeks, I’ve only had positive experiences. I think you are open-minded, friendly, easy to get along with. In Poland, we put you in the same group as other southern nationalities, like Spanish and Italians. I have to say we like Italians the most (who doesn’t?). We know more about them. We appreciate your history, monuments, philosophy of life etc. A lot of Poles are going to your country for holidays and they really like it. We appreciate your attitude being open and “chilled”. I think in this way our nations are similar.
Another side of Greeks is that they are lazy (siesta etc), especially after the big economic crisis and the stories we heard about your public sphere. After finding out that a lot of people were receiving extra money for stupid work, we believe that you don’t respect money as we do (I think also because of the communist time). We think that you got used to a really comfortable life and now it is difficult for you to change your attitude and understand that life isn’t as colorful as it was before. We think that you live on credit and other countries have to work for you. Even if you have a lot of problems you don’t complain as much, as for example Poles do. On the other hand, we think that you are not the busiest and the most working people. We know that Greeks are very proud; of their nationality, of their history. If a Greek feels that somebody is doing bad stuff, he will kick him out of restaurant. Not only money is important, but other things. Anyway, we rather have positive opinion about Greeks.
“Dark skinned people in cafes, but anxious and angry”, Sebastian, 28, Sweden
When I hear the words “Greek people”, I see in front of me sun, blue water, white houses, olives, dark relaxed people hanging in cafes, laughing, talking over enthusiastically. I think of conservative gender roles. A beautiful, slightly unpolished people, a bit careless. Lately, I also see e stressed, hard working (or unemployed), slightly frustrated, even angry people.
Finally, women with long dark hair and deep brown eyes. All that is my stereotype.
“Familiar, but not so friendly for the country”, Doğa, 27, Turkey
Greek people are close to me; the culture, the tastes are so similar… Towards my country, they are not so friendly. There is hostility that is caused by extreme nationalism.
“You eat, drink and have fun and that has been branded as laziness, because of populism”, Jyri, 26, Finland
I’ve always pictured the Greeks as easy-going and life-loving people. Greece is where family, wine, food and dance is prioritised over the more mundane aspects of life. On the other hand, the economic crisis has probably shown the serious political side of the people. Freedom and the demand for justice has been awoken, and has become the main thing in people’s minds — without forgetting to dance, drink, eat and continue living with a positive mindset.
Finns used to travel a lot to Greece, so I think most people had interactions with locals and a generally positive feeling towards the Greeks. Though maybe not always understanding the different lifestyle. Nowadays, the rise of populism has branded this different lifestyle as laziness. I think the perception towards the Greeks has become more negative as a result of that.
This article was originally published in Greek on PopagandaGr
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