Greeks on holiday
When I started `Us Europeans`, I decided that I would try to leave my Dutch mindset behind and write stories as if I could be from anywhere. Many people I meet do not recognise me as Dutch at a first glance, but oftentimes, speaking about this project, they suspect that I can`t be from anywhere but The Netherlands. Travelling alone, for an extended period of time and with a specific purpose in mind ? all of that sounds very unfamiliar to people living in countries that value the group over the individual, think short-term rather than long term and prefer to party or do nothing whenever they finally manage escape their daily lives. The Greek traveling philosophy is similar to that of the other Mediterranean countries, and this is how it works:
Greece has many islands which serve as perfect holiday resorts. They have hotels, a ferry or even airplane link to the mainland, beaches, restaurants and everything one may need. In summer, don`t count on finding many Greeks on the mainland. They all escape to the islands. Some to a different one every year, others to one and the same island every year. According to Dimitris (28), the ferry trip to the islands, which may take up to 12 hours, is not seen as simply a way to get somewhere. Instead, the crossing is seen as an integral and fun part of the holidays.
..is not used to travelling all by himself
Christos (31) confirms that the islands attract huge crowds in summer. `I am one of the few people who like to go camping, preferably on a deserted island or beach. But even the beaches that are known for being deserted are getting more and more crowded.` Giorgos (22, photo) spends his summers in Crete, which is also packed with tourists during summer. Giorgos explains that beside summer, people also travel during Easter and Christmas. `There is nothing happening on the islands at that time of year though. Instead, people will usually return to the village where they were born, to see their family and old friends and share big meals with them. At Easter, we grill an entire lamb and eat it.`
Giorgos has traveled to quite some foreign destinations: to Portugal with his family, to England with a friend to visit another friend and to Italy with his girlfriend. His university took him on a collective trip to Cuba. `Most universities will organise annual trips within Greece but my faculty allows us to go to places that are not easy to discover on your own, like Cuba in my case or New York or Tokyo`, Giorgos says. Another Giorgos (23) says that Greeks hardly ever travel abroad if there is no special occasion or excuse: `For a honeymoon, newly weds may go to Paris or some exotic destination. Some people, like myself, go to the UK for studies. In general, Greeks are more likely to spend time in their own country, which they probably know better than most fellow Europeans know their country.`
Hiking, cycling and other active programs do not fill the average Greek with a sense of holidays. Neither does voluntary work. Skiing: possibly, with the entire family during the Christmas break. Otherwise, a typical Greek holiday is made up of three ingredients. First of all, there is the social part, which has young people party until the next morning. To older people, it consists of spending time in pleasant company. Secondly, there`s a good chunk of laziness, which scatters the Greeks along beaches and on caf? terraces. Finally, most programs will contain a sniff of culture, which may be a museum or an archeological site.
In most cases, the Greeks will find all they need in their own country and do not feel the need to go anywhere else to have a good time. If they want to meet people from other countries, all they have to do is to wait for the masses of tourists from abroad to fly in.
Money is another reason for people to stay in Greece. On average, the Greeks are not rich enough to explore the world while on holiday, but not sufficiently poor to be forced to look for employment in other countries. Also, young Greeks don`t expect to pay for their holidays themselves. With very few exceptions, parents will finance the traveling aspirations of their children. Olia (23), who has seen more countries than most Greek people will get to see during their entire lives, thinks that it perfectly makes sense for parents to pay for everything their children do. `Most of the traveling I did was in family trips, but if I go with friends, I will ask my parents to pay for my holiday. For the hotel, for the activities and especially for the drinks in the evening. They wouldn`t want me to be thirsty`, she says with a smile.
Traveling in groups
As is the case in all European countries along the Mediterranean, family ties in Greece are simply much more important than they are in Northern Europe. Contrary to the Swedish way of raising children to be independent and critical, Greek parents teach children about their position in the family, their responsibilities towards the family. They teach them to be part of a network that allows them to have all they need at their disposal, a mere phone call away. Whereas Swedish children learn to get up after they fall, Greek children learn not to fall at all. And to rely on help in case they still manage to hit the ground.
The invidualist-collectivist reasoning explains why Greeks only rarely travel on their own. Friends and family circle around them as a source of protection, if not physically then at least by mobile telephone. Jean (28) thinks that traveling without a mobile phone would be a nightmare for Greeks. `Your parents will always want to know where you are`, she says, `and if a Greek person wants to travel on his/her own, they can expect to be regarded with pity. No Greek wants to have coffee alone or go out without company.`
Summarising the Greek sense for adventure: there is not so much of it. Greeks want things to be arranged beforehand, with no unpleasant surprises. Holidays serve as a break from every-chaotic daily life, and that`s all that is needed.
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