Thus far, my favorite thing in Greece, besides the food of course, is the people. Everyone here is boisterous, loud, and almost honest to a fault. Most people are very friendly, but some, well, it’s not that they’re mean, it’s just that they don’t sugarcoat anything for foolish Americans.
Right now we’re staying in the town of Finikas on the island of Syros. There is a bakery in town that is amazing. We’ve gone every day thus far, yet we’re still regarded with suspicion. The first day I sauntered in and yelled a loud, “howdy!” much to Raquel’s dismay. A plump older woman came out and I proceeded to interrogate her about her savory pies.
Uh-huh. And what’s that?
Interesting. But what’s that?”
“Zucchini-cheese,” she said as she gritted her teeth.
Raquel interjected before the woman baked me into a pie. “We’ll take a feta and a spinach, thanks!” Outside she told me “You can’t do that!”
How am I supposed to know which one I want?
“Just… don’t ask about more than three, OK?”
I follow Raquel’s rule, but neither the proprietress nor I am happy about it. Too many questions for her and not enough for me. Yet, despite my questions, on the third day Raquel actually got her to smile. She squeaked or chirped when the lady handed us our pastries the woman melted her like a piece of feta in one of her delicious pies. But the next day her scowl was back and fiercer than ever.
I’m not convinced it’s my questioning though. For she’s not the only person on this island that regards us with suspicion. My mantra when travelling is always, “do I look like a tourist? Do I look like a tourist?” to which, on Syros at least, Raquel responds, “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, stop asking.” One evening, when sharing drinks with a Frenchmen named Fred at a Taverna, the white wine made Raquel brave enough to ask about our predicament. Fred and his Greek companion were happy to explain.
“No one wears hats here,” the Greek said from beneath the brim of his canvas fisherman’s hat.
“Oui, you look like a cowboy,” said Fred who sported a bright red and blue hat of his own.
Ok, so perhaps a straw hat and a denim long sleeved shirt with suede shoulders isn’t the best choice. But what’s a man to do? I gotta protect my skin and that was the only shirt on the island Raquel liked!
“But why do they stare at me?” Raquel asked, “Is it because I have a tattoo?” That hipster wife of mine. Even in Greece, she can’t help but flash her ink.
The Greek regarded her coolly, “everyone here has tattoos. It’s your skirt.”
All eyes went to my wife’s legs.
“People don’t dress in long skirts anymore. You look like something from history.”
“And that color!” said Fred, “you look like an Indian.”
“Yeah! A cowboy and an Indian!” The Greek said and the pair of them died laughing, not the least bit concerned they had offended us.
And I like that. So come to Greece, relax, and don’t worry. If you do something stupid, the locals won’t hesitate to let you know.
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