Greeks have been getting a lot of flak lately from the media and, admittedly, from me. I think I’ve always operated under the notion that criticism is more interesting than praise, but that can get boring and predictable. So — since my posts have been mostly carping Greece, I’m going to point out something good about the Greeks that I’d normally call out as a flaw.
As the abundance of strikes here demonstrates, Greeks aren’t ones to take things quietly. They believe that authority should be questioned, which, while problematic, also seems to me to be pretty healthy. Their willingness to cause a stir sets them apart from other countries. The other day I got on the HSAP, but it didn’t leave the station for about twenty minutes. Ten minutes into the wait an old man got out and started yelling at the conductor from the platform, asking him when the train was going to leave, and saying that they couldn’t just let people stand there without telling them anything. It occurred to me that this would never happen in the States. People in the States accept the status quo willingly and quietly.
In a New York Times article, a Georgetown professor compares New York women’s stories of being harassed or groped on the subway to those of Greek women. She found that the New York women tended to say they felt humiliated and had done nothing, while the majority of the Greek women either yelled or put up a fight. A few girls threw rocks at a man who exposed himself to them. The writer explains the difference in terms of culture, noting that, “For one thing, most Greeks, like their Mediterranean neighbors, place value on expressiveness, whereas American culture is influenced by the Northern European and British emphasis on public decorum. That’s why Americans often mistake animated Greek conversation for argument.” Greeks are more likely to get in your face about something or to help you. This has its downsides, but it strikes me as a more honest way to live. So there it is. Here’s to the Greeks, expressiveness and all.