Tag Archives: Greece

World Cup fans

For the first time in his seven and a half years of life, my older son is showing interest in football.  More than just a slight interest, he is in the throes of World Cup fever – as are most of his little classmates.  Every night he is allowed to watch the beginning of a match before bedtime and he is rapidly developing into that annoying kind of armchair footballer who comments on every single action (or lack thereof) and believes he could do everything better himself.

But the World Cup is problematic in our household not because some of it takes place past bedtime, but because it is not immediately obvious which team or teams we support, either individually or collectively.  Typically, the World Cup season is the time when we revert to our primal tribal instincts and support the country we consider home.  My husband has a clear-cut choice: he supports Greece.  He was amused but also slightly annoyed when our son told him that he personally wouldn’t support Greece ‘because they don’t stand a chance’. But why would Greece be home to our sons?  Despite their name, appearance, the fact that they speak Greek with their grandparents and occasionally with my husband, they only go there on holiday, no more than a family who owns a holiday home in Cyprus, say!

So my older son started off supporting England, which also helps him fit in better with his school friends.  My younger son doesn’t know or care, except that he quite likes an Italy T-shirt he has inherited from a cousin.  They are also a bit confused as to whether they should care about Switzerland or France (we lived on the border between these two countries for nearly two years).

For me it’s more complex, as Romania (my country of origin) did not qualify, nor did Austria (where I spent most of my childhood).  I am British now, but I do feel more ‘British’ than English (which is perhaps one of the luxuries that you do have when you become a British citizen later in life).  I would have no qualms about supporting a GB football team, but ‘England’ seems too parochial.  The other country I feel close to is Japan, but not close enough to seriously believe  they have a chance of going much further and therefore supporting them to the end.  Because isn’t that what national and nationalistic football is all about?  Loving your team so much that you believe they are the best, against all evidence to the contrary?

So I make no claims to originality and support Brazil – one of my favourite countries in the world, although I only ever spent two weeks there.  I mix it with capoeira, samba, Caetano Veloso, Jorge Amado, although they are not all playing on the field…  at the same time!

As for my son?  Well, maybe he is a global citizen after all, as last night he announced that he wants Germany to win.  When I asked him why (after all, he has virtually no connections with Germany), he said that he wants them to equal Italy’s four wins of the World Cup.  ‘And next time, Italy can win it, so they are equal with Brazil’.  Fairness, in the end, trumps national sentiment…

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Relax, You’re In Greece Now

If you’ve ever been on holiday in Greece (or any other Mediterranean country), you will know that time flows at a different pace here.  In fact, this is perhaps one of the most obvious cultural differences that people refer to when they go abroad, one that causes endless frustration, irritation and misunderstanding: Time. 
Boat

Sooo Laid Back I'm Sinking!

 

The contrast between Northern and Southern Europe, or between the US and the Middle East, is most obvious when it comes to concepts of time. In the US and UK, for example, time is a thief slipping through your fingers – it disappears all too
quickly, so you have to control it, constrain it and rigorously plan it.   I myself fall victim to this approach when I am in the UK, scheduling my days to the dot,  whiteboards and planners on my walls, juggling multiple complex projects and proudly ticking things off my ‘To Do’ list.  I even help others to work smarter, faster, better, to prioritise and so on, all the while yearning for a holiday in those places where time does not wield its whip.

In the Mediterranean region, time is regarded as abundant; people tend to follow natural seasonal rhythms. Punctuality is not as important because you savour the moment rather than always moving onto the next thing. Building relationships takes precedence over scheduling, so you will never tell a visitor that you don’t have time for them because you have to rush to your next appointment.

Despite the fact that I have married into a Greek family and that my own Latin culture is similar, it still takes me three days or so to settle into the Greek routine… or lack thereof! As we sit down for what seems another interminable conversation over coffee and cakes, I glance restlessly at my watch, only to be
told: “Relax! Where are you rushing off to? We’ve got plenty
of time …” And the unspoken criticism there is: “You have
lived in the UK for too long.”

All this is fine and I can talk for ages about monochronic vs. polychronic cultures, past vs. future orientation, long-term and short-term planning… but it still doesn’t help when it takes all morning to decide what we are going to do in the afternoon (in the end, we decided to do nothing).  Nor does it help explain why drivers in Athens always seem to be in a mad rush to get somewhere and are prepared to risk life and limb as well as police fines simply to move 5 metres ahead.

I just have to laught at the thought of ever conducting time management courses in Greece or in Romania – and yet a large proportion of young people in these countries have lived and worked abroad, or are even now working for foreign businesses.  They probably work longer and harder than many others in the UK, even if they don’t like it, even if it doesn’t fit well with their culture.  They perceive it as a necessary evil to get ahead and forge a career.

 But do we really have to make an ‘either/or’ choice?  Is the Anglo-Saxon model so much more effective than the laid-back approach?  Is this laid-back mentality to blame for Greece’s current economic difficulties (hint: don’t think so!).  Perhaps real effectiveness (as opposed to just efficiency) could be achieved by combining these different approaches to time.

When we are working on a tight deadline and need to complete a major project, we could all do with a single-minded focus and living only in the present. We should always be able to give our kids full attention, even while cooking and checking emails.  And every now and then we should quiet down our frenetic activities, give a voice to our inner thoughts and ask ourselves why.

It’s just my second day in Greece and I am still buzzing on my little wheels of illusory efficient superiority…  but ask me again in two days’ time and I will be watching the crickets climbing up the grass stalks and spending forever and a night debating all the world’s ills with friends. 

 Have a lovely Easter and don’t forget to relax!Easter eggs

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