What an after-vacation dip can tell you

Many of us don’t like it when our vacations are about to be over. During a holiday, you can enjoy a free life without stress. You can forget about time and surround yourself with the environment that suits you best. But when this time comes to an end, and you start having nightmares about having to go back home, you might be up for more than just an after-vacation dip .

An after-vacation dip is normal

About 60% of people who return from their holidays have trouble getting back to everyday life. Especially on Sunday evening, before work starts again, many of us feel a bit down. And this is not unusual. During our vacations, we are in charge of our own time. We can sleep longer, take an afternoon nap, eat whenever we want to, and most importantly, we are free of stress.

Besides, during a vacation, we relax, meet new people, discover unique places, and often move more than we do during our days behind a desk. All these things increase our endorphins. Endorphin is a hormone that makes us feel happy. However, our level of these endorphins drops when we return to our usual environment and work. As a result, we feel down. The post-holiday blues. It can take up to seven or ten days before we are adjusted again to the lower levels of endorphins!

Try to enjoy your home and friends

Although your hormones naturally make you feel a bit down after returning from vacation, most of us can enjoy when being home. Sleeping in your own bed or binge-watching your favorite series might be things you missed during your holiday. Meeting your friends and sharing your travel experience with them will also help you to get through your post-holiday blues.

However, when you feel unable to enjoy these things, and your dip seems to continue for weeks, you might have to change something in your life. Although feeling a bit low is normal, it should never take too long or influence your everyday life and emotions.

Reflect after your vacation

When you struggle with a severe after-vacation dip, it might be time to reflect on your life. Struggling to get back to normal might show that your normal simply doesn’t suit you anymore.

Maybe you can’t sleep enough following your busy schedule? Or do you miss physical exercise or the connection with nature? Think about what made you feel happy during your vacation and what you miss the most now that you’re back. Slowly try to include parts of these elements in your life.

My return

When I returned from my most recent trip to Greece, I knew I was ready for a change in my life. Until now, I have always been someone with a high value for my own home. My own bed, my living room, my plants, and my bunny. These have always been reasons for me to get back home.

This time, however, when I opened my front door, I only felt strange. My house was too big, the stuff I own meaningless, and the location too crowded and concrete. All I need is the sea and the things that fit in my suitcase, not a whole apartment in the middle of a city!

I feel strange seeing the traffic around, and even stranger being a part of it when I have to rush to work. I feel unable to just hop back into my busy life, which feels so empty today. And with the people here, it seems impossible to connect again.

Mostly, I feel like a stranger. A stranger in my own country and in my own life. Knowing that I once did fit in here, shows me that I have changed, and it is now time for my life to change with me. The only thing that gets me through my days, is writing this blog and planning my next holiday. But this is not enough to keep me happy.

Don’t live to escape

Planning the next holiday is something many people say is helpful to get over the after-holiday blues. And although this might help with the average dip, I don’t believe this always solves the issue. If it feels like you’re living your life, counting down the days till your next escape, you should change something about your life instead. You shouldn’t have to wait to live until you’re out of your real life!

I recently met a 50-year-old woman with a love for Greece as big as mine. Thirty years ago, after a long holiday in Ouranoupolis, she returned feeling like her life in the Netherlands didn’t fit her anymore. She decided she wanted to move to Greece. 

But first, her husband didn’t want to come, then the kids came, and her mother needed care. When she divorced the man that kept her here, she couldn’t take her girls with her, so she stayed. And later, new boyfriends didn’t want to come either.

This woman planned regular holidays in Greece for thirty years and lived only during these short periods. Every time she returned, she felt depressed for months. Today, she still says she will soon move and finally be happy. But what she regrets the most is not moving thirty years ago.

Change is difficult

Talking with this woman showed me two things. One is how important it is to listen to our after-vacation dip. But secondly, she shows me how difficult it is to listen to ourselves, even after years of regret. Humans are creatures of habit and routine. We’re afraid of change, even when we know a transformation is best for us.

This is why girls abused by their fathers tend to choose an abusive partner. Or why people with low self-esteem seek situations in which they can feel less than others. But, it is also the thing that makes us believe we have to work hard, have busy schedules, or stay in a relationship that prevents us from following our dreams. Change is difficult simply because it is unknown to us.

From sleeping more to a career change to moving out of the city or an emigration. They are all difficult changes. However, if you stick to the old out of fear, it is time to be brave and move to the new. Step by step.

Start small

When you feel unhappy with your life, it is easy to say, “I have to change my whole life, but I don’t know where to start.” No one can change their whole life at once, and neither should we try to. Like the Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tze said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” 

Do you want to exercise more?
Start with doing five squats before you sit down on the toilet.
Live closer to nature?
Buy plants, or leave the city once a month.
Do you want to explore a new culture?
Start reading or cook recipes from the country you love.
A career change?
Invest an hour a week in learning a new skill.

Start small! 

Keep walking

The smaller the step, the easier it is to actually make it. When you feel the positive result of a small change, it will be easier to take the next step and the one after that until you slowly come closer to your bigger goal.

I have been taking small steps for over two years. I work less, sleep more, spend more time with friends, visit the beach more often, and go on holidays more regularly. With each step, I come closer to a life that suits me. But more importantly, I learned to reflect and act according to that continuously. This lesson is more valuable than the actual change or big life goal I set for myself.

Today I say I want to live and work in Greece to be happy. However, this goal is not the one I started with two years ago and might not be the one that results in happiness two years from now. I change through my experiences and with these experiences my goal in life changes. True happiness is not about reaching anything in life. It is about listening to what is inside you and being true to whatever you hear. And an after-vacation dip is the perfect moment to start listening!

Happiness on vacation. Don’t expect perfection

While planning a holiday, we often obsess over finding the perfect destination. The highest mountain, the bluest sea, or the most beautiful sunset is what we all aim for. However, having high hopes and great expectations for the perfect holiday might end in disappointment. Why don’t we find happiness on our vacation? Maybe we should stop planning our holidays as strictly as we are used to.

Unexpected experience

During my recent travels through Peleponnese, I experienced the benefit of traveling without a plan. I did have a list of famous places I wanted to visit and a route that would take me there. In between, however, I wanted to see as much as possible of everything I came across on on the road. The things I did not know existed before I was there. And it was at these places that I felt most grateful.

I planned to visit Epidavros. Epidavros was a small city in ancient Greece and had the most well-preserved theatre. The site is on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites and is a famous tourist attraction. A must-see. And after visiting, I can say it is a truly impressive ancient site in Greece.

Afterward, I found an old sign pointing me in the direction of “The sunken city of Epidavros.” A not-well-known and not at all popular site. However, following the signs, I ended up at a deserted beach, and just off-shore, I found the ruins of an ancient villa, inhabited by fish and sea-urchins. Now, that’s an experience!

Stop planning and chasing

We all live a busy life with full agendas. Work, exercise, kids, and social gatherings. We live according to a schedule, always busy with too many things, rushing from one place to the next. Holidays are scarce, and often we want to get the most out of them.

I believe many people are afraid of not fully utilizing their precious time off or expensive airplane tickets. What if I fly from the USA to Greece and only visit one island? This is why many of us make the mistake of taking a schedule with us on our holidays.

I met someone who had just ten days of vacation in Greece but wanted to see everything during these days. He flew to Athens, visited Peleponnese, and got a plane to Rhodes. Trying to visit many famous sites, he forgot to plan time for his holiday and returned feeling both tired and disappointed. He did not experience Greece, nor did he find happiness. He did not allow himself to do so.

By allowing yourself time to relax and explore whatever you find on your way, a holiday can get way more exciting and rewarding. You don’t need the plan to visit the fanciest places or chase the most Instagram-able pictures. Let go. That’s what a holiday should be. 

Lower your expectations

Going somewhere for a holiday believing this place will be amazing, will probably result in at least a bit of disappointment. Most of the information we find online is edited or based on perfect circumstances. However, chances are small that you will experience this ideal image. Human happiness is often a result of us exceeding our expectations. But when your goal is a flawless holiday, it will be extremely difficult to surpass your predictions. 

Besides the location, I believe we also expect too much of our holiday. Divorce rates, for example, increase significantly after summer vacations. A big part of the year we are ok with the problems we encounter in our everyday life, telling ourselves that things will get better during our holiday. This way, we put so much pressure on our vacation that you can be almost certain of disappointment, and in the worst case, a divorce when returning home.

But when you allow yourself to lower your expectations, true happiness can be found on even the simplest vacation. I see this not only in myself but also in the people around me. Today, I am in the North of Greece, in Xanthi, a location that does not really allow for high expectations, nor does it have great weather at the moment. However, the tourists I see right now in front of me, are dancing on the beach. Celebrating their time together and being free. 

I rarely see tourists as happy in more famous locations in Greece. And I believe that when they made the choice to visit a less-known and less perfect place, they opened themselves up for happiness during their vacation.

Change your purpose

I won’t say that everyone should stop visiting the more popular islands and sites in Greece to have a happy holiday. You can go island hopping or visit the turquoise waters in Elafonisi. You can go to Santorini to watch the perfect sunset. But don’t let these small things be the main purpose of your holiday.

Leave your home and country behind simply to get away from them. I believe the best vacation goal is to get away from your scheduled life and instead just live in the moment. One, you will succeed at this goal almost always. But more importantly, with this goal, you will have countless unexpected experiences and little moments of happiness throughout your vacation.

Tips:

Book a hotel you know nothing about

Don’t check the location or the amenities before going. Instead, set a budget and book whatever pops up first. I did this with 8 out of 10 of the previous hotels I have stayed in, and all of them surprised me in some way. 

When you search for a hotel on a budget, you can try to find the best one, but there will always be something wrong. You read about it and expect it to be good. But if you don’t want to pay more than 25-30 euros a night, I can promise you it will never be good, no matter how much you research.

By just booking the first available hotel, you skip the mental step in which you create expectations. You can say it was cheap and will probably look cheap. If you arrive and find the perfect mattress, great shower, or sea view, the room is exceeding your expectations. Which means happiness.

Be curious

Greece has many famous sites, but even more road signs pointing you towards the least visited touristic locations. Try following one of them and see where it leads you! Often when the attraction itself is not very interesting, you might come across a hidden tavern, idyllic church, or undiscovered beach. 

Food is also a perfect topic for curiosity in Greece. Everyone knows feta, gyros, and mousaka, but there is so much more. Every region in Greece has its own local cheese, for example. And the recipe of mousaka changes throughout Greece. Ask taverns what their seasonal specialty is instead of just ordering from the menu. Try new food and local products.

Enjoy the road

In Greece, it is a shame to just travel from one point to another without enjoying what is in between. Going off the highway and instead choosing the national roads, you will pass by traditional villages, old churches, mountains, and small beaches. You will see real Greece, the things that make this country special. So don’t move around awaiting your next destination. Enjoy the journey, and be open to new experiences and opportunities along the road.

Talk

No one knows better how to enjoy an area than people who have lived there for years. Be open to tips from locals, and not just the hotel owners. Especially in non-touristic places, the Greeks are open to having conversations. Often they have interesting things to say about the region they live in and know the hidden gems around. Follow their advice and experience happiness during your vacation!

Greek time

Whoever believes that time in Greece is EET, Eastern European Time, is wrong. Although the Greek clock may tick according to EET, real Greek time is a totally different concept. The Greeks only use EET (clock) time for the airport, public transportation, and tourists. And although even these are often late in Greece, I strongly advise you to watch your clock. For everything else in Greece, however, no clock is needed to be on time.

Greek time zone

The time zone in Greece is EET, or UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) +2. From the last weekend of March, till the last weekend in October, Greece uses daylight saving time, meaning UTC +3. However, these terms don’t say much. So here is an overview of Greek time compared to the time at other places around the world, to make the Greek time zone a bit more understandable.

LONDONGreek time = your time + 2 hours
NEW YORK Greek time = your time + 7 hours
LOS ANGELESGreek time = your time + 10 hours
SIDNEYGreek time = your time – 8 hours
Curious about your city? Check here

Greek meeting time

Last weekend I was going to a Greek birthday party. Before I went, I knew the party was going to happen somewhere that weekend, but nothing more precise. Around noon I finally got the invite, the party was going to start in one hour. Reaching the venue at 2 pm, there was nothing like a party yet. My friends were still at home, sipping their coffees and getting dressed. In the end, this party started at 3 pm, 2 hours late.

This is how Greek time works, especially when meeting friends. There will consistently be a delay from at least 30 minutes, up to a couple of hours. Greek time might seem quite rude to you, like the Greeks don’t care about keeping other people waiting. In Greece, however, this is the opposite of rudeness. Greek time is about freedom and not demanding things from other people.

From Eva Lauder on Twitter

Time is just an indication

The birthday party this weekend, for instance, did not start late because my friends ignored time altogether and did not care for their guests. Their daughter, who was turning one that day, had fallen asleep just before the party started. Knowing that the little girl would cry the whole afternoon when waking her up to attend on time, they decided to do what was best for the girl. My friends let her sleep and started when she woke up and had the energy to enjoy her first birthday.

For the Greeks without children, time works similarly. Imagine you tell your friend to meet in an hour. You’re getting ready to go out but your mother calls you, what would you do? Real Greeks would never rush to hang up on their mom, nor anyone else, to be on time to meet you. Instead, they will be late but enjoy the phone call, expecting you to do the same. Greek hours are more of an indication than the actual 60 minutes that pass on the clock.

When in Greece, forget about the actual time! Don’t rush somewhere when time is ticking, and don’t wait for something to happen. Take it easy, siga siga, do something you like even when you think you’re supposed to wait. If this means that you will be late, so be it. At least you had fun and didn’t waste your own time. That’s Greek time, the journey is more important than the number on the clock.

The Greek afternoon

There is one more thing about Greek time that is very confusing for foreigners, the afternoon. The definition of the afternoon is the time between noon and 6 pm. After 6 in the afternoon, the evening comes, followed by the night. At least, this is what I learned about the stages of the day. And the English dictionary agrees with me.

When I started dating my Greek boyfriend, he would often tell me to meet in the afternoon. Since I did not know much about Greek culture, yet, I was often waiting for him from 3 or 4 pm. He, however, would usually show up around 8 or 9 in the evening. Leaving me thinking that I had found the most Greek-timed Greek.

Turned out, that in Greek time, my boyfriend wasn’t actually late. His afternoons have 3 or 4 hours more than mine! In Greece, the evening is skipped, meaning the afternoon is long and goes straight to night.

To make things more confusing. When greeting in Greek, the opposite happens. You say Kalispera, good evening during the evening as well as the night. Here the night doesn’t exist and the evening does!

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From a successful career to an uncertain life

We are all taught that we have to study and work hard in order to make it in life. Having to be richer and more successful than our parents, the bar for us is high. So high, that many of us are under continuous pressure to “make it”. However, with all of us trying to become professionals, we end up looking like amateurs. You will have to be part of the very lucky one percent if you want to feel like you reached your goal of truly being special in this world. For the rest of us, I guess we just have to get the best out of our way there, our life, something many of us forget. At least I did. And this is my story, explaining why I am willing to trade a successful career in architecture for an uncertain life in Greece.

I kept pushing through

I spent the last ten years of my life dedicated to becoming the best architect I could possibly be. Working at top firms in the Netherlands, a 12-hour day at the office was a normal part of my daily schedule. Even the weekends I spent at the job. I truly believed that my professional success was the most essential thing in life. I could not even imagine what I would do if I did not have my career.

But as my years as an architect passed, I became more aware of the fact that I was not really living my life. I was living my work, but not myself. Traveling rarely, never taking a day off, and pushing through if I was sick. I never allowed myself to stop to listen to what it was I needed or wanted. Then, my beloved grandfather died in 2019 and I was unable to permit myself to take a break to grieve. Pushing through the pain of the loss I had felt, I reached my limit. I needed a change in my life.

Dark times followed my success

The start of this change was marked by a difficult time. I had a complete breakdown. Struggling with extreme tiredness, anxiety, and sadness, unable to continue the life I used to live. Even not able to buy bread at the supermarket across the street, it was time for me to stop.

I grieved my grandfather, my career, and mostly myself in the following months. I cried 10 years’ worth of tears and slept the rest of my days. But no matter how down I was during these months, I always felt that what I was going through was a good thing. I never pitied myself, nor did I feel like things would never get better. I needed a reset, and the darkness was just part of the beginning of that

Childhood trauma made me loose myself

In the summer that followed these dark months, I visited Greece for the first time. Meeting my boyfriend’s loving family, living a slow life, and connection with nature, made me reflect on what I had missed out on the decade before. As a young kid, I had always liked to swim and hike, grow vegetables, paint, built furniture, read books, write, and allow myself to get carried away by the creativity that was within my own mind. I used to be chaotic, creative, impulsive, and full of energy. However, for some reason, I ended up being an adult who did not have any of these characteristics.

I lost myself, I had drifted far away from the person I genuinely was and instead lived pretending to be someone else. I can tell you numerous reasons that explain why this happened to me. Including always being the strange kid in school, physical abuse and rape. But these reasons don’t really matter. The important part was that I recognized the parts of myself that I had been missing. I finally knew what to look for.

I am more than my career

It took a while for me to find myself back. I basically had to learn to let go of all the little norms I had taught myself to live by. When you say to yourself that you are not allowed to laugh for over twenty years, it is extremely hard to start giggling straight after you decide you want to. But piece by piece I reconnect with myself. Not only with the little girl I once used to be, but with a completely new adult version of myself as well.

I learned to be me, and love myself for that. I stopped rushing through life but instead learned to enjoy the journey that is my life. However, I was, and unfortunately still am, an architect at a big firm in the Netherlands. I am still expected to pursue a successful career in architecture. I still have to work overtime without getting paid, and I am still bound to a minimum amount of free days a year. The only difference is that today I can say that I don’t want this life any longer. And this made me realize that going from a successful career to an uncertain life in Greece might not be such a bad option for me.

Life in an office doesn’t suit me

The problem with a successful career today is that we are all putting too much pressure on our colleagues. Especially us, over-perfectionistic architects, are way too good at this. We all peer-pressure each other into staying longer, making slightly more beautiful images, and never stop thinking about a design. And even when you do this, it is never enough.

For me, a life like this does simply not work. Being someone who loves doing different things at the same time while being in touch with my body as well as nature, sitting on a chair for hours, looking at the same drawing on the screen in front of me, adjusting every little detail to create perfection, just to do it all over again the next day, simply does not work. I need to be outside, I need to be active. I need to be physically tired at the end of my days and I need to be able to be more out-of-the-box creative.

Uncertainty is better than not being myself

Understanding this part of myself, combined with the loving family that is waiting for me in Greece, made me decide that I will give up my career by the end of this year. Feeling like I will not function in the world of architecture without losing a part of myself, I choose to follow my own needs. What Greece will bring is still quite uncertain. Maybe I can work in tourism, or maybe this travel blog will turn out to go well. I could design holiday homes in Santorini, become an architect in Greece, teach English, or work in a bar or tavern. But since this life of uncertainty is less scary than having to tell myself to stay with my successful career, one more year, I believe the decision to quit is the right one. I am ready for my next adventure!

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Siga, Siga

During your stay in Greece, while sipping coffee in front of the sea, you will hear the phrase, “siga siga” all around you. But what does it mean? Is it an exotic island like Bora Bora, or the scientific name of an animal like Vulpes Vulpes? Why would all the Greeks keep talking about this mysterious place or animal? How can something be so important that all Greeks need to remind each other about it all the time?

Meaning of Siga Siga

One thing is sure. “Σιγά-σιγά” is very important to the Greeks. However, it is not an animal, nor an exotic island. Siga siga is not an actual physical thing, it is a way of life. It is one of the simplest but most identifying phrases the Greeks use.

If you search on Wiktionary you will find the following three explanations of siga-siga. Gradually, carefully, and very slowly. But I will add one more. Relaxingly! Because, although siga means slowly, siga-siga does not simply mean doing things twice as slow. It is a mindset rather than a speed limit.

Example no.1: Relax

Imagine you are in line to buy a ticket for a concert of your favorite band. It is crowded and people start getting impatient. They start pushing and trying to skip the line. At that point, you hear someone shouting ” Σιγά-σιγά ρε παιδιά. Φτάνουν για όλους”. Relax children! There is enough for everyone.

Example no.2: Careful

For our next example, imagine you are on an expedition. Indiana Jones-style, in the wild, with your best friend. In front of you, is a flimsy wooden suspension bridge. After a quick discussion, you decide that you will be the one going over the bridge first. Your friend will say to you “Σιγά-σιγά φίλε μου. Η γέφυρα δεν είναι σταθερή”. Careful my friend. The bridge is not stable.

Example no.3: Slow down

Or you are sitting in an amazing ταβέρνα, a tavern, next to a beach with golden sand and clear blue water. But you are hungry and eating way too fast. Your partner will say “Σιγά-σιγά παιδάκι μου, δεν θα σου κλέψουν το φαγητό”. Slow down my boy, no one will steal your food.

Example no.4: Gradually

Lastly, you are thinking about the next big business idea and you are getting anxious about what comes next in life. Your friend says “Σιγά-σιγά και όλα θα γίνουν”. Gradually everything will be done.

Live as relaxed as possible

So, what we found out until now is that σιγά-σιγά is a versatile phrase that can be used in almost every situation, explaining a physical or a mental state. You can use it while eating, drinking, traveling, swimming, thinking, or just existing. And this last bit is what makes this phrase unique. Σιγά-σιγά is a way of life.

Life nowadays moves quickly, there is no time to think, and stress is everywhere. Have you ever heard about the Blue Zones? There are 5 areas around the world with the highest percentage of octogenarians in the world. What they all have in common is a stressless life. Not an easy life, just stressless. One of those 5 magical areas is the island of Ikaria in Greece. Life there is slow, someone could say life is passing “σιγά-σιγά”. And this is what most Greeks are trying to find in their hectic lives.

Striving for a more relaxed life is not a new thing and is even documented in our culture through poems and songs. One of Greece’s most influential poets Constanine P. Cavafys wrote the famous poem Ithaka. In it, he says “Αλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξείδι διόλου” meaning “But do not hurry the journey at all”. With it this poem he tries to remind us about the importance of the journey of life and changing our mindset.

Being reminded that you need to relax and slow down can do wonders. No human is a machine, our bodies and minds need the time to recover, think and process the millions of stimuli we live amongst.

Try to slow down because on this trip you will learn and enjoy everything that the world has to offer.

Remember to say σιγά-σιγά

So next time you are in Greece remember to say σιγά-σιγά when you are:

  • Traveling: enjoy the magnificent view and the sun charging your inner battery.
  • Eating a meal: food in Greece is not only about combating our hunger. Talk with your friends and family or make new friends from the table next to you.
  • Drinking coffee: relax and enjoy every sip of your tasteful coffee or drink. No one is coming to get you.
  • Waiting: is your friend a bit late or are you stuck in a queue. Just look around and σιγά-σιγά everything will be solved.
  • Sleeping: yes I know it sounds stupid. But trust me, a lot of us are stressed even during our sleep.
Is σιγά-σιγά a lifestyle that you support? And what are your biggest hurdles toward having a relaxed lifestyle? Please leave us a comment! We are extremely interested to learn what people think since we can all learn from each other

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Why there are so many Greeks outside Greece

Greeks love their culture and country. But many of them decided to leave Greece after the economic crisis that started in 2008. Unemployment was high while salaries hit a low. Many highly-educated young people decided to leave their country, in search of the ability to afford life. And so, Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands, amongst many other countries, became home to a young Greek community.

Greeks stick together

Although most Greeks found good jobs with a stable income in these countries, they entered a completely different culture. Being raised surrounded by family and friends, Western Europe should have felt both lonely and cold to them. Missing the chaos and warmth of their own culture, they stuck to the other Greeks.

The Greeks away from Greece are all part of at least one Greek family of very close friends. My boyfriend, for example, was living with no less than six other Greeks before we moved in together. A Greek colleague of mine lives with four and our Greek neighbor, who lives alone, is never at home, spending her time surrounded by other Greeks on their couch.

Cultural difference

There are little Greek communities everywhere. And surprisingly, I do totally understand them. We Dutch might seem open and friendly at first, but when it comes to close friendship, we still stick to our agenda’s and send you away when dinner is ready.

Meeting my parents for coffee means arranging a date about a month before, complete with the location of the coffee we’re going to drink. Then as soon as the coffee is finished, they will leave, moving on to the next item on their agenda.

And then there is the Greek way of going for coffee. It can happen whenever and wherever doing whatever. They do what they want when they want to do it, they don’t plan ahead, not even 5 minutes, definitely not when it comes to their personal lives. And I believe they are right to life this way.

Even after 10 years it is temporary

I guess a big part of why the Greeks stick to their own culture is the fact that many Greeks didn’t choose to leave their country. Or at least not permanently. The Greeks I know, came to the Netherlands believing to only stay for one or two years. Waiting for the Greek economy to recover they have spent over 10 years away from home. But they never wanted that, nor do they want it now.

Moving back home

Slowly I see more and more of our friends moving back to their hometowns in Greece. Choosing the warmth of their culture over the money they can make elsewhere and the safety that comes with it.

The continuous struggle the Greeks have between missing their culture and loved ones, and having the security of a Dutch job is painful to see. While on the other hand, them working for 12 hours a day for a salary they can not afford an apartment with might be even worse. I just really hope that a trend of Greeks moving back will help the economic situation of Greece, making it the beautiful country it once was.

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S’agapo. Greek family love

Greeks are very loving people. And especially with their family and friends Greeks are not afraid to express their love for each other. Moms refer to their children with agapie mou, my love. And whenever friends leave after just hanging out, they will say bye to each other with filakia. Little kisses. I love you in Greece is not just limited to the most intimate relationships. Especially children, parents and yiayia’s express their love with everyone who might say it back. So don’t be surprised when a Greek tells you these three words. Well, two in Greek.

The (lack of) love I know

When I started learning Greek, I was very happy to learn ways to express my love for my boyfriend to him in his own language. Often I would tell him to kiss me or how much I adored him in Greek. For me it felt like the most special thing between us. Coming from a Dutch family I learned that love is only for the ones most close to you. And for my parents, that was not me, meaning that s’ayago might have been the first verbal expression of my love.

But then I went to Greece. And to be honest, discovering the Greek love was quite overwhelming.

The Greek warmth

It started with observing how much the whole family loved my boyfriend. And I mean everyone from the family! Parents, sister and yiayia where waiting to tell him how much they loved him. Uncles, aunts and cousins followed. And then came the two-and-something year old nephew, that could not even have remembered seeing my boyfriend ever before in his life. Over twenty people, all saying the words that had seemed so special to me.

But although all the love did not really make sense to me, I did feel like I was entering a warm family, or culture even. I imagined my own future kids growing up around so many people to care for them. It should feel extremely safe to have so many relatives around. If only I had a family like my boyfriend’s…

Well, I did get a family like his, very quickly.

I guess it was within the first few days that yiayia expressed her love for me, s’agapo koritsi mou. I love you my girl. Soon after this mother and father followed, then nona. Within the first week the whole family expressed their love for me. Sweet, but also overwhelming. I mean, I literally just met them!

Is it love?

In the beginning I was really struggling with their openness and feelings towards me. The practical Dutch in me kept saying that loving someone so soon is simply impossible. Love takes time right? On the other hand, I knew that I did felt something for this family. They were so kind and warm. Even if it wasn’t the love I knew, I was definitely very fond of these loving people I now lived so close with.

After my mental fight, I started being more open about love. The Greek love. I figured that s’agapo might have a different meaning than what it translates into. For me today, greek love is a way to tell my Greek family that I appreciate them. That I accept them as a part of my life, that I accept them as people I can open up to and value for who they are. I believe this is the real Greek translation for s’agapo.

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Why I fell in love with Greece

I guess most of you know Greece as an ideal holiday destination. The combination of beautiful and unique beaches, crystal-clear blue waters, tasty fresh food, countless ancient ruins, and idyllic villages make this country one of the top places in the world to spend your summer. Why not love Greece? Well, for me, my love for Greece only grew after the country became more than what it is famous for.

I didn’t know Greece

Before I met my Greek boyfriend, I had never been to Greece and neither had I ever wanted to go to one of its famous islands. In general, I had never been a beach holiday person. I tried it once, long ago in Italy, but I felt bored within just a couple of days. So I decided back then to spend my holidays only on quick city trips.

When my boyfriend and I started planning our first trip to Greece to meet his family, I was afraid. We were going for a month. Stayed at the beach house with my boyfriend’s parents in a small non-touristic area. What was I supposed to do there? I really expected myself wanting to come back within the first week.

The beach house

But then we reached the beach house, and with beach house, I mean a house literally on the beach. Away from everything else. There is almost no cellphone reception or internet. No cars passing by and no people other than the family to share the beach with. But instead of freaking out about the month to come, I immediately recognized this place as a little paradise. Just for us.

During our first weeks there I started learning the greek way of living in summer. Swimming before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eating fresh fish straight from the sea and vegetables from the garden. Doing some work around the house in the morning, taking a nap in the afternoon, and meeting friends at night. I learned how to live with nature and family, which I, as a Dutch city girl, never tried before.

My father-in-law taught me how the direction of the wind and the temperature of the land and water determine the state of the sea. My eighty-something-year-old grandma-in-law taught me how burning coffee scares away the mosquitoes. And my mother-in-law taught me to cook with whatever was around the house and my boyfriend taught me how to fish.

I fell in love

Every member of his family and there are many of them in a Greek family, taught me something new. But the main thing I learned was to appreciate slowing down. Never had I felt more relaxed and loved as I did after just a week at my boyfriend’s family. I cried a lot that first trip, tears from real happiness, real connection, or from the diverse and beautiful landscape around me. I found my home with my love for Greece.

For two years now we have been traveling back and forth between Greece and our home in The Netherlands and it is difficult. We both prefer to stop coming back here. We want to live our lives in the country we both love instead of making money in a place we simply don’t connect with. But it is scary to leave the safety of the Netherlands knowing that life in Greece will get hard. It is a big step, that we prepare for every day.

Vitamin D deficiency in summer

Every year there are around thirty million people who come to enjoy the Greek summer sun. But while the tourists take over the many Greek beaches to work on their tanning. The locals often are trapped inside with a vitamin D deficiency in summer.

Life in a Greek city during summer is far from the paradise we find in Greece as foreigners. The continuous heat combined with the lack of greenery, makes the cities heat up so much during the day that the only way to live is by staying inside. With the windows, shutters, and curtains closed and the air-conditioning put to its maximum. Waiting for the night to come.

Fortunately, many Greeks that live in the big cities have a family house somewhere far away from the boiling concrete. But amongst the people that do not have this luxury or the ones that have to work too much for too little money and can not afford to leave the city, vitamin D deficiency in summer is a very common problem.

So next time you find yourself drinking a cocktail on one of Greece’s paradise-like beaches. Getting rid of your vitamin D deficiency. Think about the real Greeks. Because real life in this beautiful country is not as pleasant as your stay there.

Everyone is a child in Greece

The meaning of the word child in Greek is unlike its translation into any other language. While for most of us, a child is a young human being. Either below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority. In Greece, everyone can be called a child.

Let’s do a quiz!

Question nr. 1

Imagine a Greek family hanging out at the house. There are three generations, your parents, you and your boyfriend, your sister with her husband and their children. When lunch is ready, your mother says: éla, paidia! Come, children!
Who is she calling?

You!

Question nr. 2

Now your sister is calling with her friends about going out that evening after lunch. At one point she says: the paidia are at my parents!
What does she mean?

I would translate this into let’s go out! My parents are taking care of the kids tonight so I finally have some free time to do what I want. But not in Greece. Again you are the child and it means that she will stay in with the family.

Question nr. 3

To make things even more complicated. Now your sister goes home to get her children and while she is away your mother says to you: the paidia are coming tonight!

Now your mother is not talking about you, nor is she talking about the children of your sister. Instead, the sister that just called you a child is now being referred to as the child as is her husband. Everyone is a child in Greece.

Question nr. 4

Let’s move to a different setting. You are thirty years old and just reached your hotel somewhere in Greece. When you drive up to the parking you pass a swimming pool and playground, both packed with children. Suddenly a woman pops up in front and says: edw, paidia! Here, children!
What does she mean?

Off course she is not the mother of some of the playing kids you just passed, calling them inside for whatever. No. It’s Greece! This woman in the owner of the hotel, telling you to follow her to the parking lot.

Question nr. 5

Last one! You’re with a group of friends, having dinner at a tavern. Dessert is finished, the bill is paid and you want to leave to go to a bar for a drink.
What do you say?

Probably you get the idea now, pame paidia! Let’s go children! Is the correct answer.

No one ever grows up. Everyone is a child in Greece.