I guess I was dating my Greek boyfriend for about a week or two when it was ten o’clock on a Saturday night and he asked me if I wanted to meet him for coffee. I was shocked. Coffee on a Saturday night? I wanted to go out for beers, wine, cocktails, maybe a coke but not coffee, did I meet the most boring Greek alive?
I replied telling him that I had some nice beers at my place and he was welcome to join me for one, or coffee if he really wanted that. Strangely, he came over and we drank my beers together, he did not mention coffee at any point that night. Strange. And from then on, every week he would invite me to have coffee with him.
Greeks go for coffee all the time
I started thinking that coffee was maybe code for a date. Maybe he did not want to call it that and instead just wanted to call it the most boring thing we could do together. But then I met his friends. My boyfriend was also going for a coffee with them, without drinking any coffee. He never drank coffee. And later his friends would tell me to come for a coffee and usually it had nothing to do with coffee, nor was it a romantic date. I slowly started to understand that going for coffee in Greece just means meeting each other.
The funny thing is that when my parents tell me they will come over for a coffee, they will literally have two cups each and leave afterward. So for me, especially in the beginning, I really did not understand that coffee in Greece just means meeting up and doing whatever. But after seeing my father-in-law in his daily life in Greece, I suddenly understood that going for coffee is a very charming part of the Greek culture.
What coffee actually means
My father-in-law lives in a small city in the north of Greece. Every afternoon he goes out for coffee. And I mean, he goes to the main square of the city and does whatever seems interesting at that point. There are days that he will meet friends and sit down for a coffee. Or beers, or lunch, or dinner, talking about the most interesting topics in the news that day.
But there are also days that he enters the new shop that opened on the main street. Just to check who the owner is. Discover what he sells, and how they can be any help to each other business-wise.
There are days that he will not even reach the square. Instead, he finds his brother in need of help in the village house. So he takes his car to drive up there and helps. Or he doesn’t even leave the building but instead spends the afternoon with the neighbor or at his office.
Greeks love their coffee. But what they love even more are their friends and families. They love meeting people, they love being outside and being aware of what is happening in the world around them. Even if Greeks do meet for coffee they love to discuss, argue and gossip with each other more than they love the coffee itself.
I have learned to love the Greek going for coffee. It taught me to meet the people I like without having to stick to a certain activity or specific drink. It’s funny how naming everything the same actually created a lot of flexibility in my life. And although my parents still get their two cups whenever we meet for coffee, I will order dinner and never limit myself again.