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.