Don’t spit the dummy, but…

When you travel to another country, you have to be aware that they may not follow the same rules or customs as your country does. Some countries have really strange laws that can catch people out, and others just have really bizarre traditions.

Greece is no exception to this.

In most places, spitting is a sign of disgust or an indication someone may have accidentally swallowed a fly. It is seen as rude, even to accidentally spit on someone whilst speaking to them.

When you visit Greece, do not be alarmed if, when talking to a local, they spit three times.

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I see that shocked expression on your face. This may be a completely new phenomena to you or you may have thought it only happened in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Well I’m telling you, it happens.

This is a tradition that, especially as a new traveller, may make you feel uncomfortable or even violated. To you, spitting is most likely something you think of as disgusting. It might make you feel dirty or as though you are disliked. Don’t stress though! If you know about these traditions before you travel then they will be less shocking.

Spitting is an old Greek superstition. People believe that spitting three times, sometimes after giving a compliment, will keep evil away. They also believe it stops people from encountering misfortunes or the ‘evil eye’.

Culture shock or culture confusion can be difficult to overcome. However if you are well versed on the customs and laws before you visit that will help reduce the effects. One of the ways you can minimise ‘culture shock’ or ‘culture confusion’ is to travel and expose yourself to customs or laws you may not be familiar with. Researching your country will help keep your expectations more realistic when travelling.

Our skills are valuable

This time last year, there were thousands of refugees entering Greece from Middle Eastern countries, mainly Syria and Afghanistan. 

Right now, there are more than 60,000 refugees in Greece waiting to be granted Asylum. Many are living in tents, and many have no shelter at all. The camps that they live in do not meet international standards (http://metro.co.uk/2017/01/26/more-than-60000-refugees-stuck-in-limbo-in-greece-6406997/).

How might we frame this issue as it pertains to Greece? Well, most people are aware that there are numerous countries producing thousands of refugees. There are thousands that have gone to Greece, and while it allows these refugees to live in a safer country, Greece is in the middle of an economic crisis and is struggling to look after its own citizens, let alone all these refugees. If people in other countries offer aid to these refugees, it will take the strain off Greece.

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Brothers staying warm under blankets

As a university student, my hands-on skills are limited. It is possible, however, for us to raise funds and travel to Greece to provide some support. Winter in Greece is harsh and for people who have nothing even the smallest amount of generosity would help, providing more blankets, for instance. Not having travelled much its hard to know what these people are going through. I can use my communication and empathy skills to listen to the stories coming from the refugee camps, to ask good questions and share these stories through my social media accounts to raise awareness among friends and family.

To make our involvement more meaningful, however, we could raise money to build shelters for those refugees who are struggling the most in Greece, and work with people who have designed temporary refugee camp shelters in the past. Greece cannot afford to care for these refugees, therefore people in other countries need to be aware of the issue and find out what they can do to help.

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A refugee family in Greece

The place everyone seems to be talking about

In recent years the Greek Islands have increased in prominence as the ‘place to be’ for young travellers. Seeing people on social media posting images of the islands and writing caption such as “I want to be here” or “take me back to my favourite place” intrigued me. Here are these beautiful images of clear blue water and islands frozen in time, where on earth could they be? I soon discovered that the place everyone was raving about were the Greek Islands. They have become an iconic travel destination for young tourists and travellers alike. Some islands have great night life. Some people love the idea of sailing through turquoise waters and being able to swim off the boat at their leisure. These islands have become an iconic Greek symbol, and have been drawing a new wave of travellers to the historic country.

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Promoting the islands would increase tourism for the islands, but not necessarily for Greece. Many ‘island hopping’ tours take you in and out of Athens and straight for the islands. Tourism in Greece may have also receded in the past few years as the economy there declined.

Death of the Euro

Athens is slowly becoming a Mecca for street artists, with many critics referring to it as “the new Berlin”. Much of the graffiti in Athens, as in many other cities, has an obviously political motive, with many pieces referring to the economic crisis. The featured image here, (from http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/street-art-greece_n_6149098), depicts work by a French street artist known as Goin’ in central Athens, and highlights how the majority of Greeks view the current financial situation. This piece is known as ‘Death of the Euro’.

The Global Financial Crisis

Greece, a country that was already in debt with many other countries, was unable to repay its debt when the GFC reached it and other countries were no longer able to loan it money. Post-GFC, street art grew phenomenally due to the huge number of youths unemployed, who spent their time venting their feelings and frustrations through street art.

Street art such as ‘Death of the Euro’ allows locals to identify with personal feelings of loss and anger related to the financial crisis, as well as artistic loss as the government had to restrict funding for art. As the figures in the artwork are black and white and the faces are not visible, it ‘speaks’ to locals in an inclusive way, as it could be any one of them.

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A tourist walking past the art shows its size.

So while you may be going to Greece for the Islands (aren’t we all?), don’t forget to look for street art like this which has a powerful message and helps you understand what the locals are struggling with. It helps you engage better with the people of Greece on an emotional level. You will be able to interpret everyday life better if you have an understanding of what they are struggling with. You can visit to expand your cultural knowledge and to give you great Instagram opportunities.

 

 

 

Ancient Olympia

The Olympic Games is an event inextricably linked to Greece, however today the Olympics may not be the first thing that comes to mind when someone thinks about Greece. The hype for Greece is around the Greek Islands, so many tourist spots on the mainland get forgotten or reserved for much older travellers who are more interested in the history of this magnificent country. Do not be fooled! Beautifully historic places such as the ancient town of Olympia are a must-add to the bucket list.

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Our modern Olympic Games originated from Olympia in Greece. Many of the events have their roots here. Lonely Planet lists Ancient Olympia as the number 1 sight in Greece: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/greece.

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