Posts Tagged ‘travel

04
Jan
19

Greece is the word – part 2

Crete countryside

We saw a lot of spectacular countryside in Greece. This island (on the island of Crete) helped defend Crete

For part one of this series, click here.

So, the clan is back from Greece, but I’m still catching up on posts.

While in Greece, aside from the general discomfort with being uncomfortable, the other challenging thing was about trying to avoid cultural missteps.

We went into the trip I think, as a family, with the assumption we’d fuck up somewhere. It doesn’t matter how careful you are or how well prepared you are, unless you’re a robot you’re going to mess up.

I’m actually sure there are cultural issues for robots to step in as well but luckily, I don’t have to worry about those.

I think it’s important to acknowledge both that you can and should try to adhere to the mores and expectations of another culture as a visitor, as well as understand you will also fail at times because you just don’t know any better and give yourself a little break.

When we left for Greece, I was worried about simple things like driving rules and tipping – which is much different overseas, since waiters and other people Americans tip are paid better. As that’s the case, expectations for tips (when they are there at all) are much different.

What I learned while traveling is that there are much more subtle cultural things to be aware of.

Cheese Tour

Even after a tour at this cheese factory, they broke out the raki.

For example, when we visited Crete, at the end of every meal – and ore than a few tours and stops on those tours – we were given small shot-glasses filled with what is called raki (pronounced rocky as in Balboa), an alcoholic drink usually given after a meal.

What I learned not soon after arriving on Crete is that it’s impolite to not accept the raki or not drink it.

Now, not doing so isn’t the end of the world (and a few times, after multiple stops and six or seven shots, I was pretty sure I’d have to refuse the next one) but it’s one of those little things that, knowing it going in, gives you the opportunity to figure out how to deal with it ahead of time without insulting someone.

Also, and this circles back to something I said in the last post, I also felt (self-imposed) pressure to learn a little Greek. It seemed like a polite thing to do, to at least be able to say basic things like yes, thanks, you’re welcome, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and so on.

raki empties

We saw a lot of these after meals on the island of Crete.

You don’t have to – and I was surprised how many people spoke English – but it doesn’t take much effort, especially with a smartphone that can look things up any time you need it to.

I’m sure we messed up, though I’m not sure I know of a specific time, but nobody was unkind or harsh if we did. A lot of that was probably because we were dealing with folks who deal with tourists every day, but even regular folks we met while out and about were very nice.

As I said in the last post, as an American abroad I – and several others in my group – were keenly aware of the sometimes-poor reputation of Americans traveling abroad and didn’t want to be “those guys.” On top of that, I had the chance to show my kids how to be respectful of other cultures, especially when traveling.

Hopefully that will a lesson they carry going forward wherever they go, because whether you’re traveling across the Atlantic to Greece, just hopping the border to Mexico or Canada, or just visiting another part of the USA, people live different lives in different ways.

Appreciating and acknowledging that seems like the least you can do when you’re away from home and visiting someone else’s.

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