My first night in Greece consisted of dinner. When I arrived it was three in the afternoon and I had had my first international meal at the airport in Turkey. I ate Burger King because they had mostly American fast food in the food court and I didn’t want to try any Turkish cuisine. I was determined to have Greek food, authentic Greek food.
I didn’t have to scour the streets at night by myself to find what I wanted. A group of other study abroad students decided to have dinner and everyone was invited. What I learned early on was that Greeks eat dinner later than Americans. I’m used to having dinner at 5 PM, maybe 6 PM but no later. We left our apartment around nine and followed Elizabeth, one of the girls who happened to be Greek and used to study at ACT.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. At home the only Greek food I can find is from Trader Joe’s in the frozen section (if you haven’t tried their spanakopita I suggest you do, it’s delicious).
We walked a few blocks in the dark until Elizabeth stopped abruptly, signaling for us to sit down while she went inside to speak in Greek with the owner. Apparently Greeks like to haggle and when you go to a taverna or ταβέρνα, haggling is expected. It isn’t a sign of disrespect but something culturally accepted that I don’t fully understand.
I can’t imagine haggling back home at my local diner or Applebee’s (give me free fries and a discount on ribs—yum). The waitress or waiter would probably spit in my food and I’d end up on the 10 o’clock news with a headline like, “College Girl Goes Crazy at Applebee’s! Demands Price Cut on Food!” There would be a long discussion on what’s wrong with my generation, who is to blame, some figures about unemployment and since everyone has a phone now I’m sure I’d be on YouTube, remixed with some awful background music, crazily haggling with the waitress and twerking would somehow be involved.
That scenario aside, it isn’t like that in Greece. Elizabeth came back, sat down at the head of our long wooden table and simply said she had ordered for us and we were getting a discounted price, along with–wait for it–free wine.
For a country currently going through a financial crisis, free wine is not as uncommon as you’d think.
If you try to learn basic Greek hard enough or just have a small conversation with restaurant owners, kiosk workers or employees, you may get a discount, a Greek lesson or a free meal (this is rare but happened to my roommate on her second day here).
What’s not to like about Greece?