Kalimera! Good morning! After our short introduction to Greece it was easy to forget the main reason we were here was to learn.
Our introduction to the American College of Thessaloniki started bright and early with a full day of orientation. There was a lot of grumbling because the day was jam packed with things we had to do. We had breaks only for meals, other than that we had to sit in uncomfortable chairs and force ourselves not to drift off, dreaming about the outside and what we wanted to see next.
In reality, orientation was not that bad. We had a necessary but short thirty minute introduction to the Greek language in order to survive during our six weeks here.
My advice is to learn as much as you can, even if the result is a blank stare at you and your mispronunciation because taxi drivers, regular people on the street and employees in restaurants will correct you to help you learn and teach you a few words of your own.
Here’s what’s important to know, broken down phonetically:
- Jia sas – Hello
- Kalimera – Good morning
- Signomi – Excuse me
- Ne – Yes
- Efharisto – Thank You
You can get around any country by just knowing hello, goodbye, thank you and yes (remember, we don’t use the word no because no allows us to stay in our comfort zone).
Besides those words, here are a few things we learned during orientation:
- Greeks are friendly and happy people. They smile even when they’re angry. (I don’t necessary know if this is true because I’ve yet to witness it. However, I can say they are very friendly people. Don’t be surprised if you’re on the bus and one starts talking to you, asking you about home, where you’re from, what you do and how much money you earn.)
- Girls go on dates supervised by their brother or cousin. Brothers even go out with their sisters or cousins to clubs to make sure no one disrespects them. (True and strange coming from a New Yorker who is used to seeing men and hearing them whistling at women and pressing themselves against them in a club).
- Greeks don’t dance. I didn’t learn this in orientation but this is an observation that has puzzled a few of us. You know how you go to a club in New York or anywhere else in the United States and people head straight to the dance floor? Yeah, it’s not like that in Greece. We visited a few clubs and for the most part they stand around with a drink in their hand and talk. They’ll be provoked to dance when Americans start and will compliment you on your dance moves, no matter how bad they are (shopping cart anyone?).
After sitting around for a few hours our final task for orientation was a campus tour.