It seems to me, Anglo-Saxons have a great deal less trouble when it comes to the generation gap issue. I cannot picture my grandmother marrying an 80-year-old gentleman she met online five years after my grandfather passed away. (Hell, she can not see herself going online to begin with). I cannot picture her going to a Pilates class either.
When my mum had me it was understood my grandmother would raise me so that she could pursue a second degree, spend time with her husband, travel and enjoy life in general. Had my family been of Anglo-Saxon origin, rather than of Greek origin, none of the above would have been an option. My mum would have been at home taking care of me while her mother traveled around the world. She would be receiving the occasional postcard from Bali, Indonesia or Malaysia.
Greek grandparents take their grandparent role to extremes. They cannot even begin to fathom how any grandparent could willingly place oneself in any location further than 10 minutes away from their children’s home. Things start to get really hot once Greek grandparents need to deal with non-Greek in-laws. The American grandmother drags her son around Athens so she can see the sights. She’s excited and in a general state of euphoria, greatly enjoying her Greek holiday when she allows her son to buy her a Greek key bracelet. She then notices the matching necklace. “Gosh, she says, this is so cute!” and relishes the moment while her son buys her the necklace as well. At this point, the Greek grandmother is ready to explode. How dare this woman do that! She is an old lady! What does she need jewelry for? She should be giving her children money, not requesting extra lavish gifts from them! Where is her motherly instincts? What is she even thinking?
Relax! God knows, there is no right and wrong here – or in any other culture clash issue. In the Anglo-Saxon culture a mother’s role comes to a close once the children leave their parents’ home. For Greeks, on the other hand, it’s all a struggle so that children don’t leave home. Ever. Or if they absolutely have to, it’s a struggle to get them in a home located in the same building, neighborhood or at least the same suburb as themselves…Lame, yes, I know. Comes in handy too.
Babysitting is a widely spread first job for many teenage girls here in the U.S.. In Greece, not so much. Why would you need a babysitter when you have a grandma handy? Teens in Greece are discouraged from working and if possible forbidden to work. “Why do you need to work? Don’t we give you enough money?” Greek parents will say once a teenager expresses the outrageous wish to work. Parents’ overprotective attitude ends up getting accepted as the norm and kids remain so till their early thirties or even forties or fifties, or until they are allowed to get married.
Needless to say, parents have to have a say in everything regarding the newlyweds’ lives. Where they will live should be up to them anyway, since they are usually the ones buying the house/condo in the first place. What furniture they will have, what sort of electric appliances they should pick etc. As soon as this is done, their job will be to help the young couple preserve their beautiful state-of-the-art home in an excellent, untouched-excellent, condition. To be successful in that, no cooking is allowed in the new kitchen. All cooking is done in the parents’ old kitchen and food is delivered daily for the new couple to eat. Once grandchildren arrive, the grandparents act as constant on-call babysitters that do not even need to be asked to provide their services.
Anglo-Saxons will think you are crazy if you try to explain all the above to them. They will probably try to mumble things like “invasion of privacy” and “alone time” only to be silenced by your own grandmother’s loving command to come eat the stifado before it gets cold. When in doubt, it’s always easier to show than tell.