Singles of any cultural background face the challenges of trying to date in the era of “political correctness”. Don’t get me wrong, us Greeks are the first in line in desperate need of reinstating a background of respect in the way we deal with people. BUT, the state of fear that is linked to political correctness seems to be shooting down most honest people’s hopes for ever meeting their special person of interest.
What is a guy supposed to say to get the attention of the girl he’d like to meet? In Athens (Greece) anything goes. Anything, though, doesn’t necessarily render positive results. Yet, women shopping at the “laiki” market do not usually mind the “τι κορίτσαρος είσαι εσύ” and “όλη μου τη ζωή εσένα περίμενα!”comments. Once the hospital supervising physician hits on his subordinates during a patient exam, then, of course things start to get out of hand. I suppose, as long as the flirting remains pure in its intention to make a first connection, it would be a shame to let it be misunderstood.
Greeks are great at making advances. (Or were good at making advances?). But they are also good at taking no for an answer without it being a big deal. Most of the time. A Greek guy may try to ask a girl out and get shot down 10s or 100s of times before she agrees to go out with him. A girl is supposed to say no and a guy is supposed to be a pain in the …whatever and keep on pestering her until she gives him the time of day. Would a North American do that? I highly doubt that.
Going out for dinner is one of those language codes used in the U.S. to ask someone out. In Greece, though, not so much. Dinner is of course very much alive and well in Greece. However, asking a Greek woman out to dinner does not necessarily make it plain to her that you would like to date her. Dinner is generally a family activity. Friends go out to lunch or dinner. The ultimate code for a dating activity is going out for coffee(!!), no less.
I guess that would be expected given that everything in Greece revolves around coffee and immaculately decorated ultra modern coffee shops. Still, asking someone for coffee could be a casual friendly thing rather than a straight forward “let’s go out on a date” thing. So, yes, the boundaries are not at all set. The boundaries in Greece are all over the place, anything goes and you should count on your instinct if really in doubt.
Here in the U.S., however, a female colleage may easily start feeling uneasy when asked out to lunch by a friendly Greek colleage. Heck, she could be on the verge of reporting sexual harrassment and the guy may have only said it in a sincere gentleman spirit sort of way after watching her eat alone one too many times. And eating alone would have been a sin in Greece. An acquaintance of mine once spotted me sitting alone in a coffee shop, waiting for my cousin, and she almost instantly turned to a mental patient in crisis. “You are all alone! How come? Should I stay and keep you company. Oh, you are waiting for a friend? My sister is sitting on that other table over there with her friends, would you like to join them and wait with them?” She could not even begin to fathom how a person could be ok sitting alone in a coffee shop even if it were only for a short five or (God forbid…) ten minutes.
And that is not a bad thing. By no means, no. One’s “παρέα” (=every-day companions/group of friends) means the world and thus people mean the world. The “παρέα” constantly expands and new “παρέες” are formed every day. And we all enter new “παρέες” every day. Sitting here contemplating all that, I wonder if anyone not exposed to this reality can ever picture or imagine it unless placed there.
No matter what, it’s always fun when the impersonal sense of being and the Greek spirit’s directness clash. Problems may come out of it…names may be called because of it…pure Greek fun-God knows!