Summer in Greek means a whole lot more than it does in English. Naturally, everybody has the ability to take time off and enjoy one’s vacations, however, it’s hard for me to think of another group of any sort that maintains such a strong conviction about going on holiday or has such great expectations about it.
Before I go any further let me clarify this one thing: when talking about holidays I mean summer holidays. Nothing wrong with winter holidays, skiing, snowboarding and the like, but, no matter how trendy your ski gear, it will never measure up to a payette covered bikini. Holidays for Greeks means frozen frappes and tavli in an island beach. It brings the feel of the hot sand on your knees and the scent of jasmine in an outdoor cinema right in your nose. You can year the sound of the tennis ball hitting the raquet and then suddenly missing, hitting the water and splashing the poor old lady trying to have a quiet afternoon swim.Heck, I can even picture her swearing at you for it.
“Where are you going on holiday this year?” Asking the question begins an exploration into how Americans and Greeks view vacations. “Well, with the recession and all…” a colleage of mine started responding…Yep, I know…vacations in North America tend to mean a lot of money spent for very little actual vacation time. And it’s a hussle. A lot of traveling. Jet lag if you’re going on far away destination. It’s tough. Plus there’s always the threat of losing one’s job. If you’re away too long, that is.
The association of having fun with spending large sums of money is a preposterous advertising scam. Sure, everybody needs money. Yet it is not a misconception that the best things in life are free. Boasting about staying in the most outlandishly overpriced hotel in Cancun for two nights is hardly any fun. The lady with the big hair updo and the high pitched voice will hardly get any satisfaction out of her staying in the top floor of the hotel, which is the most exclusive area and costs twice what the rest of the overpriced rooms cost. Yes, she will get a weather report delivered to her room. And she will be interrupted a couple of time more by the disgrundled maids. Only to find that no amount of complaining renders the right result: fun.
“We go to the beach every weekend, but of course we will be taking a formal three week vacation in August.” says a Greek friend. Upon mentioning the recession, the response is quick and to the point “Η φτώχια θέλει καλοπέραση” (=”Poverty requires fun”). “Greeks know how to have fun” they say. If you think about all the wars and hard times Greece has gone through, this should sound strange. Yet, this is exactly the reason why Greeks know how to have fun. Going through the suffering makes one appreciate good times. Feeling pain requires having a damn good time just to balance things up. Once you know having fun is not to be taken for granted, the actual activity, whether that is going to a party or to the beach etc becomes an unprecedented mystical event when everything renders happiness and nothing can go wrong. Perhaps holidays is a state of mind, after all.