Monday, 28 February 2011

Greek Weddings - the big fat build up!

OK, so now let's go back a step to the big build up of the wedding.

There is more to a wedding than the party bit that everyone seems to fixate on! There's a LOT that goes on behind the scenes that you don't see unless you are actively involved in the wedding.

It can take years to plan any wedding, but with Greeks everyone has to get involved! The bride's parents are traditionally the ones who pay for everything which subsequently makes them think that gives them the right to have things their way - especially regarding the guest list! (Read Greek Weddings - who are these people?! for more about that!)

So, once the wedding has been planned and the big day has arrived, our lovely traditions entail a huge 'getting ready' palava which is all caught on camera for both the bride and groom.

Both the bride and groom are in their parents' homes surrounded by their family and koumeres/koumparous (best women/men). The men are dressed and shaved with a bouzouki player singing traditional songs the whole time and then the best man is the one to shave the groom and then help him get dressed. Afterwards, there's a little big of a boogie with the bouzouki player and the family too!

The videographer and the bouzouki player then shimmy onto the bride to be's home where there are other rituals that take place! She gets her hair and makeup done, then the ladies who have been trained in putting on the bride's dress (yes sometimes it needs practice!) do their bit. Once she is ready, she comes downstairs with the playing bouzouki dude, and important members of her family get a red cloth and wrap it 3 times around the bride's waist.

This is a symbol to bless her womb so that she will bare children. (The groom also has his ritual with the sash too at his house, don't worry!) It is a very emotional moment seeing a bride's parents blessing their daughter to have children and knowing that she is about to enter a new important phase of her life away from them, can be very overwhelming for the family and there are usually lots of tears and frustrated women with mascara running down their face at this point... 

Depending on where you are from there are other rituals that are done, list some of the ones you know about in the comments below!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Greek Weddings - who are these people?!

The winner of the last pole for a blog topic, was Greek weddings so that's what we're going to do! Now, weddings are BIG occasions, therefore there is a lot to talk about! I'm going to break the topic up into various posts so I can go into more detail.

So... where to start? The title of this post is "who are these people?"

If you're Greek, you probably find yourself going to 3 or 4 weddings a month. Not because all of your family is constantly getting married, but more because you get invited to weddings of people you don't even know! That means the bride and groom probably don't know the majority of people at their wedding either. The reason for this? Well your dad wants to invite his accountant and his family, your mother wants to make sure the local butcher and his family are there as well... which works out well if your parents want to set up 'Broxenia' which is a match maker service that many Greeks volunteer to do! Basically if all the people who turn up to weddings are related, then they can't match make you, can they!? (I'll be sure to address Broxenia in another post!)

Now, if someone finds out that you haven't invited them to your wedding or your child's wedding then 'KATISHI SOU' as we say! You can't leave people out or you won't hear the end of it and you will be bad mouthed amongst the Greek community. It makes more sense to invite everyone you know so as not to offend anybody!

I remember being at a wedding when I was a young child and my little cousin was playing on the floor next to me. As the bride and groom were circling all the guests' tables to say thanks, the bride looked at me and my cousin and turned to her new husband and said " who are they anyway?!" Slightly offensive... I don't know you either, love! As a rule of thumb you should be polite to everyone (even children, as evidently they remember!) and pretend like you know them even if you don't! After all, if they have come to your wedding, their family are paying for a part of your house.... haha!

What are your experiences of weddings where you don't know the people there?

Greek pets?

I learnt from a very early age how Greeks feel about 'pets'...

From as early as I can remember, I would visit my yiayia's house in her village where she would be breeding bunnies! I used to love cuddling the little baby bunnies and having them fall asleep in my arms... Oh how I loved playing with them!

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Yeh, until I realised that they were being bred in order to slaughter them for meat!?! That was my first reality hit that actually, Greeks don't see animals as pets... they see animals as FOOD. I was mortified and wanted to rescue all the babies and take them home with me... They all thought I was mad. In fact, I loved bunnies so much that I refused to eat them (that didn't go down well with my family!) One day my family had made this lovely food and put some meat on my plate telling me it was chicken. I ate some, then I was informed it was in fact, rabbit... how cruel! I admit I eat rabbit now - it's not worth the hassle you get from your yiayia!

My cousins also had a pet rabbit that they loved. They came home one to day to find my uncle dangling the poor thing over a pan of boiling water! It's ok though, they managed to save the bunny!

Pet dogs are common amongst some men, and believe it or not, they don't eat them - shock horror! But again, it's so they can take them hunting for FOOD. Pretty much everything revolves around food really, doesn't it!

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What are your experiences of pets? Were you even allowed any in your house? Share your stories below!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

This is not about Greek weddings in general, I'll save that for another post! This is about the film! Recently, if you are in the UK you would have noticed that is has been on TV a lot these past few days. Even if you're not in the UK you would have undoubtedly seen it many, many, many times.

When it first came out, most Greeks I know went to see it at least 3 times at the cinema, they then got the DVD for everyone in their family, and still always watch it when it comes on TV! If anything, it made us able to really get together as Greeks, and laugh at our craziness!

There are some cracking one liners in this film which really sum us up. Here are a few of my favourites:

"There are two kinds of people - Greeks, and everyone else who wish they was Greek"

"Is he a nice Greek boy? No, e xeno, e xeno with the big, long hair on top of his head!"

"Nice Greek girls are supposed to do three things in life: marry Greek boys, make Greek babies, and feed everyone... until the day we die." 

"If nagging were an olympic sport, my aunt Voula would win a gold medal!"

Post some of your favourite Big Fat Greek Wedding quotes below!

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Greek House

You can tell when you are in a Greek house, almost instantaneously!

For one, they seem to have a distinct aroma... especially the grandparents house! It's usually a yummy food smell... You will also notice Greek religious icons and crosses in every room. To a Greek this is normal and expected. To a non-Greek you may feel as though you have walked into a converted Greek church! 

Every now and then when something bad happens and we feel we need extra protection, we run around to every icon in the house and do 3 rings of a special smoke around the icons. 

You will also notice that there is an abundance of food in a Greek house. The food topic deserves a post all of it's own which I will do in the future. But in the meantime, a Greeks house will normally have more than one fridge and freezer (you might find the backups in the basement and garage). This picture looks so empty compared to how a Greeks is!

fridge interior

A Greek's home is usually full of lots of people and therefore is very lively and noisy! Please refer back to my post on Greek Discussions to know why that normally is...!

Greeks usually have special rooms set up especially for the guests. (as I have said many times, Greeks like to show off therefore have certain things left immaculate!)
There is normally a special 'saloni' sitting room which you're never allowed to be caught in unless you're hosting a party. There might be precious heirlooms such as authentic animal rugs (don't even think about getting squeamish about stuff like that if you're going to be with the Greeks) and special antique china, not forgetting more religious icons!

Sheep skin texture 4

Greek houses are normally kept in pristine condition and are cleaned very regularly as most mothers are brought up to be very house proud, especially if they're expecting guests as people will gossip if there is a layer of dust on the table (please refer back to the Greek Gossip post to understand more about that!)

What are your experiences of visiting Greeks or what is your home like? Let me know below!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Greek nights - How the Greeks do it..

In the last post, I told you about Greek nights for the non-Greeks and what you can expect to see there. In this post, I am going to tell you how the Greeks do it. It's kind of like the 'after party' that doesn't even get started until gone midnight! 

Non Greek nights are usually held at tavernas which are like restaurants, but bouzoukia is normally a bit different. There can be a similar layout with long tables, food, dancefloor and a band at a small venue, or they can be at a large venue with a huge stage and a famous Greek performer.

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What happens at the bouzoukia wherever you are, is normally the same though. As I said before, get there late. If you get there too early the atmosphere is a little bit dry!

You are normally expected to have something to eat and a bottle of something to drink. You can't just sit there! If you have just come from a late dinner, you can just order some nice fruit and drink the night away!

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While you are enjoying your food and drink, you will be entertained by a variety of singers and a band. Every now and then people will go up and dance on stage with the singer (depending on the song, usually!)
You will most likely see the girls up there shaking their hips and twisting their wrists with their arms up in the air with the men simply sitting with their drink enjoying watching the view... But the men aren't totally lazy, they get up to dance to their 'vareto' where they basically do a solo 'drunk' dance with everyone standing/kneeling in a circle around them clapping. 

Some men and women get really adventurous and jump up and dance on the chairs or tables (I told you Greeks like to show off...!)

When people are dancing, you can buy flower heads (one basket can be very expensive!) which you use to throw at people who are dancing or singing as a way of showing appreciation or catching someone's attention! Depending on the bouzoukia you go to, some places allow you to buy stacks of plates and smash them on the dancefloor as well! Watch out for plate fragments flying all over the place though, it can get dangerous!

There is great fun to be had at the bouzoukia, and they can usually go into the small hours of the morning! 

What are your experiences of the bouzoukia and can you think of anything I may have left out? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Greek night - A non-Greek's experience

When non-Greeks go to "Greek nights", they expect to have the authentic Greek experience. Unfortunately it's more like a show that is put on for them. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the experience you get is really fun but erm, hardly authentic!

You get an impressive meze of food, of course. The normal meze course is about 7 courses, so I'm not sure you will get ALL of it where you go, but it depends on the place. The tables are laid out in rows with a dancefloor in the middle and a band. 

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The entertainment is the funniest bit! You will probably be given an enjoyable display of plate smashing, a belly dancer and some Greek dancing. Then they will grab people up to join in the "dancing" This is what always cracks up the Greeks! As much as we love to see non-Greeks enjoying themselves and making the effort to take part (as we know, everyone wants to be Greek anyway) the dancing they get them to do is hilarious! 

Hands on shoulders, step kick, step kick, step kick, step kick and repeat until the music stops. Sometimes they bouzouki player feels adventurous and will pick up the beat meaning you gotta kick those legs faster, but that's all you get to do! I love that non Greeks leave feeling they know how to Greek dance after that experience! 
Come 11pm you're truly exhausted and stuffed that you head on home, dreaming of living in Greece where you get to eat loads and dance every day...

If you go to a real bouzoukia night, as opposed to a taverna (which is more of a restaurant with some entertainment) it's a slightly different experience! For one, it doesn't even get close to getting started until after midnight! I'll save that for another post, so stay tuned for that!

So, I want to know, what are your experience of "Greek nights"? Leave them in the comments below!

Greek Guests

So your family have told you they're coming to visit. (No, that's not rude... you're lucky they didn't just turn up on your doorstep expecting to stay over for a week!)
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Having your relatives coming to stay is a funny experience... Depending on how much notice you are given, the mother probably runs around the house, tidying up and preparing somewhere for them to sleep.

You go pick them up at the airport with about 20 of your family members all running up to each other hugging and kissing, completely blocking the airport up until you are asked to move along.

Running away from the city

You take them back to your house, where there is always food ready (most likely avgolemoni soup) and some kafe. Then the suitcases open and out comes some presents (maybe a hand knitted scarf your yiayia made for all the grandchildren?) and then comes the authentic Greek food. Not that we couldn't get it elsewhere, but it's different when it comes from your family's village. Halloumi, olives, natural pressed olive oil, etc..

File:Halloumi-1.jpgFile:Olives vertes.JPG

After all that, then comes the every day living with the guests... if there is another woman who has come to visit, be prepared for the mother to get very put out if she tries to take over her kitchen and start cooking and making coffee for everyone. It is a big insult to a Greek woman to do that! But then Greek guests don't act like normal guests.. they feel they have to take part and help cook and clean and may even start serving you! What are some of your funny stories of guests visiting you? Leave your comments below!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Greek Gossip

Greeks love to gossip; it's not just the women either! Greeks spend a lot of their time talking about other people, which makes a private life next to impossible with everyone's nose in your business. They say it's because they care...

Because Greeks seem to know almost every other Greek, gossip can spread like wildfire. Not just amongst your immediate family, but it can reach your family on the other side of the globe within minutes! Now that's not such a problem if it's good news that is spreading, but sometimes the most ridiculous rumours can come out of the smallest things!

If someone sees you out at the bouzoukia dancing with girls, it will get back that you are a drunk who is not respecting women, if you hug one of your friends then you may run the risk of your family thinking that you have a new partner they don't know about... 

and if you choose to live on your own for a while and your family have written you off as a spinster who never wants to get married!

When at a family gathering, it's the prime time for the gossiping to take place as lots of the family is together. Most of the men are probably off making the souvla and eating it as it cooks having their own gossip (maybe who shot the most wood pigeon that day, and who played really badly...) 

...and most of the women are all sat together having their own good gossip! "Who is trying for a baby but can't get pregnant? Which son got the new Mercedes and has crashed it already? Which aunt got the big house in the will and why didn't her sister get anything?"

It doesn't help that your relatives or family friends probably live on the same road as you, so you might find people spying on you through the window or listening through the walls, and it will get back to your family that you invited a guest home at 9.05pm last night or that you and your partner were having a row and throwing plates at each other...! 

There is no such thing as a private life when you're Greek! But on the plus side, when you're Greek you've got at least 100 people who will have your back in any situation!

What are your experiences of gossipy Greeks?

Greek driving

Right, when it comes to driving, Greeks seem to have the perception that they don't have to follow any rules. They probably didn't even go through the hassle of taking a driving test... why bother when you can just pay someone off, eh? 

When driving around in Greece or Cyprus, it is literally like a battle field; every man for himself!

Here is a classic example of Greeks not following the rules...

I remember being on holiday when I was younger and coming across a sign that said "no bike parking". The whole post sign was surrounded by at least 50 bikes - no joke. I can't find the picture of it anywhere though, but it was pretty funny!

Speaking of bikes and mopeds, they don't tend to follow rules at all. They don't stick to their lanes, speed like mad and expect that everyone should keep out of their way! Be warned if you are about to cross the street or if you are even in a car as there is likely to be a bike somewhere around..

File:Narrow streets of Gaios.jpg

Traffic lights... imagine streets without them! Actually, just go to Greece. It's pretty much like they don't exist! OK, so maybe it's not that bad, but red lights seem to make people impatient! If the lights are amber and turning red, you'll find that Greeks will speed up to try and beat the red light rather than slow down like you're *meant* to! Even if the red light catches them out, they'll do this thing called "creeping" where there will slightly edge forward every few seconds until they are practically sitting in the middle of the cross road!

Liti Traffic Lights

Finally, the mountains. Greece and Cyprus are very mountainous. They're so beautiful and offer the most stunning views, but getting up there is probably going to cause you a heart attack if you're not used to it! As I have already expressed, Greeks like to speed. This includes up mountains... Curvy, windy roads on mountain edges, to be precise. All I can suggest, if that you do your 'stavro' (cross) and hope for the best!

File:Road through the mountains at Karpenisi, Evrytania, Greece.jpg

Oh and while you're up in the mountains, watch out for the sheep!

What are your experiences of crazy Greek driving?

Greek discussions...

OK so we all know the Greeks are the masters of philosophy. We get deep into conversations and get very passionate about what we are discussing. It all sounds so deep and meaningful doesn't it...! Here's our one and only Aristotle having a deep philosophical discussion:

So, particularly if you are a non Greek, you would expect that visiting your Greek friends and looking forward to a deep discussion would be an exciting prospect! You hope to leave inspired and feeling very thoughtful...

However, the reality is quite different... Although what they are talking about will be very interesting, you will probably find yourself distracted from the conversation and want to either hide or call for back up:

To the untrained eye, it will probably look like that very friendly and hospitable family you were enjoying the company of earlier, are all suddenly screaming at each other at the same time whilst waving their arms around with strong emphatic gestures, not letting anyone else get a word in edge ways! And as there are likely to be more than 20 people there at a time, it can look quite crazy!

Greeks have an interesting way of discussing... they don't let one person have their turn with everyone's attention at a time; if you want to get your point across you gotta be able to scream the loudest! It's normal to Greeks and you have to learn to shout if you want to be heard but to the 'xeni' guests it looks like they're about to throttle one another. 

But don't worry, it'll be back to laughs, hugs and cheek squeezing in no time!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Greek Dancing, opa!

OK let's start with some fun Greek dancing... 

Now, Greek dancing is very special and unique (as is the entire Greek culture, of course!) There are a variety of different dances and we have lovely funny little costumes we wear... It often varies depending on whether you are in Greece or Cyprus. In fact, before I go any further, if you are a non Greek, or a 'xeni', please get it out of your head right now that Cyprus is a Greek island. It is NOT. It is a separate country. 

OK now that we have that out of the way, here are some pictures of the dancing costumes. The first is one for the boys:

Yes, before you ask, they are in skirt type garments haha oh, and the arm and leg waving is a common dance move... just in case you were wondering whether they were about to cartwheel or something; they're not. Although they do manage to do some impressive high acrobatic leg kicks!

OK and for the fetching ladies:

... that pose is pretty much how they dance; hand on the hip and a few little dainty steps here and there. They don't do much but it wouldn't be the same without them there! Some of the dances actually tell a story and are actually very interesting but I may delve into all that in another post. There is just so much to say!

Another thing you need to know about dancing is that the Greeks always like to put on a show. So you may come across men showing off by balancing drinks on their heads... 

Amazing indeed.. Even that dude on the left is astounded! I've even seen people picking up tables with their teeth while someone is sitting on it... pretty cool stuff!

OK and to finish off and perhaps leading me into the next post maybe touching on weddings... I'll leave you with this food for thought (ooh or shall I write about Greek food next... hmmm)
Either way, check out this wedding picture. This epitomizes the importance of dance in the Greek culture. Not only do we seriously enjoy a boogie, but it becomes a huge celebration where money is thrown at the person dancing and often stuck onto a sweaty forehead...! Oh and lots of "opa" shouting at every opportunity!

NB. In case you're wondering, that money goes as a tip to the band, unless some cheeky little kids (or adults?!) run around scooping it up...!

What are your experiences of Greek dancing?

It's all Greek to me!

So if you're Greek, this blog will be more of a laugh and a way to share our unique culture with other Greeks without feeling like you're the only one with a crazy family after all, as we're all very similar..! 

But if you're not a Greek and you want to know more about what is is REALLY like to be Greek then you are going to find this blog very insightful...! 

Most websites don't go into much detail about the REAL culture of the Greeks. You hear all about the plate smashing, great food and wonderful hospitality but not about the finer details such as why it is perfectly acceptable to call your best mate and worst enemy a 'malaka', and that if you say you are a vegetarian, Greeks think you need to see a therapist...

Day by day you will be taken through the life of a typical Greek and you can learn or simply laugh along with us and share your similar stories to prove we're not alone!

Yia sas!

Welcome to the Typical Greek Life!

By popular demand and following the success of our twitter account, Typical Greek, we have decided to launch the Typical Greek Life! This is going to be a great way to unite all the Greeks of the world into one place where we can share more about what makes us so special and wonderful and slightly crazy to the 'xeni' (for those of you who don't know, that's what we call 'non greeks')...

Any comments or suggestions as to what you want to see are always welcome!

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