What comes to mind when thinking of Greeks? Foreigners will likely mention the ancient civilisation, democracy, or philosophers. However, for someone living in Greece, the answer is far from the nobility of the sophisticated heritage of ancient times. A concurrent phenomenon has spread throughout this country to the point that it is now an ingrained part of the Greek culture: the mobile phone, or rather the kinito as it is called in Greek.
In the mid-nineties, most European citizens were using mobile phones primarily as a professional tool, because of the costs associated with them. Not so the Greeks – on Greek beaches, the buzz of ringtones came from all directions. As Greeks also speak much louder on the phone, this marked the end of the peaceful tranquillity.
In the early days of mobile telephony, the mobile phone itself was clearly a status symbol. The mania that gripped a large percentage of the population demonstrates the Greek’s yearning for the feeling of importance. Greeks are also by nature very communicative, and the mobile phone brought to them the freedom from the restrictions of the landline. Now they were able to communicate all day long. This communication luxury was not to be halted by any imposed charges by the mobile phone companies. Today, the average Greek owns more than two kinito connections. Nearly every job nowadays comes with the benefit of a company mobile phone; this is a standard offering even for small businesses.
The kinito is present everywhere, in the most trivial daily acts. It is an instinctive Greek reaction to use it, whenever possible, in any possible way. For example, there is a driveway into our property. Nine out of then visitors will not step out of the car to ring the bell. Instead, they use their kinito to ring the house, in order for us to open the front gate. The tenth is likely one of our less mainstream acquaintances. This has become a character judgment criterion for us: Whoever rings the bell on a cold, rainy day is stricken off our friends’ list; that is just too weird!
Greeks do value personal relationships very highly. Business is done through face-to-face meetings, and Greeks embrace all personal contact. That is, until their kinito rings.
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