Greeks are often temperamental people. It is nearly impossible to drive through Athens without someone yelling at you or gesturing wildly at you. For me, this is in fact a valuable learning experience for slang words, and it works wonders if I put up a friendly smile and ask the aggressor with my German dialect to repeat the tirade slowly so that I can make a note. When visiting a new winery in a rural area, it is all too easy to get lost, and I need to ask for the way. It is amazing how friendly people can be, just because you speak to them in their language. Not only do they explain to me how to get to the winery, they also want to know where I come from, how long I have been living in Greece, and sometimes they even offer some biscuits or fruit.
It is also interesting to see how loud Greeks speak when using the phone. They really do shout, as they are getting all excited within seconds of calling someone or taking a call. The same can be said for any discussion – as soon as there is an opportunity to voice an opinion, even a normally softly spoken person suddenly pumps up the volume of their voice.
A short while ago we had invited friends for dinner at our house. My wife wanted to prepare a salmon dish, and asked me to buy one whole side of a fresh salmon, with the skin removed by the fishmonger. I went to a large supermarket, where I shop once a week. I had bought salmon there several times before, and the man that works at the fish counter always removed its skin. When it was my turn, I told him what I needed. He grabbed 3 smaller pieces of salmon and wanted to weigh them. I repeated that I was looking for one whole side of a salmon, not several pieces. His reply to my request was markedly louder. He was clearly unhappy about my extra wish. I was told to finish my other shopping first, and then to return to the fish counter. But after I started walking away, he shouted at me that it was not possible for him to remove the skin of the salmon. I also raised my volume and asked for an explanation. He said he did not have a proper knife. The fact was that there were probably 10 knifes in all shapes and sizes right beside him! Within seconds, we started screaming at each other, and both our faces must have been very red. This shouting match was done in Greek and ended only when I simply turned around and proceeded with my other shopping.
I called my wife to explore other dinner options, but she asked me to get the salmon anyway, with or without the skin. I was not very happy about this, because I really did not want to back down just because an employee of the supermarket was in a bad mood. After 20 minutes, I went back to the fish counter. The guy saw me and came walking briskly towards me, with a huge smile in his face. He handed me a bag that contained one side of the salmon, freshly skinned. He took his arm around my shoulder and we chatted as if we had been friends for life. This is typical for Greece – outbursts are quickly forgotten and the good side of people wins most of the time.