Specifically, my Greek woman. I'll call her D from now on. A woman from the ubiquitous Greek village. I’m a sophisticated (of course), modest (of course), widely travelled, modern (of course), polite and courteous (of course), man – as all we Brits are (of course.)
The cultural differences can be both fascinating and frustrating, admirable and amusing.
And I’ve learnt so much.
We started off as a hesitant friendship. It would last several months before the real courting began. I wouldn’t meet her family, especially her Mother, for many months to come, and even now can’t attend her village yorti (name day).
We don’t communicate well (when we first met we could hardly communicate at all as she speaks no English and my Greek was still poor). We've evolved our communications into our own greeklish that confounds friends but works for us (and is great for private comments in public between us about our friends; and for when we argue - I can then pretend not to understand a word).
I’ve learned there are many things I mustn’t, and can’t, do. Like clearing up after a meal.
Or washing and ironing my own clothes anymore.
Or going without food for more than 5 hours and a coffee for more than 3.
That DVD’s have to be interrupted with a meal break.
That it’s OK to talk over the film (ok for her as she can multitask reading the subtitles whilst talking, but awful for me as I’m a man, I can’t multitask by definition, so I can’t hear the film’s words anymore).
That I suffer from ‘mati’ – the evil eye - and that her friend, at the drop of a phone call, can rid me off it, too.
That I must accept the Greek’s invented everything; that Blair can’t do anything; that beaches are made to be layed on and not walked past; churches are for going in not just gazing at; candles are mainly used in prayer and not as spare emergency lights; pills can only be taken after a meal; work is something to be done until finished; friends can come around whenever they like and without notice; an argument is only an argument if we’re shouting at each other; an argument is finished when it’s finished - without regret and most of all without rancour; that tampons are toxic; that she can cut my food up and feed it to me if she wants; that a woman’s role is to mother her man; that she will sleep in a chair at my bedside when I’m ill, for 4 days, and without complaint; and my Mother comes first. (Actually, my Mother had already taught me that).
She’s learnt not to assume the worn tube in my wash bag is toothpaste when it has ‘haemerroid cream’ written in English on it.
It doesn’t quite taste the same.
I detest the word ‘provincial’. It’s sneered out by those from London, and some from Athens. Does it mean unsophisticated? Uneducated? Unknowledgable? All three? I don’t know. But I do know the democratic, quiet, unchauvanistic, modern, enlightened, englishman in me has been blown away. And, if that’s provincial, I admit I am so enjoying it.