Sep 14 2007

But How Do You Say “No One Reads Our Blog” in Greek?

Published by at 10:23 am under Crete,Greece

“How does this work?”

“I have no idea.”

“Is that word in the book?”


“Let’s ask someone.”

“I wouldn’t even know how to ask that.”

Welcome to the conversation Ben and I have countless times each day. Every time I leave the house, I brace myself for the inevitable challenge that comes along with completing the simplest task in a country where I don’t speak the language. Mailing a letter yesterday was an all-morning event.

What we now refer to as simply “the book” is our guidebook, the Rough Guide to Crete. With its map and Greek vocabulary transliterations, it’s become as precious to us as our passports, and we never leave home without it.

I took for granted in the States the confidence that comes along with having a reasonable idea of what I’m doing on a daily basis – or at least in my ability to figure it out. I read somewhere before our trip that all self-consciousness has to be abandoned in a foreign country, and I’ve found that to be very true. Here, unlike at home, it isn’t just probable that I will embarrass myself in public; it is guaranteed. How was I supposed to know that the actual mailbox was outside the post office door? In America it’s also on the inside! Aren’t you impressed that I FOUND the post office and applied the proper (I hope) amount of postage?? It’s unnerving for two Greek women to be obviously talking about you rapidly in Greek, fully aware that you don’t understand what they’re saying but not disguising their laugh at your expense.

oregano chips
What kind of chips are these? Your guess
is as good as mine! We eventually identified
them as oregano-flavored. (And they rule!)

In Ben’s 9/10 post, he described one of many embarrassing debacles at the grocery store. The supermarket is consistently our biggest challenge. First, we have to identify what an object is: butter? sour cream? cheese? yogurt? If we’re lucky, a label, or a neighboring object, will have an English translation. Next comes the game I like to call “Match the Shapes,” where we try to match the Greek word on the label to the Greek word on one of the price stickers. Not as easy as it sounds. Did you know that these six characters: greek_alphabet_sigma.gif are all the same letter?

Self-consciousness also has to be abandoned to attempt to communicate with non-English-speaking natives. Most interactions end with frantic gesticulation and me yelling a nonsensical string of the few Greek words I know: half-hour! kilo! sorry!

Take, for instance, our attempt to get a bus schedule a couple of days ago. We’d finally located the bus station (“station” being a liberal word for a ramshackle booth on the side of a road), but couldn’t find bus times or fares posted anywhere. I approached the attendant, a stocky, expressionless Greek man.

“Parakaló, mípos miláte angliká?” (Excuse me, do you speak English?)

“Né.” (Yes.)

“Great! Do you have a copy of the bus schedule we could have?”


“Oh, well, is it posted anywhere?”


“Ok. When does the bus leave for Elafonissi Beach?”


“Ya Elafonissi?”


“AUTOBUS! [imitate driving a car, hands on wheel] TIME! [point to watch]”


Hm, right. Fortunately, most of the locals actually speak a little English and are friendly and accommodating. Ben has embraced speaking Greek and will spout off the words and phrases he knows with reckless abandon. The locals get a kick out of it, and politely let him finish before responding in English. He likes asking how to say things in Greek (“Pos léyete sta Eliniká?”) which the locals also enjoy and we’ve received many Greek language lessons.

Ben’s also taken to speaking English with a heavy Greek accent. Granted, it’s hard to avoid doing that occasionally, as we’re surrounded by such accents. I fear, however, that he’s never going to stop as he not only talks to me with a Greek accent, but I just overheard him talking to himself in the shower: “Water praysher is preety sheetty.”

NEXT: What’s In My Purse, Honey? (Quick Sunday Update) »



6 responses so far

6 Responses to “But How Do You Say “No One Reads Our Blog” in Greek?”

  1. Ginaon 14 Sep 2007 at 11:27 am

    Wow! I’ve been reading your posts today…as I have some downtime at work waiting for edits to come.

    Love the experiences you’ve had…and can we saw EWWW to the naked rabbit in his socks. Makes me appreciate my Southern style cooking, a la USA. And double EWW to the Greek Feet of DEATH!

    Weather in Richmond is getting cool and this entire week, the temps will be between 65-53 at night. Can’t wait until Fall is in full swing!

    I can’t wait until someone invents an audio universal translator…complete with perfect diction, inflections and dialects, too!

    I’m looking forward to more of your entries, so stay safe!

  2. Hollyon 14 Sep 2007 at 11:37 am

    PLEASE post a video of Ben speaking with a Greek accent!
    Love ya’ll

  3. MomBAon 14 Sep 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Yassas Agapi mous,

    S’ agapo and I miss you soooo much! Thank you for sharing your journey with us…. Call me soon! ~Mom

  4. Jillianon 14 Sep 2007 at 6:32 pm

    I miss you all! Here is the only greek I know from my greek neighbors: stomata means stop, malaka is a bad word starting with the letter f, and skito is a bad word starting with the letter s. Hope that helps. At least you’ll know when people are cursing at you.

  5. Brittanyon 15 Sep 2007 at 10:19 am

    Mom! Your Greek is better than mine! Miss you too.

    Jillian: Thanks for the tips. Yeah, in the internet cafe, we hear all the Greek dweebs yelling “malaka!” at their computer screens while they play video games.

  6. Roberton 15 Sep 2007 at 11:42 pm

    This is some pretty funny sheet.

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