How To Be Greek

Always talk about being Greek. Make sure that everyone you encounter knows, unequivocally, that you are Greek. Refer everything you do to how Greek you are. If you feel like you’re talking about being Greek too much, you’re not—talk more. If you talk about being Greek enough, your friends will probably give you a neat Greek nickname, like GKG (Greek Kat George). If they don’t, chose a nickname that focuses on your Greekness and start referring to yourself in this way. Eventually the non-Greeks will catch on.

When you’re with other Greek people, speak English, but throw in a few Greek words here and there so you are essentially speaking your own hybrid language. Talk about what villages your parents came from in Greece and act shocked, making loud exclamations when your Greek friend has relatives from the same village, even though you always make these sorts of discoveries with other Greek people. Declare that you are cousins with this person. When you’re in public and want to talk about someone in front of them, switch completely to Greek, lower your voice and look conspiratorial. Do not be subtle. Teach all your non-Greek friends how to say “malaka”, “ygamoto skilli”.

Have a strong sense of community. Know all the Greeks in your area, what business they run, and who their cousins are. Figure out that you know someone who came from the same village in Greece as their parents (declare you are cousins). Only go to the cafe owned by the Greek family down the road even though their coffee isn’t as good as the place next door to it—you get a good discount from the Greeks. Plus they are family. Love discounts, coupons, junk mail and hard rubbish day.

Eat everything you see, all the time. At meals, whether or not you’re eating Greek food (especially if you’re not eating Greek food) be sure to put a huge block of feta and a bowl of olives in the middle of the table. Do not understand vegetarianism. Provide alcohol and desert with every meal, and be offended if your guests do not accept these things regardless of whether or not they are pregnant, full or a recovering alcoholic. Give small children sips of wine and beer. Get annoyed when your yiayia says you’re too thin and that you don’t eat enough even though you’ve just eaten enough for 3 people. Think the same thing about your non-Greek friends when they don’t finish their meals. Finish their meals.

Fight with your family and Greek friends regularly, especially about things like money and cleaning. Be a martyr about everything. Argue loudly in public when your cousin tries to pay for your coffee, and physically try to restrain them from giving over money to the cashier. Try to put money in their purse while they scream back at you, saying things like “skase re”. Make the cashier feel incredibly uncomfortable as you both hold out money to him or her while trying to push one another’s extended hand out of the way. Do not apologize to the, by now completely terrified, cashier.

Think of your family as the most important thing in your life, but don’t ever listen to them and always talk over them in conversation. Be skeptical and opinionated about their life choices. Know everything about everyone in your family, and be judgmental about it. Discuss the lives of all your family members with your mother over the phone for hours. Meet for raucous family dinners at least once a week, no matter who you are mad at or not speaking to. Say no to all other offers on family dinner night, and bring your attitude to the table. Make everyone feel guilty about something, or let someone make you feel guilty about something. Eat and drink and pick on each other.

After dinner sit around the TV eating fruit and fighting about what you want to watch. End up watching something like The Ghost Whisperer. Pick on Jennifer Love-Hewitt. Go home later that night with half a moussaka, a bag of figs and 7 lemons (from yiayia’s garden of course). When you get home call your mother immediately. There was something important you forgot to discuss at dinner, like what time you should pick her up for shopping in the morning, or whether you should cook chicken, or lamb for the dinner party on the weekend? Once you’ve decided on lamb (it’s always lamb) settle in to a night of moustache bleaching and leg waxing, or if you’re a guy, trimming your nose hair.

Despite everything, take the approval of your family very seriously. Love them unconditionally. Have second thoughts when you bring home and new partner and your mamma doesn’t like them—mamma is always right. Break up with Mr. or Miss Wrong and hang out with your brothers and cousins all the time instead. Do everything for your family, even if you do it grudgingly—drive your siblings to soccer practice, go to the Turkish market to pick up vine leave for your mamma, take your yiayia’s sewing machine to the shop to get fixed. When a family member is sick or unhappy, don’t stop giving them a hard time. While you berate them, show your love for them by always hanging around their house (annoyingly so), cooking and cleaning for them—do everything for this person. Kiss their forehead to find their temperature, and bring them cakes when they cry, knowing when you feel crap they’d be just as invasive without having ever to be asked.

And if all else fails, do this:

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