Random Observations

Athens is starting to feel a little more like home. We’re expecting our last shipment of things later this week or the next, and with any luck our car will be here soon as well. We were told it can take upwards of a month for it to get tagged and licensed…in the meantime it languishes in the Embassy parking lot, just begging to be driven. I’m doing alright getting around by mass transit, though I’ve been proactive about making friends, and perhaps I can prevail upon one of them to drive me to the IKEA for some additional provisions. Cooking and shopping continue to be a challenge, though I’m preparing a few simple meals this week, and once my box of spices get here, I might be able to cobble together a few meals I’m familiar with. Spices are not only hard to find (there are only about five at the store by our house), but when I can find them, they’re usually written in Greek.

As the weather warms and the flowers bloom–spring is already sprung here– I’m noticing so many differences in our culture, some strange, some downright hilarious. Here are a few I’ve been compiling:

  • On our first trip the Jumbo, I noticed there was a sizeable costume section. Like full on Halloween, but in the middle of January. Since then I’ve noticed several costume shops with elaborate displays in the shop windows. In America you would only see that sort of thing in October, but here it seems to be a year-round thing. We even saw some kids in costume when we went to the Kerameikos. Maybe there is a costume holiday around this time of year here? Or maybe the Greeks just love dressing up in costume all year round?
  • Similar to Paris, drugs are only sold in the pharmacies. I’ve been to a few larger supermarkets, and the Jumbo, and I’ve never seen a pharmacy in them. The pharmacies here are all marked with a green plus sign, and they’re all pretty small, at least in my neighborhood. Inside, most of the drugs are behind the counter, and you’ve got to ask the pharmacist for things. I attempted to get prenatal vitamins at one pharmacy, but the guy only spoke about three words in English, and when he finally lit up, “Oh, Vit-a-meens!” he tried to sell me a powder. I ended up getting it on Amazon.
  • Amazon and Walmart.com have been a god-send. Most everything American we can get shipped here, and it seems to come in 2-3 weeks. We can also shop for American goods at the Embassy. Lord knows Liam couldn’t live long without his Goldfish crackers!
  • Screen time concerns are a thing of the past. No TV in the morning anymore, and no TV when he comes home from school. We only turn it on at dinner, and that’s more at James’ behest than Liam’s. Occasionally he’ll want to play his iPad, but for the most part he spends his time playing in his room, doing his homework, or going on outings with the family.
  • And I have more access to my favorite TV shows than I thought I would. Bless the Internet! It truly is possible to go without cable these days. It’s a little more work than just flipping on the DVR, but if you know where to go, you can watch about anything you want online.
  • The air smells of oranges. On the sidewalks you’ll find oranges fallen from the trees. No one appears to eat them. I was told they were planted because when they fall and their juices run, they help clean the streets.
  • I took Violet to the bakery today in her stroller, and we spent most of our time riding in the street. I complained about the state of the sidewalks, lamenting that it was impossible to use a stroller here. But I noticed a ton of family with these huge prams (as they call them here in Europe), and they just roll them in the street. So I decided to do the same, jutting off to the sidewalk when I heard approaching traffic. When in Rome, as they say…

4 thoughts on “Random Observations

  1. mandysmusings

    Hold your horses, Jan, breastfeeding moms need prenatal vitamins, too 🙂 Still working on unlocking the phone — At&t has my money, so in theory I should be able to unlock my phone. Going to give it a go tonight. Wish me luck!


  2. Julie Weddle

    Sounds like you are making things work. However I can foresee a time when you may need something from the pharmacy quickly and you may have a problem making the pharmacist understand you. I am happy here that we can buy so much over the counter and don’t need a doctor or pharmacist either at times. But that isn’t a common occurrence.
    Also be careful of walking in the streets. We do that in our neighborhood, too, of course cause we have these sidewalks that are only on one side, but Jill doesn’t have any. You have to watch carefully for cars, though, I know you know that.
    So are the oranges that clean the streets like orange oil cleaners here? Lol.
    Perhaps you should get a costume so you are ready for whenever people wear them.


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