Six things you should stop asking Greeks in Belgium and why.

by Despoina

Being Greek in Brussels means that each time I attend some sort of social gathering, I am asked a specific set of questions which I sometimes find funny but quite frankly I got tired of answering them. Do not get me wrong, I know that you mean well and sometimes you really are interested but let me tell you why you should just not ask me or as a matter of fact any other Greek in Brussels any of the questions in this post.

I will start with my favourite and most popular. The politically conscious question: 

1. Are things better now in Greece? Tell us what really happened in Greece?

Why you should stop asking: Believe me when I say this – the honest and only answer to this question is the following:

We do not know!

We do not know why the economy in Greece is the way it is. If we knew, we would have solved the issue(s) already. Better yet prevented the crisis from ever happening.

It is understandable that most of you expect to get the “real story” on what happened with the Greek economy. Get some real from the source information,  unravel the truth that the media is not telling you. You think you will achieve this just because you asked someone who lived in Greece most of their life or just because they are Greek. Well that will not happen. What you will probably get instead is a subjective analysis of the Greek crisis according to the person’s political beliefs and social status. And if you ask me, this is even worse !

I also do not think you should ask Greeks in Belgium if things are better now in a country they no longer live in. You are speaking to people who live in Belgium for fuck sake!  This automatically means that we have zero idea of the actual situation in Greece. Anyone who pretends to be informed and on top of current events is probably just following a Greek  journalist on twitter. Again, that is even worse than knowing nothing and just admitting it. I mean yes, I do visit Greece and my family lives there but believe me we do not analyse the political situation of the entire country when I am there because we do not know shit about it. We are basically a country of John Snows!


Second most popular question is the bon viveur question:

2. I went to the “Insert here a greek restaurant name” last night ! Is it good? Is it real Greek food you think?

Fun fact: as I am writing this post I kid you not , I received an SMS from a dear friend  of mine (I miss you Sam!) who is in a Greek restaurant right now.  He is asking me what to order, the options were not ideal by the way….

The reason you will never get an honest answer for this question:

Guys if my mother did not cook it – it is not real Greek food. That’s right I said it ! My mother ! As in many other cultures you will find that Greeks as well think that their mothers are the best cooks in the entire world. You may go to a five star Michelin restaurant and eat the best dish there still… when your mother cooks the same recipe , it tastes better!

Mom dinner

Usually when I get asked this question people refer to a Greek restaurant somewhere in Belgium I most likely never been to …. It’s not like I am on a quest to visit ALL the Greek restaurants in Belgium so I cannot really have an opinion for all of them. You should just know that once you find yourself in another country , you will go for a different cuisine as well.

On top of that, it should be no surprise that foreign cuisine in other countries it is adapted to the taste of the specific country and it is not really authentic cuisine. For example, in Greece we would never put calamari , feta pie and kefte on the same plate, the brochettes are not that huge plus we would never charge 11 euros for a tasteless Greek salad (which should NEVER contain sausages or eggs in it by the way) We do not eat ribs that much and do not get me started on lamb! I cannot even smell that nasty thing ….

And while there are some greek restaurants that are good in Belgium and I do visit them once in a while to feel a bit like home, what you need to do to know concerning this topic is that,  if the food tastes good to you just trust your gut – literally. Go eat anywhere you like, order anything that looks appealing to you. You do not really need to know if it tastes like the real thing …. And most importantly does it matter? If  you like it , who cares?

Then we move on to the weather question:

3. Don’t you miss the sun? How many degrees do you have in your hometown right now?”

The reason I hate answering that question:

Weather conditions was not something  on the top of my list when I decided to move to Belgium.  Although I must admit that I miss wearing my summer dresses and I do not think it is normal to go from 18 degrees celsius to 10 ….. overnight…..  in July…. Greeks are no strangers to winter mind you ! I think the fact that we fought and won a war against Italian Nazis in the snow proved in a badass way once and for all that we can survive the cold !!! Case closed

During the winter some of you love to ask me how warm is it in my hometown right in this moment… probably because you want to be transported with your mind to a warmer place. Sorry to disappoint…. Most of the times we share the same temperature between Brussels and Thessaloniki. It is true and in fact Thessaloniki is much more humid so it sometimes feels colder.

Thessaloniki view

Then I get the most common and yet surreal question:

4. Why did you choose to come to Belgium?

belgian fries

Why it is weird you even ask that:

I have come to learn that Belgians are not what you would call a proud nation yet again you have to admit that this is a very weird thing to ask a foreigner about your own country! It also makes me wonder:

Is it a “Why did you choose to come to MY country” type of question or is it more of a “Why did you pick Belgium it is so boring” type of question? Everyone who asked me so far claims that it is the second case. So, let’s go with that one.

Why Belgium? nothing happens here… Why Belgium? it so boring that people wanna leave to go live in other countries….

Well, do you know another badass country that produces amazing beers and chocolates ? Do you know another unconventional country where the statues are representations of little boys and girls pissing?  You know another country where the public transportation ticket costs more than a plain waffle? Where sprouts are considered a delicacy? Where the population speaks three different languages and have 6 governments? I do not so…..That’s why I choose to love Belgium. It is complicated enough to remind me of home (you guys hate it when I say that and I love it)

Then we have yet another cuisine question:

5. So, you cook moussaka?

Why you should not ask me that:

Oh I don’t know, do you all cook stoofvlees every night ?! This must be the most awkward question one can ask because it can either imply that you want me to cook moussaka for you like you are my husband or something….or you want to shame me if I say I don’t know how to cook it, being that it is the most well known Greek dish. 

On top of that, when I explain the fact that moussaka takes hours to prepare and it is a complex dish yall have the NERVE to say it is not the case!!!  You start breaking down the ingredients and debate the fact that you just need to put one on top of the other and just put it in the oven. Guess what : f u c k you!  How do you even know?!  Unpacking moussaka from Picard and cooking it in the microwave is not the same thing! 

So here try it for yourselves !!!!!

A Question that some Belgians love to ask me specifically:

6. Are you Greek? Why are you so white? Are you sure you are Greek? Maybe you are Russian…..

Why is this cracking me up:

I know. I am too white. I do not even get a tan during the summer I basically get a you-finally-look-like-a-living-human-being color in the summer …. I also know that the idea that someone has in his mind when he hears the word “Greek young woman” is something more like the photo on the left rather than what you get on the photo of the right:

But I can reassure you I am Greek a real Greek not an albino or something. We come in all shapes and colours you see….  If I could choose how I look like, I would choose the first image as well believe me !

A little extra

Questions aside, people usually like to state things to me as soon as they learn I am Greek. I thought as an extra I can share those with you as well.

Starting with the tourism statement:

I’ve been to Crete, Corfu, Paros last summer and I loved it – or hated it

OK not only I went to half of the islands you have started naming to me on a row, I have to say that there is a huge difference between where I live and an island that is 4 to 5 hours away from my hometown. Also I am not feeling more connected to you or impressed that you visited someplace in my country…. Think about it , would you care that I have visited Dinant and Tournai for example? You don’t.

Some people describe how amazing it was when they were in Greece for holidays and how much they loved their experience. That is good to hear I must admit. You share something positive and nice and it is cool to hear about that. But then there are the cases where people had a bad experience. It happens. Having a bad experience abroad is not country specific may I add. Assholes exist everywhere ! I am sure that people in other countries go on a strike as well,  taxis overcharge tourists everywhere and so on….

I am sorry you had a bad experience, I really am and you know here is what:

First thing I do when I go back to Greece, is to get on National TV and curse all of the Greeks because Nikos has been a dick to Johan when he asked sausage in his Greek salad because that’s the way they serve it in Brussels! Happy now ? I fought for your cause!

I mean, no what do you expect me to do when you had a bad experience in my country? Side with you or make it up to you somehow? I do not get it!

Then there is the education statement:

I had to learn ancient Greek in high school and I loved it

– or hated it 

When I was a student at the VUB I literally had people coming out of nowhere TO MY FACE saying that they used to study ancient greek at school and they hated it because this language does not exist anymore (wrong by the way but different discussion). I could probably use this as an opportunity to analyse the added value of the ancient Greek language and it’s impact on mathematics and science but truth is buddy:

welcome to the club

I hated it as well !!!! Moreover, I sucked at the ancient greek course in high school …. I believe that ancient greek is something people should be able to choose to learn on their own, if they want to. Not something you teach to hormone filled teenagers okay? I feel you, I do. Do you see me going to Italians cursing them because I had to take Latin at high school ? Get over it already!

Now there are also those who apparently loved the fact that they learned ancient greek at school, who supposedly still read books in ancient Greek – What a lie!-  and cannot wait to be smart quoting something to me in ancient greek…. 

Clever foreigner

Probably you think that I am some sort of uneducated Greek and you wanna feel somewhat superior because the language of my ancestors sounds like chinese to me, well done! Now βάλλ’ εἰς κόρακας! 

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