Expat zone
Posted on: Aug 07, 2013

Βeing polite to be expected

Johnnys Garage

This post is also available in Greek

If somebody asks me what really left an impression for me here in the Netherlands, the first two things that pop into my mind is the cold and the straightforwardness.

The cold was expected, in a lesser degree. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it but nonetheless I’ve learn through the passing time to predict it and I have made sure the closet is filled with anything warm that can cover all of my body on cold days and nights that are countless.

Nobody had prepared me though for the people here. From the first day that I walked beside them I stood out when I told them that I was coming from Greece. They looked at me with a strange look, they got up and sat far away from me, they interrogated me in order to give me a bank account and a flat and they made me feel, once more, ashamed because I hadn’t opened my eyes to see the truth. My truth, not theirs, because their truth is as far away from reality as the earth is to the moon.

Amsterdammers appear more open minded and it makes sense if someone just takes a look only at my apartment block that hosts over 1000 families from all over the world. Here they have learned to live along with the “foreigners” and in contrast with other countries the try not to create ghettos. In the north and in the south they aren’t very thrilled that their country is filled with expats, meanwhile in the center they are just trying to accept the fact.

These are people that can separate work from fun. You may be “bread and butter” when you are out for coffee but if there is an issue of money or some financial agreement then everything is done by the book and with a lot of haggling. They will not forget for a second that you are Greek and they will ask a lower price from you and usually in most agreements be assured that they will get on top.

As for the way they talk... well, that is another story on its own. Some say its rudeness, some straightforwardness, maybe even the truth.

I grew up in a village where everybody was “hiding” and the truths I heard growing up where only a few. Back then I was always kind to my shitty employers, always on time, disgustingly appropriate and always smiling. I was paid less than what I was worth, worked twice the hours then the ones I was paid for and my employers were throwing 2 or 3 free days or a “funny” bonus, so I really am not sure how these theatrics benefited me all these years.

Here I learned to say what I believe and to ask the worth for what i have worked for. It was not easy in the beginning, I had huge communication issues.

I won't rent you a house because you are Greek
I was told by my first real estate agent Isn’t that a bit racist? I asked
No, its the truth, your country is in the center of the storm of this crisis, you are not reliable
he answered.

Was it the truth or a cheap excuse from the owner in order to “spit out” his racism and his anger about what he thought was the truth, I’m still breaking my head to understand it. How can a mind that is so acceptive to so many things suddenly hit a “wall” that is called propaganda and find that wall in front of her feet and hands that never touched the “Dutch money”.

Are they that straightforward only with me or are they like this with everybody?

I thought in the start but then I realised that, that was actually their style.

18 months later I have stopped being polite without a reason and when I am asked I also tell the truth. I find myself wanting to lie in order to make the other person feel better, like I used to do, but I can't. And yes, I do mind. I do mind that the cold and the isolation have turned me like this.

Because you need the truth in order to be alone in a country far away from everyone you know. Far away from the embracing and warming sun that makes you forget your troubles and makes you smile. There is no such sun here. Here, there is wind, hail, snow, alarm clocks, bus stops, trains, work, home, friends on the weekend or late at night.

It might sound like a bad situation but its not. Its different. Waiting at the bus stop I have met a lot of people, the bus driver always greets me, after work on fridays we all go for a drink and in the weekends I have free time to use as I see fit. Along with my friends from all the corners of the earth, along with Dutch, telling them stories to make them laugh and feel a bit jealous that I grew up in such a paradise like land with beautiful places and strange people.

542 days that I live and work with the Dutch. I have been stood up, I have been hurt, I have been pissed off and I have been told truths but I like living here and working with these people. I would not exchange Greece’s warmth though and the huge smiles that I used to meet back when there were money and a future existed. Those are the kind of smiles that you don’t see here, here its Europe, so stop freaking out and just give them a Greek smile.

Harmonia Coaching
Mike Klianis

Designer, marketer & a social media karate kid (No 4). When she grows up, she wants to feed the world with Greek food & Frappe. Admires the yellow angry bird because it strikes its targets with power and precision.