She put down her fork and leaned in across the table. She sure had my attention. “Don’t forget this. Repeat this to yourself over and over: ‘Different is not bad. Different is just different.'”
It was purely by chance (aka- the grace of God) that I ran into this friend on one of my final days in the States. She has spent the better portion of her time since college traveling the world for humanitarian work or once-in-a-lifetime internship opportunities. You better believe I listened to every word she said…and especially what she deemed ‘unforgettable.’
Little did she know that God had practically written the word “different” in marquee letters in my journal the week before. August’s word and focus has been on not just tolerating, but celebrating different.
Living in a different culture has certainly challenged my mindset when I encounter the unfamiliar. I’m drawn to the similar. An American brand of shampoo, foods I can easily recognize, and my wardrobe for the year is essentially the same Old Navy shirt just in six colors. You get the idea.
I wish it stopped here. I wish my pattern of familiar things stopped with objects. But the (sorry for this, but there’s not a better word) sucky reality is that if I’m not careful, I treat people the same way.
Similar hobbies. Similar humor. Similar style. Similar beliefs.
It’s easier that way.
We’re not the same. No two humans are the exact same. I have said for years that I am thankful for this, and I still am, but I’m learning to practice it. I’m facing it head-on. Why is it hard for me to celebrate people with different giftings, interests, or backgrounds? Timothy Keller would say it is pride. And you know what, I’m going to have to agree with him on that.
I love (and also cringe…conviction) what Timothy Keller says in his book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness:
“True gospel-humily means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”
“The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”
If my eyes are not on myself, I remember that we are the Body of Christ.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Cor 12:4-7
“There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call––one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
Suddenly, I’m not in competition against Different. I’m fighting for it. I need it. We need it.
Different doesn’t have to be scary. Different should exist. Different should be celebrated.
Moving 6,000 miles away guaranteed some change to daily life. Knowing that I’ll be here for longer than a few weeks, I’ve tried to approach daily life with the mindset of “this is what I do now” by choosing to celebrate what’s different. Without further ado, here are a few of the differences I’ve encountered in my 2.5 weeks of Greece so far:
- Cash is how you pay for everything. Bills, restaurant meals, shops. A good Greek memorizes ATM locations. The supermarket, IKEA, and H&M do accept cards though.
- If you ask for a Coke, they think you’re asking for drugs.
- Walking is the #1 form of transportation. I hit my 10,000 step goal every. single. day.
- Breakfast: a pastry, cereal, toast…but no meat. Pick up a treat from the bakery on your way to work or eat at your house. According to one Greek friend, it is “weird” to eat breakfast at a restaurant and certainly not brunch.
- Lunch: anytime between 2-4pm. But not before 2. To eat earlier would again, be “weird.” Lunch is the family meal of the day so most schools release around 1 so that everyone can eat together. With the exception of restaurants and supermarkets, shops close down for “quiet hours” from 2-5:30.
- Dinner: 8pm is pushing it…so 9-11 would be more culturally acceptable. Most Greeks use this time to go out for drinks and munch on the free appetizers that are brought out.
- Coffee: consumed at all hours of the day. If you sit and drink it at a cafe (coffee shop), you’ll most likely get a complimentary treat.
- When driving, do not turn right on red. Just don’t do it.
- Motley’s is home to the greatest “cookies pasta” known to man. Here, pasta could describe one of three things: noodles, cakes, and something else that I can’t remember. All that’s worth remembering is that cookies pasta (cake) is the reason my jeans will need an expansion pack by the time I return to the States.
- Motley’s is also home to a billion cats. I watched a cat straight up snatch an unattended sandwich quarter off a plate this afternoon. I have the video to prove it. The Greeks didn’t even flinch.
- Pita gyros are manna in the modern form.
- Greeks don’t know how to respond to the walking boot I wore at the beginning. They would literally stop in the middle of the street and stare. The Yayas (grandmas) were the most intrigued.
- Toilet paper is not to be flushed.
- Trash is taken to community bins located every couple of blocks.
- I can walk to the lake any day that my heart desires. At the lake, there is a castle, incredible views of the mountains, and an abundance of waterfront cafes. Much to my hearts disgust, I discovered today that the lake is also home to a few snakes. Booooooo.
- Greeks have cell phones, but they don’t use them like Americans do. Believe it or not, if they’re with other people, they’re not on their phones.
- Your house is too warm? Open your windows. Our apartment has A/C units, but I have yet to turn it on. I love opening my windows every morning!
- Everyone smokes. Ash trays are on pretty much every table. But surprisingly it’s only overwhelming in a few places.
- Everyone might smoke, but only a few use deodorant.
- What Americans call “Greek Salad” is just “Salad” here. Our Greek friends have gotten a good laugh out of us asking about the “Greek Salads.”
- Marco Polo is the best app out there. Take that, 8 hour time difference.
- Clothes dryers are totes not a thing here. Also, our washer is in Italian. 3 points to Sarah for navigating that one.
- Hot showers can be taken approximately 30 min after turning on the hot water heater. Be sure to flip the breaker back though before showering to avoid electrocution.