Now that I am halfway through my study abroad experience in Greece, with a little under a month left, my definition of being an American in Greece has changed. At first I was expecting the curious stares and whispers that I had experienced in other countries but here there is a mix of that reaction from the younger crowd but from the older Greeks, it does not matter as much.
Recently after exploring the Vouliagmeni area, a seaside suburb, we decided to get a quick bite to eat at a local restaurant. In the restaurant we were the only obvious Americans in the place and there was a group of young and teenage boys sitting near us. I could feel their stares on me and my friends at the table but I simply ignored it. At some point, I guess the curiosity got too much for them but they decided to reach out and say something to us. Seeing as I know very little greek and the boy is a native speaker he tried to speak to me several times but I didn’t respond. When one of the older boys advised him to speak to me in English, I would respond. Analyzing this situation I realized the kids just wanted to see if I spoke english but It was also a weird situation but I just chalked it up to curiosity.
On the other hand, we have a local gelato shop that is owned by a older couple nearby. They always welcome us with warm smiles and friendly conversation. They even tell us about their travels to the states, that some of their friends and family have moved there for better opportunities and for school. They always seem interested in us and especially our current views on the political arena, since that is a hot topic right now. I’ve also learned to tone down my Americanness in places. I try not to be overly loud, drunk, and insensitive which our new friends have told us that’s how they perceive young Americans to be, I try not to instantly speak in English even if I only know a few words in that language. Many locals appreciate the attempt, and will appreciate you more if you try.
In all I feel that being American doesn’t really matter at all. It’s more about what type of person you are in general that makes people respect you. As long as I am acting in integrity, humbleness, and respect of others, my character and personality defines and says more of who I am than what my nationality is. Of course, I am proud to show and tell people I am American but that doesn’t define me. I have a responsibility to act in the best of myself and the best of my country.