Adjusting to living in Crete


By Renie Spikerman

Caroline Holland hit the nail (or the mate) on the head with her article “Just How Much Should A Girl Adjust in Crete? ” in last month’s issue of The Crete Gazette. Ah . . . adjusting , the magic word in any relationship . . . but in Crete it’s more like: ADJUSTING!!! !

After quite a few mixed relationships I have an education in that subject that is equivalent to receiving a Ph.D in Adjusting. And, what’s the use of acquiring all that knowledge if you can’t share it.

For example, going with an American meant reciting all the States by heart, getting overexcited about pro-wrestling, acquiring the art of barbecuing, knowing the latest football teams in the Super Bowl and the best pick for Rookie of the Year in baseball.

The Dutch mate meant being with the parents-in-law on Sunday, birthdays of all 5,000 nieces and nephews, solidly booked agendas for weeks and weeks ahead, meat loaf on Wednesday, fish on Friday, shopping and soup on Saturday. Let’s not forget knowing the shoe size of every dutch soccer player ever born.

Being with an English guy meant a lot of beer, and since I don’t like beer that one didn’t last long. Ditto for Mr. Australia, plus I just couldn’t seem to understand the guy. What’s up with these people, do they have to swallow every word they say? However, since I do believe the Australians to be very pleasant, I gave the country another chance. Didn’t understand him either.

Austria wasn’t that bad, lots of winter sports, tourism, going out, so I thought I was really doing well there. That is, untill his father showed up after a hunting trip with a Bambi tied to the hood of his car and asked could I please help slice up the poor animal. Yeah right! “Auf wieder schnitzel,” as I had learned to say.

After all of the above you can understand stupid me believing I was experienced enough to move on to the major leagues; the Mediterranean – Crete in particular. Well, here’s where I outdid myself. Learned the language, mastered the cuisine (at least I think I did), became expert in cursing an Anogian straight out of his boots. Also, picked up on the pride thing, the manipulating thing and, of course, the shouting thing. Learned not to speak about Macedonia, Turkey or Israel. Captured the skill of embroidery and crochet which actually might come in handy once I retire. I mean, in this part of my education I graduated Summa Cum Laude, but it was never enough.

Okay, maybe I overdid it a bit, but it certainly was my masterpiece of adjustment and so I believe I should share with you my seven vital rules of adjustment in Crete:

Always cook for two more. It will save you an amazing amount of embarrassing moments trying to cut up your four porkchops because the neighbours just walked in – plus it is much easier to cater for eight when you’ve already cooked for six instead of four.

Drive an old car. It will solve most of your traffic problems. They know you don’t care if they hit you, while actually you’re hoping for it – you know, to get some free work done on the old thing. Suddenly right of way is yours at all times.

Always buy the barman a drink. Gets you many in return, plus a saved seat when it’s busy, and a deduction on the bill next time around.

Shout. I repeat: SHOUT! Doesn’t matter about what. Remember the old Cretan proverb: He who shouts is right and he who speaks calmly cannot be heard (obvious, with all of them screaming their lungs out) and therefore has nothing to say.

Blackmail as much as you like. As children, they’re told that if they do not pick up their things, or do their homework, or take out the garbage, mommy and daddy won’t love them anymore. It is totally acceptable and you should not feel embarrassed using this fabulous weapon. By the way, buying them off (bribing) falls in the same category.

If you don’t get what you want in any government offices don’t just leave. Use rule 4 and 5 if need be, but stay till you get what you came for. Government officials associate a face with work – as long as yours is in front of them their work is not done. In the end they will cave in and serve you just to get rid of your face.

Finally, learn the language. I do not consider this an adjustment. It is plain politeness to, and respect for, your chosen habitat. However, many of my fellow expats don’t agree with me on that one, therefore it has become an adjustment rule under protest.

Feel free to use these ground rules when and wherever you please. I am sure you will find them extremely helpful when trying to blend in to our wonderful community.

And me? Well, from now on the above rules are as far as I will go. No more mixed cultures in my house. I found the grass to be greenest in Holland ‘s southern backyard, Belgium , where love means give and receive, where being genuine doesn’t mean being naïve, and being straight is a credit to your character. Where being “me” is enough. I’ve come “home” in Crete .

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