My First Lesson in Reverse Culture Shock, Served Up By the Athens Airport

I’m about to board my flight from Athens to Philadelphia on my way home. I have much to say about what has happened in the meantime, but I just received my first lesson in reverse culture shock, and I’m curious to hear what you all have to say about it.

When I arrived at the gate, it was being searched, and the passengers had formed a very neat line that curved around in a U shape in order to accommodate more people. After using the restroom, I came in at the U, thinking nothing of it.

In Greece, lines aren’t obligatory. One finds them frequently, but equally often, a group of people waiting for something to take place will form more of a crowd than a line. This can be very frustrating at times–for example, when there is limited availability for whatever it is you are waiting for, such as bus tickets. In this case, you essentially have to fight your way to the front of the crowd.

So, when I stepped up nonchalantly to the back of the U-shaped part of the line, a young American tourist looked at me in outrage, rolled her eyes, and said, “Excuse me! The line starts back there.”

I looked back to where she was pointing. There were at least thirty people waiting after her, all of whom were glaring at me.

I laughed, and made my way to the back of the line.

Now, readers, I ask you: why do we do this? Is there a point? In this case, we all already had seats. In fact, to be frank, we were all waiting to sit for 10 hours. Really, folks, there was nothing to be gained from being further ahead in line other than a chance to sit for a little while longer. Yet we are so reliant on order that we seem to automatically tie it to “fairness.” And it’s certainly true that the mindset of being “in a hurry” creates a tendency to be quite rude to our fellow human beings.

After having a chance to reflect on the ordered, hurried American lifestyle for ten months, I’m not sure it’s worth it; and yet the total chaos of the Greek no-line approach can be unbelievably frustrating too. What do you think?


About wrap me in phyllo dough

travel addict. greece-obsessed. grad student. bottomless pit.
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2 Responses to My First Lesson in Reverse Culture Shock, Served Up By the Athens Airport

  1. It is telling that it was a fellow American who took you to task too. Hope you’re having a safe flight back. Have a great holiday weekend.

  2. I’m completely with you. I want the happy-go-lucky outlook and lifestyle of Greece, but (and except for when it’s pointless, as you’ve said), with the orderliness of American lines and turns. Because I think it’s ridiculous to live a laid-back lifestyle but fight others to get onto a bus. How selfish is that? If people are so happy, why are they so mean? I should think that if we’re in a good mood and not in a hurry, we’d be more than capable of saying, “No problem, after you–I’m not in a hurry.”

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