Monday, December 3, 2012

My experiences as a young Greek immigrant in Europe.

For the past 8 years, I live permanently in Dublin, Ireland. My decision to leave the country I was born proved to be the wisest decision of my life. Not that there are no problems and everything is rosy. Βut migration gave me an advantage over others who have not lived in a country other than their own, or have traveled to other countries.

When I first moved to Dublin, I did not know anyone here. So I started hanging out with people of many different nationalities. I learned new customs and to think in a new way, to see things from another perspective.

And in many cases I've learned how to improve or change my way of thinking, how to start thinking like the Irish and the other people that I came in contact with. At first my attention was focused on other things. It was difficult to consolidate friendships, find work that satisfies me and not fall victim to manipulation.

But all these lessons were valuable life lessons that forced me to use my head to survive. Once I learned the mentality of the locals I began to understand where we are going wrong in Greece in labor, political, social, cultural and other issues. And of course where we have advantages.

Over the years I began to lose my narrow and limited perception of most Greeks and Irish locals. Like someone gave me a magic mirror that every time you make a mistake and you wonder where do you go wrong, it shows it to you.

My mindset changed, my beliefs changed. Then began another battle: to find out where I belong. When I'm in Ireland and speak with Irish friends, there are times that inevitably I criticize all they are doing wrong and give them a different solution to their problem.

Many times they perceived it the wrong way and think I'm a snob. And yes, there is jealousy and xenophobia between the Irish and especially in whatever is foreign and different or better.

The same happens with some Greeks when I am visiting Greece. In some of our friend gatherings, we discuss social and political issues, but they do not understand some arguments that I use in our discussions. Although they show certainly some interest. Some people show admiration others envy. Just because I think about things without the small "national" state of mind, a thing that they can not do.

The difference is that now I am and feel cosmopolitan. I am not only Greek, but also European and world citizen. Some characteristics of the "typical" Greek I've left behind. And some of these features I often use to get an advantage against the Irish and other colleagues of other nationalities.

For me, being a Greek is no longer being stuck in the "tradition," but to use some traditions to enrich your life. The hospitality, food, pride, diligence and "open heart" of the Greek I carry always with me and use them regularly when dealing with other people, to win arguments.

But the narrow-mindedness, fear of anything foreign or progressive, the blind acceptance of the ideology of our parents, the sometimes suffocating relationship between parent and child or between two lovers, all those I have left behind. And my relationship with religion and "Orthodoxy" has inevitably changed.

There is a Greek-Orthodox church in Dublin, and we have an Orthodox priest who is of Irish descent. He converted during his stay in Cyprus, while serving in the Irish Army and the United Nations following the Turkish invasion of the island.

So I can keep some of my favorite traditions like those of Easter, but without being a hardliner on doctrine.Christmas for example I celebrate in an "Irish" or "European" way. I just may go to a Catholic or a Protestant church with friends. I do not necessarily need to follow all the Greek customs, only the ones I like. 

The cutting of the St Basil Pie for example (a traditional New Year's Day brioche type of bread, that my mother sends it to me every year by post)! I generally accept many customs from Ireland and their national holidays. Like the St. Patrick's Day and the famous "Halloween." While I have abandoned completely other Greek festivals such as the "Assumption of Our Lady," that is celebrated in Greece on August 15th.National and religious customs are just one example of the new way of thinking and culture that I have acquired. A hybrid culture which often brings me advantages, while other times just make my life more colorful, interesting and different.

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to have this experience. Because despite the problems of racism and sometimes all the difficulties, I would not want to ever go back to what I was. Now I see things differently and if I ever move back to Greece, I will not allow myself to lose anything I gained from my life in Ireland.

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