Having spent all my summers on an island in Greece, it is only natural to infer my particular affinity towards this country. The beautiful sandy beaches, rocky island ridges, iconic white villages, all immediately come to mind as breathtaking Grecian landscapes. White marble pillars of the Parthenon hold timeless and universal historic values (even for fashion icons such as Gucci) while the nutritious Mediterranean cuisine has come to naturally comply with modern health craze trends.
Words such as φιλοξενία, κέρασμα, καλοπέραση still cannot be translated accurately into other languages as they reflect unique social values in the Greek culture. As neither can the quality of life in Greece, be found in any other place of the world.
Or at least that’s how I see things after moving to Greece in 2012.
After growing up in the peaceful coastal town of San Luis Obispo (listed “happiest city in America” by Oprah Winfrey) and living several years in the prominent historic centre of Florence, it may seem surprising that I picked to live in a country in the midst of political chaos, economic collapse, and social division.
People of all ages and social classes constantly ask me this. University professors, colleagues at work, acquaintances, even close friends and relatives all wonder how, of all places, I ended up in Greece.
“What are you doing here? Why did you choose Greece, of all places? “
These are some of the many bewildered and flustered reactions I receive upon telling people I chose to move to Greece. Which are usually followed by a cynical remark.
“Leave this place while you still can. Greece is doomed, there is no hope.”
Despite the overwhelmingly negative feedback and pessimistic attitude of locals, I am still one of the few “foreigners” who sees the country from a different perspective. Yet I am certainly not alone.
After all, it is no coincidence that the word “philhellenism” originated over 200 years ago to describe a feeling of admiration and support towards the Greek people and culture.
Van De Winkel, a modern day philhellenic, and general manager of the Hilton Athens Hotel, shares the same views, seeing further than the stereotypical Grecian attributes.
“When one talks about Greece it’s impossible to go only as far as the country’s beautiful natural landscape and not mention certain traits which render its residents rather unique: There is a sense of independence in every Greek, the joy of life and the warmth of human relations. All of these together provide a strong incentive for anyone to visit your country,” said Van De Winkel.