“YOU KNOW that when I hate you, it is because I love you to a point of passion that unhinges my soul,” said Parisian salon owner Julie de Lespinasse, in the 1700s.
We can feel the same love-hate about where we live, with newcomers being even more susceptible to such mood swings.
An initial insight into what starts a new arrival onto the path of this emotional equation can be gained from Forbes magazine’s online article entitled “World’s Friendliest Countries”.
The article examines four factors – the ability to befriend locals, learn the local language, integrate into the community and fit into the new culture – based on a comprehensive 2010 Expat Explorer survey by HSBC Bank International.
Lack of knowledge of the local language stands out as a common barrier for newcomers: the top five scorers for friendliness in the 25 ranked countries all benefited from their use of the English language. Top-scorers were: Canada, Bermuda, South Africa, the United States and Australia.
New arrivals, Forbes points out, also tend to compare their native homeland’s core beliefs, values and language with those found in the new land. The closer the similarity with their home country, the more comfortable the neophytes feel, leaning towards the positive feelings.
So what about us old-timers?
Livin’ here ain’t easy
“I’ve been in Greece long enough to love and hate it,” says Canadian Marc Theriault, in Greece since 1992.
He feels adjusting here has been easier because the Greeks love those who show an interest in their culture. But, like everywhere else, there are pros and cons.
“The unexpected keeps you alive and kicking, and Greece will always have plenty. Living in Greece is not easy, even for the Greeks.”
Briton Emma Rachael Parker, who moved to Greece in 1999, agrees.
“Greece is incredibly, frustratingly schizophrenic,” Parker says. “Even Greeks love and hate their country in equal measures – if they are being completely honest with you.”
Things might not happen as smoothly, or as quickly here, she says, but she recommends we let the good overshadow the bad.
Greece as a teenager
“I kind of feel about Greece as I do about my children,” Parker says. “They exhaust and frustrate me during the day, so that I long for bedtime. But the minute they fall asleep, I stand there watching them sleeping, missing them already and wishing for the morning to come, so that we can start anew.”
Greek repatriate Caterina Skiniotou spent a total of 12 years in the United States before deciding to return to Greece in 2000. She provides a similar analogy.
“Greece is, to me, a teenage daughter,” Skiniotou says. “So beautiful and promising, I can’t help adoring her. So cocky and sassy, I feel like slapping her. But, that would be against my principles ”
She acknowledges that love-hate is a very accurate description of her relationship. The words of the 1963 Nobel Prize winner in literature, Greece’s Yiorgos Seferis, reflect her own inner torment: “Wherever I travel, Greece wounds me.”
“I miss it terribly when I am away,” Skiniotou says, “but not a day has gone by in the last eleven years that I have not thought of leaving it ‘for good’.”
|Athens News 26/Sep/2011 page 37|