Posted by: Scotty | October 12, 2009

Culture shock and Sailing the Aegean Sea!

We’ve all heard about it, learned about it, you can prepare for it, but it’s the inevitable while studying abroad… culture shock, dun dun dunnnnn! UND and ACT I feel have done a great job in getting us ready for the “culture shock” we are going to face multiple times while studying abroad.

Like many of my friends here at ACT we have been talking about finally getting accustomed to life in Greece. A friend was telling me the other day that every time she goes out it’s like an adventure. I completely agree, everywhere I decide to go there’s a new experience around every corner, the best thing is we all learn from one another’s endeavors.

My first experience of culture shock was what I like to call my day of “NO” last week. Here’s the dilemma! It started Monday morning (how appropriate), I woke up late and realized I had a short time to heat up the shower and make it to the school shuttle on time. We were warned to get to the bus stop at least 10 minutes early, incase the driver came early, because they will not wait for you. Sure enough, I decide to wait for the boiler to heat up so I could take my shower and missed the bus, (the driver decided to come 7 minutes early that day).

I decided to take the city bus. Realizing I didn’t have a ticket I remembered we could buy them on the bus, however, the bus was crammed with people and I was at the back of the bus, 30 minutes later I was still nowhere from getting near the pay machine, (luckily there were no bus employees checking tickets that day. A few days later 3 students were fined 30 euro for not purchasing a 50 cent ticket, that time I bought a round trip before hand, which was to also make up for the prior non-payment).

Greece is mostly a cash country, so debit cards are only used for major purchases like airline tickets. Many of the ATM’s only disburse amounts in 50 euro. Getting to school, I hadn’t had breakfast and headed to the lunchroom right away. The cashier told us they couldn’t make change for large bills, so to my stomach’s dismay, I couldn’t eat all day.

On the way home, my roommate and I decided to get a taxi, after waiting about 5 minutes and no luck, some freshman stood up the street from us and stole the next cab that came (grrrr!). My day of culture shock was complete after the next driver couldn’t understand us (there are about five different ways to tell someone how to get to our apartments), and another didn’t want to head in our direction. Of course we waited, and finally, landed a taxi who decided could take us home!

Looking back I realized many of the instances could have been avoided if I would have taken the time to, “think Greece” and not, “United States.” You may be saying to yourself, “this just sounds like a bad day,” exactly, welcome to culture shock!

Before I arrived here, I would fear about not being able to communicate with everyone and experiencing culture shock, but once you’re here, you realize all of your friends are going through similar situations and it’s all something unique you get to encounter together, and of course laugh about later. Living halfway across the world has given me a completely different perspective, a positive paradigm, of the world we live in and I wouldn’t change this once in a lifetime experience for anything.

Sailing the Aegean Sea!

After my first week of “culture shock,” I was rewarded with a weekend of sailing. This was my first time on a small sailboat. There were 7 ACT students on the boat and our Captain, Stimatis.

It was a ton of fun and I was able to learn a thing or two about sailing, like how to tie a bowline loop knot, “the bunny hops out of the house, around the tree and back home!” After learning our knots, Stimatis had me help tie the boat down each time in port. We were in a neat fishing harbor on the first night. While “spooning” with my roommate in the tiny cabin, there was a massive thunderstorm and lightning display out the window. It was probably the loudest thunder I have ever heard, but I love thunderstorms, so it was great!

The next day we took the sailboat out for about 3 hours. The sail was up and wind caught us just right so we were able to go without motor for about an hour. While catching the wind, all of a sudden, a dolphin’s fin was caught by the eye of Captain Stimatis and we all headed towards the bow, or front of the boat. This was the first time I had seen a dolphin so close up, it was swimming happily under the front of the boat and it looked just like the movies! (check out the pics below)

I was able to successfully cook spaghetti on the boat during the day. Stimatis played for us his entire album of MJ’s greatest hits, and took us out for dinner that night. We learned that in Greece the waiters are paid higher wages than US waiters, so the rule of thumb is, if your not satisfied with the meal-don’t tip, if you are satisfied then a few Euro will do.

Our final day was spent relaxing on Chalkidiki Beach in the hot sun! It has been sunny and 75 for the past few weeks here and it’s just not normal for me. I sweat every day, and feel like there should be a cold snap or falling leaves and morning frost this time of year!

Until next time…

-Scotty out!

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