Some time ago I wrote an article about the “Greek Discount.” You know, when a fellow Greek finds out that you’re Greek, and they take care of you – wink, wink.
That article described how the Greek Discount was very prevalent between Greek-Americans, as I am sure it was also in other places, such as Canada and Australia, but that the Greek Discount was fading away, especially in Greece. In dear old Hellas, back in the day, they would try to charge you double no matter if you were Greek or not.
Alas, I have good news. I recently arrived back from the Mother Land, the land of Homer, Pericles, Kolokotronis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and I am proud to announce that the Greek Discount is alive and well in Hellas!
The most common question from any Greek in Greece was, “Ise Ellinas?” And when you answered “yes,” then a big smile would envelope their face and the next question was, “Apo pou?” “Ameriki, Philadelphia,” I would answer, and the reply was always, “Eho ena ksaderfo stin Nea Yorki. Yianni. Ton kseris?” Of course, I would tell them that Philadelphia and New York are close by each other and I probably know his cousin.
And with that little verbal exchange, then came the Greek Discount.
Here’s an example. My daughter and I went to the see the Parthenon. I got up to the ticket booth and in English asked for two tickets. The lady asked in English how old my daughter was. My daughter answered in Greek, dekaexsi. She asked, in Greek, “Ellines iste?” Then we went through the ritual. Yes, we are from America, Philadelphia, and she replied she has a cousin in New York… you know the drill. She then proceeds to tell me that children under eighteen are free but you need to show your passport to the guard. We didn’t have our passports. I told her don’t worry, I’ll contribute to the Greek economy and purchase two tickets. She said no. She’ll charge for one, place that ticket on top of the other ticket that is for free and we should then hand it that way to the guard. Okay, I did. The guard didn’t care. Never even looked. We got in. One paid, one free. Moral of the story, the ticket lady went out of her way to give us a Greek Discount.
Coming down from viewing the iconic Greek ruins on the Acropolis, we hailed a taxi. The driver said in broken English, “Good morning, sir.” I guess he could tell where I was from since I looked like your typical American tourist with a pair of cargo shorts, bright shirt, and a baseball cap, but I snickered and replied, “Ti ine afto to ‘good morning.’ Kalimera, re file!” He smiled, “Ellines iste?” I told him yes, America, Philadelphia, and he said he has a cousin in New York, etc., etc.
I told him where we have to go and he said (and you won’t believe this), “The road is blocked where I have to go and I need to go around a different way. I don’t want you to think, kano vlakia.” What, I said to myself. A Greek taxi cab driver is telling me that he has to go a different route and he doesn’t want me to think he’s ripping me off! Ha ha. The funny thing is that I knew the reason the road was blocked, the Prime Minister of Bulgaria was visiting the Parthenon. Wow, is this the new Greece? Then he charged me the same as if he took the shorter route. Greek Discount! Okay, I gave him a nice tip. I’m contributing to the Greek economy.
There were so many little Greek Discount moments throughout our trip. A waiter giving me some fresh-made fasoulada to try, no charge. A free beer here and there, because we’re Greek. Buying tourist knick-knacks and being given a discount, because the owner found out we’re Greeks from Philadelphia and they have cousins in New York. Actually, we did meet a shop owner in Athens who had a cousin in Philadelphia and we knew him!
But it’s not all a bed of roses.
The only time the Greek Discount didn’t work was at the bag check-in at the Athens airport. I went up to the counter, smiled, said to the nice young lady in Greek, “kalispera,” and handed her our passports and tickets. She asked me to place my bags on the scale to be weighed. I put the first one on. I looked at the digital scale. Damn! 30 kilograms (66 pounds). She stared at me with those accusatory eyes and said, “You’re overweight, sir.” I looked down at my stomach and laughed. Yeah, she’s right, but she’s not talking about my weight, she’s talking about my luggage. I didn’t say anything. I placed the next piece on the scale – 28 kilograms. She frowned again. The next one – 29 kilograms. Finally, the fourth bag – 22 kilograms. I smiled. One out of four ain’t bad.
No Greek Discount here. She said I had to pay for the overage. I told her the bags were all under 22 kilograms when I came to Greece. I bought things to help the Greek economy and all that stuff is in the bags. Important things like Greek coffee, Greek oregano, icons, and evil eye bracelets. There is even a book about Venizelos. She didn’t care. I had to pay. Okay, just charge me and lose the attitude.
In the end, the Greek Discount is making its way back to Greece, although I think it was always there, just hibernating. So next time you travel to Greece and that taxi driver says, “Good morning, sir,” you answer with a big, “Kalimera, file,” and see how fast that Greek Discount is returned. Oh yeah, if you’re not Greek, just take a Greek friend with you. Enjoy Greece.
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