With the summer fast approaching many of us will be boarding planes for Greece. A trip to the village where the grandparents are from, some time on an island and camp for the kids are all carefully planned.

What’s not mentioned however is the Greek style of reverse engineering (coined by Harry K., and stolen from me of course) when a friend or relative comes to America during the summer months or Christmas break.

Give it a day or two and all the differences in the way we live and think will be exposed. One thing that boggles the mind is that they expect things here to be an extension of Greece.

Sorry but there’s no Greek taverna within walking distance, and if we do get the opportunity to go to one, please don’t compare the food to what you’ll find at the Ladadika in Thessaloniki. We Greek Americans don’t count the number of times we go to the beach either. Not that we go in the water at the Jersey shore, but a Greek relative will say for instance “I swam 56 times last summer” (ekana 56 mpania). We don’t count.

Another difference that we don’t give all that much thought to is the size of the portions at restaurants. I took a Greek friend who was visiting the Cheesecake Factory, as our wives were busy shopping (of course) at a local mall, and as the waiter brought us our salads in what looked like those big drums you see at a refinery my friend’s jaw dropped to the floor. He turned and said to me “what’s this, I’m not a horse, I’m offended, please call the waiter back.”

Yes, we tend to overeat here, but we have pills that control our blood pressure the cholesterol and our behavior. You guys smoke, and we wash down prescribed meds with Diet Coke. I guess the all you can eat buffet is out of the question.

The meal ends, and now it’s time to find the wives. As we’re walking I notice that the Greek dude next to me has a man purse by his side, this can’t be good and it gets even worse because I run into someone I know who smiles and waves as I stand speechless. I feel the need to explain that European men carry a freakin’ purse and as I’m thinking this, I feel my friend’s hand on my shoulder which makes me jump as if I was hit by high voltage electricity, so there’s no getting out of this one.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m an accepting and progressive individual but like most Greeks my age there’s a lot of cultural baggage and concern of what other Greeks think of us… when we’re strolling along with a dude with a man purse by his side.

Another thing that makes an impression to the visitors and quickly pointed out is the landscape and the amount of greenery, “poly prasino” they say but what do you expect from those that live in an overpopulated city like Athens that has cement as far as the eye can see.

When it comes to consumer goods, the patriotes take things to a whole other level as well. We may live in the country that invented consumerism, but if you’ve ever made the mistake of taking a Greek to the outlet stores, you should call your primary care physician and have them put you in touch with an orthopedic surgeon for a hip replacement and a series of cortisone shots to both knees.

The “kid in a candy store “ saying must immediately be replaced by linguists with “a Greek at the mall” and please no “pazaria.” If the price tag says $49.99 for the shirt you like, dear Greek bud, we don’t try to negotiate.

We also rely on our hard work by going in early and leaving late and don’t believe in socialized medicine (that is until our copay is thousands of dollars if God forbid we have to go to the hospital). Unlike the Greeks, we also believe in the right to bear arms and want Mrs. Smith, the 75-year-old high school history teacher with Parkinson’s to carry a 357 Smith and Wesson in her purse during school hours. In America, we believe in the individual and want limited government as well, unlike the Europeans who believe in socialism.

One thing I never understood, however, is why do we question everything the government does and simultaneously trust them our sons and daughters to fight and die in wars overseas?

As the saying goes “we have one foot here and the other there” and we just need to accept the differences and make the best of it I guess, so with that in mind off I go for my first swim of the year to Ocean City New Jersey.