Photo cred - abdallahh
The one amazing thing about Montreal is its very vibrant diversity – there are so many different cultures on display around every street corner and within our homes. Montreal is home to over 40 different nationalities.
Of that, there are about 62,000 Greeks in the Greater Montreal Area. And like most cultures we most certainly have our moments. As a first-born generation in Canada with parents born between 1944 and 1955, my experience growing up in Canada is an amusement in itself.
What it’s like growing up Greek in Montreal:
Chances are you are one of amongst 3 or more siblings.
You have at least 4 cousins with the same first and last name as yourself.
Your parents or uncle or someone relatively close to your family has owned a restaurant.
You’ve worked in a restaurant setting and was/is a “priority.”
You were the first one out of all your peers to know Santa wasn’t real because there is no way Greek parents are giving credit to a fat white guy.
You were also confused why your friends at school celebrated Christmas on the 25th of December because it is clearly the 6th of January. And most Montrealers would go to the Monastery in Brownsburg to baptize the cross in a river. We take our religion seriously.
You invite your Canadian friends over for your nameday party – mine, which happened to fall on August 15th, always got out of control – thanks to Theo Thanasi.
Your Canadian friends don’t understand that you don’t simply have ham for Easter dinner you buy the WHOLE LAMB and roast it in your backyard.
When teachers were calling out names for attendance and got to yours like, “Uh…uh…uh….pa..pa…” and you reply with, “Yeah, that’s me, here.”
When your crush asks you on a date and you have to make up an excuse on why you can’t go because your parents will murder you.
Every family gathering, regardless of age, your aunts and grandmothers are trying to convince you to let them find you a husband. Like, Yiayia I’m 15.
When your mom asks you to go pick up tsoureki, you immediately go to Afroditi’s. And while you’re there you always pick up those chocolate desserts they make because they’re just so delicious.
At one point, you were definitely overweight. Without question. AND the whole family would say, “Yiota, no Greek boy going to marry you.”
Or when you were too skinny, “Yiota, eat, you look sick pathiemou.”
Or when you went vegan, and they put meat on your plate anyways. Twice.
You start dating a non-Greek and the whole community looks at you like, “keita afti, xenos pirai” (look at her, she took a foreigner)
When you start dating and the first question a Greek guy asks you is, “What church do you go to?”
When you run into your Thea and she asks why you no have a boyfriend – and immediately follows that with your eggs are going to be scrambled soon.
School is not over on Friday – you have to go to Greek school on Saturday because God forbid you lose your mother tongue.
You simply do not buy Olive Oil at a grocery store. You import it from your family’s orchard by the barrel.
Your parents speak minimal English so it is your civil duty to make sure all their paperwork is in order including their passports.
Me- “Okay Dad, what do I put for occupation?”
Father – “Put down that I’m retarded.”
Me- “You mean retired?”
When you call your grandmother in Greece and she screams through the receiver, “MACOUS?!!!!!” I don’t think she understands the concept of a phone yet.
And yes, my father does think every English word is derived from the Greek language.
Father: “O.K. comes from the Greek phrase, OLA KALA, which means everything okay. See, it’s Greek.”
When your dad tries to have a serious conversation with you, he does it while you’re in the car on the highway and you have no way of escaping. ‘I WILL ROLL OUT.’
And that conversation usually starts like, “When are you going to find a nice Greek boy from a nice Greek family and have nice Greek babies.”
Growing up, when you misbehaved, you didn’t get grounded; you got the wooden spoon that was suppose to be a decorative piece on the wall.
You grow up with so much miscommunication that it makes it impossible to stand one another.
Father: “Yiota, po pas?” (where are you going)
Me: “I’m going to the gym.”
Father: “WHO IS JIM?”
And every time your mom would go to church, she’d come back with holy water and spray it all over your bed to rid you of the demons.
A day doesn’t go on without the smell of the lavani.
Or, when all your gifts are bracelets of the Mati because you need the protection from the evil eye.