• by XpatAthens
  • Thursday, 05 February 2015
Neighborhood Watch

It’s been raining much of this week – so I’ve kept to myself, skulked around the house, and ventured here and there to do some errands… But a little rain is no match for prying eyes and the ‘neighborhood watch.’

The other day, as I stepped outside onto the street, I was greeted by a little old lady, who seemed to be waiting for me outside the door. She greeted me with a very deliberate ‘Hello!’ (of course she spoke in Greek, ‘Geia sas!’).

It turns out, Kuria Eleni lives in the place directly across the road. She has ‘noticed’ me many times and wanted to introduce herself. She has lived in the neighborhood all her life and apparently knows everyone.  John lives there, Foteini lives over there, and George used to live just over there before he passed away.  She was very interested in me, and had no hesitation in interviewing me on all the things one’s neighbor needs to know: What kind of work do I do? Where was I born? Where is my father from? How much is my rent (since she knew what the previous tenant was paying)? And wouldn’t I like to have a family some day…?

The interview came along with some important advice: Although we are in the centre of Athens, this is still a ‘community’ (‘geitonia’). We look out for each other. We also support the local neighbors. I go to this butcher, and to that bakery, and to that shop, and Mr. So-an-so has this or that, and Mrs. So-and-so knows lots of other stuff… And so it continued for about 20 minutes.

The good news is I have someone who is paying attention to my every move, who knows more about me than some of my friends, and who seems to genuinely interested in my life, or at least my comings-and-goings.

This, of course, is also the bad news.

Growing up in Canada, where I would barely recognize most of my neighbors, and where ‘personal space’ is holy, this kind of attention could be obtrusive, prying and quite uncomfortable.

Instead, here, surprisingly, it felt good, like Kuria Eleni was genuinely interested in me, and as if she was welcoming me into the community.

Yesterday morning when I stepped outside to take the garbage, she was wandering by, and greeting me by name, asking if I had seen how cold it was in Canada, and whether I was still happy having chosen to live in Greece.

In that moment, the answer was a resounding yes. 

Until next week,


In this weekly space, keep up with ‘Jack’ as he navigates daily life in Athens… Anecdotes, stories, hits & misses, the good, the bad and, well, the rest…