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Sofia's Letters from London #1
by Sofia Gkiousou
2006-09-06 10:22:49
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I am Greek. Now stop right there. Do you have an image taken from My Big Fat Greek Wedding hovering somewhere behind your eyes? Do you see me shrouded in some sort of white bed sheet and sandals? Well, I don't intend this to be a piece on how I am so different from all the stereotypes out there.

As far as I am concerned, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a very accurate - and hilarious - depiction of my second-generation Greek cousins abroad. I have been known to go about in a white bed sheet, even though only during more... ahem, private moments, let's say.

There is only one stereotype I can't stand, and that's the weather stereotype. I was born and raised in Greece, but for the last four years I have been living in London and this is what I mean by weather stereotype: If you've never been to London, you probably have a foggy city in mind. Trust me, it's hot in London. If you're not convinced about global warming, please visit the UK capital during the summer.

For the last four years. we have been 'blessed' with high temperatures. This year we are experiencing, what the journalists are so fond of calling, "record high temperatures". So high in fact, that the air-conditioning units generally cannot cope. And that's if you have air-conditioning units at all.

This is exactly where my problems begin. I am a nag by nature, but when the weather gets hot I elevate nagging to an Olympic sport. Trust me, it's bad. We have air-conditioning at work, which cannot cope with the current temperature (a mere 32°C at the time I am writing this). There are shops with no air-conditioning at all. I made the mistake of going into a shop to buy some shoes the other day and exited in a hurry five minutes later with no shoes but a huge sweat mark literally everywhere.

Houses do not have air conditioning. Not to mention conditions in buses and tubes where temperatures are said to rise to the high-40s. In other words, you had better wish there is some wind blowing, otherwise you had better suck it up. Even worse, maybe you are stuck in the tube, with no air whatsoever and the smelly armpits of everyone around you, including your own.

Do you see what I mean when I say that I'm a nag? Well, people around me see that too. In fact, the British have an uncanny talent of saying the one thing which will make me even more furious: "Why are you complaining? You should be used to the heat!"

Ah, the joys of advertising for tourists. Tourist Greece - and by that I mean the country that exists in the collective imagination of tourists around the globe, rather than the real thing - is a place of endless summer, clear blue skies, crystal-clear water and sweet wine. It is also a place where there is no snow and the only places actually in existence are Rhodes, Corfu, Zante, Crete and possibly Kos, even though experts are still debating this point.

Allow me to do away with the weather stereotype for Greece. It snows there. We also get winter. And rain. And we do get extremely hot summers. And just to be absolutely clear, there is a very good reason why I'm not used to the heat. In Greece, there are air-conditioning units (that work) everywhere. In the house, in the car, in the offices, shops, public transport, you name it we've turned it into a little frosty paradise for the summer, destroying the planet by using too much energy along the way.

So there you have it. I don't mind cooking Greek for friends. I don't mind people asking me if I like Troy or if Nana Mouskouri is big in Greece (for my money she is big everywhere, only in a different, more physical sort of way). I do mind though that everyone seems to regard Greece as a place of everlasting sunshine where the locals don't get sunstroke because they go about their business happily under the sweltering heat.

But then again, who am I to talk? I moved to the UK with only one T-Shirt and two raincoats and I still have no idea what the weather is like in Finland.

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Anti2006-09-05 15:53:34
Nice film though

eva2006-09-05 18:30:51
I can totally relate to this story - in reverse. As a Finn living abroad I ALWAYS get the comment "well you should be used to the cold". No matter if in Rome, London or Brussels, I've always been cold during the winters - more so than in Finland. I don't know how many times I've explained that -30 degrees celcius can be tolerable due to well-heated houses, proper clothing and dry air: much more so than a wet +5 degrees celcius with underheated houses and poor clothing. Brrr.. But I promise never to stereotype Greeks when it comes to heat :)

Asa2006-09-06 00:06:28
Doesn't every Greek smash plates?

I hate it when people offer me a cup of tea and exclaim, "But you're English! How can you hate tea?"

Thanos2006-09-08 17:44:36
A Greek says ... thank you Eva. I just wished more Finns could hear you ;D

Lee2006-09-12 19:11:57
I live in London too and i can't believe one of the most economically developed countries in the world can't put an air-con unit which works onto a tube train...what is that all about?

I'm watching some bloke in space repair a solar panel on a space station but i have to travel home in a mobile oven!

Asa2006-09-12 20:31:26
Ken Livingstone offered £100,000 to anybody who could come up with an idea to cool the Tube three years ago (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3069037.stm).

What happened?

Sofia Gkiousou2006-09-14 15:28:40
It's nice to see that I am not exagerating and that other people are feeling the heat effects in London.
Asa - I heard about this scheme too. One of the most expensive proposed schemes I heard about was the construction of water tanks under the lines which would cool air, to be circulated in the tunnels. Surreal I think.
Why does it always seem so difficult to come up with a simple and quick solution in London?

Eva2006-09-14 23:06:46
Yeah what's the problem with the London Tube??
I remember from when I used to live there, the constant explanation to every problem with it was that it's the oldest metro system in the world and therefore..bla bla bla..
But I guess the fact that millions of people rely on it every day makes any kind of maintenance work on it a major operation..
I prefer taking the bus in London.

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