Greece’s Open Door Policy

“We sat down at a dinky outdoor cafe overlooking the beach just outside of Thessaloniki. At around 7 am, we were the only customers, so we seated ourselves at one of the random two tables outside. We didn’t speak more than a few words of Greek, and at the time our English wasn’t much better than the lady’s who waited on us. The only menu posted on the wall behind us didn’t do us any good, being in Greek, either. When we didn’t/couldn’t respond to whatever she was saying, she smiled and gave us a confused look. So we just called out random Greek words that we knew related to food: ‘Um…Po, πρωινό! (breakfast!)’ ‘τσάι? (tea?)’

“About 5 times the waitress went in the small restaurant, and whether she understood anything else we were saying, she returned each time with a new plate of food, drinks, and smiles.

“By 8:30 am, the cafe was still empty. We pulled out money to pay, but the waitress began to laugh, shook her head even more, and went inside. A few minutes later, an old man came outside, shook our hands and made it clear in English: we couldn’t pay because this wasn’t a restaurant. It was their house, but we were welcome to stay and have another cup of tea with him.

“We couldn’t get any more embarrassed than we already were, so we took him up on the offer.

“‘Welcome to Greece,’ he said.”—Dmitry, a traveler’s account of a trip to Greece in 1991

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