First Impressions of Crete

Its been just about three months since I moved to Crete and here’s a few things I’ve come to notice so far:

 

1. Fanny Packs. They’re a thing. And mainly just for the Greek men. They all sport them like they never went out of style. Thank goodness too, because I love wearing mine. Although, I do get some ‘looks’… hence the fact that only the men wear them.

2. Apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur… well not really, but remember when puffy jackets with the fur around the hoodie were ‘in’? Apparently that never went out of style either. Every girl I’ve seen wears one. They also wear super bright hot pink leggings with tennis shoes and matching velour suits… I’ll just stop there.

3. Toilet Paper. It’s something we underestimate in the States. Actually, not the toilet paper… but what you do with it when you’re, um, done with it. They don’t flush it. It will ruin their pipe system. So what do you do? Well, there is a small trash can next to you to throw it in. It’s gross, but you get used to it. The real kicker is when you have to take out the trash.

Pick your "trendy" Can
These “trendy” cans are not for your paper towels…

4. Let’s use those fur hoodies… It’s very cold during the winter months. There is snow in the mountains (mind you we are in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea) and it gets down to below 45 degrees during the day. It’s very rainy and extremely windy.

5. Mud Rain. It comes from Africa and is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen. The entire sky becomes burnt orange, gets crazy windy and rains down mud. Everything gets covered in an orange glaze during the Spring months with no forecast telling when it could happen.

6. Not only does it rain mud – it rains cats & dogs. Literally. Cats and dogs are everywhere! Off leash. Wild. Roaming the villages, beaches and mountains. It’s very hard to witness since most do not have owners; however, they seem to all be well fed from the towns people and they haven’t been vicious (so far). Cretans are known for having dogs roam their farms to keep their livestock alive, but it has gotten out of hand over the last few decades. The newer generation is slowly starting to keep their pets on leash and neutered.

kitty in Topolia Gorge
cat
cretan wild dog
dog
green eyed cat
cat
Cretan Dog in Chania Town
another dog

7. Euro streets. The roads are super narrow and small (sometimes just a single lane for both coming and going traffic) and insanely dark at night. When I say dark, I’m not joking. You can pin point every constellation with the naked eye – which in my opinion is quite amazing. Thanks to Aether, the first-born elemental Ancient Greek God, who lights our way with the millions of stars shining brightly along the Cretan countryside (they say the stars were formed from his concentrated fires).

8. Cellphone + Motorcycle + No helmet = Great combo. That’s right… vespas and motorcycles are everywhere. Weaving in and out of traffic. Driving on the other side of the road. Super fast. On their cellphone. Sometimes even holding a dog! With no helmet! I’d actually say it’s 50/50 if they wear a helmet… but you get my drift.

cretan man on vespa

9. Risky business & cold, hard cash. Make sure when you get here you have enough Euros to go around. For the last 3 months, I’ve only seen one Greek hand over a credit card. No one uses them. It’s always cash. Most tavernas, coffee shops and stores don’t even have a credit card machine. Actually, I take that back… they’re supposed to have one (that’s what I’ve heard from a local) and if they don’t supply one they can get fined up the kazoo. But because of the economic crisis, tax evasion and corruption in Greece – I’m assuming – the government takes away most of their income. So the Greeks find that handing over cash is better, even though it’s against the law if the businesses don’t claim it. I don’t hold an accounting or finance degree, but with a high corporate income tax rate of 29%, personal income tax of 42% and a VAT tax of 23%, I’d say that’s pretty damn high.

10. Organic, wild and raw. When people say the Mediterranean diet is amazing… it really is! The food is incredible. The feta cheese is nothing like what you’ve tasted before: smooth and creamy, not tart or bitter. The olive oil. Oh. My. God. Light and delicious and it’s drenched on everything. There are thousands of wild edible herbs grown all over the island – most of them only indigenous to Crete. The food you eat in restaurants – I would guesstimate – is 90% all from Crete. You can find delicious organic produce and other items at their Farmers Market! They grow and catch everything they eat on the Island and it’s rare to have something imported. Don’t believe me? Check out It’s all in the Olive and I’ll show you!

organic veggies in Greece
Organic veggies from the best farmers market

11. The Freddo. The Greeks may be known for their infamous “Greek Coffee”, but let me tell ya something… it’s all about the freddo. Everyone and their mom drinks either a freddo cappuccino or a freddo espresso. But don’t get it mixed up with a frappe… as Greece does their own delicious twist to this delectable iced coffee. When you walk through the streets of the city, instead of (a very missed) Mimosa Sunday-Funday, there’s Iced Freddo’s on every table.

greek freddo
This is a “standard” Greek Freddo
Greek Freddo
And this is a Freddo mixed with Bailey’s (had to have a sunday funday somehow…)

12. Learn their language! I can’t stress this enough. I’ve noticed most foreigners don’t even try to speak Greek. It’s irritating to me.

I get it, it’s hard… It’s like learning Greek, literally.

But learn it! Within the first few days of living here, I’ve already gotten to know and understand a lot of the basic words to get me by… and the Greeks really appreciate it. If you’re a guest on their land, try to learn their language! It’s the respectful thing to do.

13. It’s true – the Greeks are very hospitable. If you engage and say hello (“Yasass”) they become more intrigued to get to know you and you could even be invited into their home! The other day when we were at a restaurant, I was given two small traditional candy coated almonds and wine to celebrate a couple at their engagement party, just because I said “Yasass”.

Another time, Dan and I went to a coffee shop and, lo and behold, the owner sat down with us, enjoyed some raki on the house, gave us his own organic raki that he made (also on the house… and inside of an old plastic coke bottle – legit? yup!) and then invited us to join him and his family on their Sunday tradition of driving around the island hitting up tavernas.

jacobs coffee and raki with Christos
Coffee and Raki with Christos

Apparently it’s extremely uncommon to get invited to a Greek family outing… so we obviously took up his offer! We had such a wonderful time picking wild herbs (like wild chamomile, lavender and fennel) and eating homemade traditional Greek food!

wild cretan herbs: Lavender and Fennel
Picking wild Cretan lavender and fennel

14. Fries. They come with everything! The Greeks call them “potatoes”… but they’re totally french fries. Oh yeah, and the delicious Greek Gyro?! It’s stuffed with french fries!

So what’s the deal?

It’s basically your favorite pollo asado and California burritos mixed – without the guac. Yup… it’s stuffed with “potatoes”, tomatoes, lettuce, deliciously seasoned off-the-spit chicken (or pork or beef) and Greek yogurt. Sooooo Gooood!

Welcome to Greek fast food.

greek kalamaki

15. Free dessert – every time. Every meal at a restaurant is at least a 2 hour deal. People take their time. They eat slow. They talk. Smoke. Drink Greek Coffee… and lots of Raki. Every meal is followed by a (usually homemade) complimentary dessert and Raki on the house – maybe even two!

Greek Halva
Greek Halva and Raki
greek yogurt and raki
Greek yogurt with glazed oranges and Raki
after dinner: raki and dessert
Berry custard with, of course… Raki

Seriously…. after every meal…

dessert with raki
Too many Raki’s to remember the name of this dessert

Also, you’re expected to take home what you don’t finish. If you decline to do so – especially by the mountain villagers – it’s considered rude and they get very offended thinking you didn’t like their food.

And lastly,

16. If you ever hear the word “Malakas”… congratulations, you’re officially an asshole.*

(So take that food home, okay?!)

Questions? Comments? Let me know if you’ve traveled to Greece or anywhere else in Europe and if you’ve had either the same or different experience!

* Be aware that the term Malakas is very hurtful and rarely said because it’s a harmful and disgusting phrase. It may not sound like it, but it is to the Greeks. I recommend NOT using this word ever, unless you want to mess with your friends and they understand you don’t mean any harm by it… or if you want to get punched in the face.

Leave a Comment, Yo.

  • I would like you to know that this is the first blog thingy I have read top to bottom.. No skimming. I skim cuz people tend to blab on & on & take forever to get to the point. This was extremely well written & laid out, even on my phone & kept my attention without any annoying rambling parts. Loved it.

    • Thanks Janelle! It means a lot to me for you to genuinely compliment the post! I really want to connect with my readers – in a real, no BS and ‘tell it like it is’ kind of way. Putting a lot of effort and time into these posts and having readers (friends) like you makes all the hard work worth it! And I’m so grateful for that, thank you!!