As an optimist (I am a glass half-full person, and I am also a self-proclaimed cliché lover), I believe that by treating others respectfully, individuals can greatly improve their outlook on life. Moreover, by recognizing the importance of genuine compassion, individuals can help connect to others while truly impacting their own happiness. Now, I acknowledge that I may have spent way too much time perusing Wayne Dyer books, but I honestly believe my aforementioned claims. Now, one may wonder how my belief in a positive mental attitude relates specifically to this GT-EU study abroad? And I may surprise some people by claiming that my time in Greece truly solidified my beliefs in the importance of friendliness.

Honestly, before visiting the country, my preconceived image of Greece was generally negative as I imagined a country currently in turmoil resulting from the Eurozone crisis. I understand that the turmoil still remains (I did witness a protest during my visit), but the press fails to reflect the sincere nature of the Greek people. From saying hi every time we got a two Euro gyro to laying out a delicious spread of food and drinks at site visits, the Greek people genuinely seemed to care about our wellbeing taking the hospitability concept to a whole new level. After all, the word “hospitality” is derived from two Greek words; the first Greek word means “love” while the second means “strangers.”

I will acknowledge that the tourism industry in Greece is extremely important as the Greek economy remains a consumption based model (we learned during one briefing that this actually helped contribute to the downfall of their economy), so I understand why others may believe that the Greek staff solely seem caring because they seek a profit. But the amazing part was that the Greek people seemed to genuinely care. Not just the “fake” version of caring seemingly prevalent in the business world.

I feel the American version of hospitality greatly reflects Max Beerbohm’s insightful statement: “When hospitality becomes an art it loses its very soul.” In my daily life back in the States, I am constantly surrounded by individuals disregarding the universal dimensions of their actions. Furthermore, people tend to undervalue the importance niceties especially in today’s fast-paced globalizing world. Although the Greek people’s standard of living may not even compare to my living situation (at least measured quantitatively in economic terms), I felt that they still seemed more sincere in their manner than most Americans.

After Dr. Hayes’s curious question as to why I believed the Greeks prioritized hospitality, I began to research Greek culture to determine the reasoning behind this notion. In general, Greeks tend to emphasize the importance of family and the formation of social bonds. By understanding this fact, I felt the Greek focus on building relationships in family life might carry over to building relationships in daily life as well. This answer is purely speculative, and I also believe that numerous other reasons contribute to the honorable hospitability I was privy to.

As a strong advocate of self-growth, I, ultimately, felt my experience in Greece helped put into perspective the way I interact with others. By being on the receiving end of such hospitable treatment, I became more consciously aware of my interactions with other individuals. In conclusion, I reaffirmed my vow to treat others how I want to be treated (I warned you that I liked clichés). Ultimately, I can sum up my experience in Greece in one word: refreshing.

I couldn’t end my post without posting this oh-so-wonderful selfie (courtesy of Despina) on the top of Greek Mount Lycabettus.