My life dating a Greek South African

how dating someone outside my culture has been awesome and hilarious

Laurrel Allison
7 min readMay 11, 2019

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Now that it’s May, it’s time for chilly South African weather!

I am an American dating a Greek South African. He was born in South Africa, but raised in Greece. Part of our relationship, we’ve lived together in South Africa. I have lived here before I met him, which was great. It allowed me time to figure out the nuances of this brand new culture. So when I started dating him and was introduced to his family, it was a breeze.

And yet, our cultural differences sometimes creep out. It’s a little disorienting for me at times, since my partner has a very similar accent to mine (he went to high school in an American-influenced school). But there are those moments when I do a double take and think “oh yeah, I’m dating a foreigner!”

“What’s Panera Bread, babe?”

Yesterday, my partner asked me what Panera Bread was. I think I had mentioned it in passing, and his ears perked up and he asked me to explain what it was in detail since he’d heard of it before. I told him all about the glorious bread bowls and delicious fresh breads. I’ve also similarly had to explain to him the concept of coconut cream pie, Triscuits, and (non-alcoholic) apple cider.

Dustbin or trashcan?

South Africans have English-influenced colloquialisms. Rather than saying you’re off to take a dump, it’s polite to say “you’re going to the toilet” or “I have to toilet”. That’s the signal for saying “I’m going to be in the bathroom for 5–10 minutes, be right back.”

They also refer to trashcans as dustbins. Sometimes, just calling it “the bin” will do. Q-tips are earbuds. Which can get confusing when he asks for earbuds and I hand him my iPhone headphones…

Rather than saying “is that so?” or “really?”, South Africans prefer to ask “is it?” and it’s probably one of the most popular South African-isms I have come across in my five years living here. Along with saying “it’s sorted” or “I’ll sort it”. And don’t even get me started on the variations of “now”, “now now”, and “just now” because African time is a whole ‘nother article!

Election Day is a holiday

What a concept! When it’s time to vote for your favorite (or least hated) politician or party, everyone lines up around the block to cast their vote. Then they go home to braai and take naps. It’s a day off work for them! It’s a country-wide holiday, so that everyone has the chance to go vote. I went with my partner a few days ago so he could cast his ballot, and he was aghast when I told him that if you don’t have the day off in the States, there’s a fat chance you won’t be able to get to a poll booth in time.

Sports Day is a thing

My partner recently had his grandmother and a cousin visit. His young cousin was playing rugby locally, and so we all turned up to see him play. Now, in my head that meant “go see his cousin play for an hour, then go eat some food or come home”. Nope.

Perhaps it’s a regional thing, but where we’re located, “Sports Day” is kind of a big deal. It happens multiple times a year, and basically it’s where one entire school comes to another school’s home field. If there’s one top rugby team, they will try to play against another school’s top rugby team as well as try to match as many of their other teams up with the rival school’s teams. Match up a really good rugby team with a good rugby team, a decently good soccer team with a good soccer team, and so on.

There were several of those kinds of games going on at the same time in the same location when I arrived. The singing and cheering from a girls’ basketball (or similar?) game was so loud you could clearly hear it from the neighboring rugby field. There were snacks and concessions (if you were willing to wait 15 minutes for some chips on a stick) where everyone flocked during the intermission. And then, everyone shuffled over to the next event: another rugby game. This time, of the older boys. I was shocked at how many kids were there! Middle school and high school kids alike showed up and cheered on each others teams. For every game!

My partner’s mother remarked how it inspired comradery and strong bonds between the kids. She even saw her own cousin show up and cheer on these kids he didn’t know, simply because it was his home team. It seemed more like a college football experience than a middle school sports event with how many people were there!

I’m in the wrong hemisphere

Summer for me is in June. Scratch that. For the past five years, it’s been in December.

My allergies are never okay. But it’s kinda funny, because despite the hemisphere difference I still find myself sick at the same time as friends. For instance, for the past two weeks I’ve been having head cold and/or allergy symptoms, and simultaneously my partner’s sister in Los Angeles was experiencing the same. Magic!

Oregano

I’ll have to add in more varying pronunciations as I hear them again, but this is typical for anyone who isn’t American. He pronounces it “or-eh-GAN-oh”, and I pronounce it “or-AY-guh-no”.

Greekster

I’m sure you guys are quite well aware of the Easter holiday weekend. But are you aware of the Greek Easter weekend? Greek (or orthodox) Easter falls on a different Sunday than the traditional Easter does. This is because orthodox Easter follows a different calendar than the traditional, Christian one. You can learn more about the background by researching it further, if you’re curious. And despite not being married into the Greek festivities, I can fully enjoy them because I’m a whopping 1% Greek myself!

Me, my partner, and his father on Greek Easter 2018

On Greek Easter, my partner and his family enjoy heading to a Greek restaurant in the city where they can chow down on boiled eggs dyed red, fresh bread, and as many tapas plates they can handle! It’s a really beautiful family tradition. I’ve only gone twice, but both times there were other large, happy, loud Greek families who had also come to celebrate.

Vasilopita

Vasilopita is a traditional Greek cake. It’s baked with a lucky coin inside the batter on New Year’s Day. Really, any coin will do! Whomever gets the piece with the coin shall have good luck for the entirety of the year. At the beginning of 2017, I was lucky enough to find the coin! It was a one-in-ten chance, but I was ecstatic nonetheless. Which reminds me, Greeks have amazing cookies! I’m hopelessly addicted to kourabiedes!

Children’s TV shows

Forget about sharing nostalgia about Blue’s Clues, Dragon Tales, or Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Neither show exist for my partner! I showed him some content from Mr. Roger’s though, and he was a big fan. But he has seen some of Clifford the Big Red Dog, and he’s heard of Arthur!

I love dating my partner! And I am positive there are a lot of other fun quirks I forgot about. So who knows, maybe I’ll pen a follow up article for the future.

Can anyone else identify with this? Maybe you share some similarities with my story or it reminded you of your own unique one!

Laurrel Allison is an American writer traveling around the world. Follow Laurrel on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see what she’s doing and where she is.

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Laurrel Allison

Founder of Copy Fox Pro. Writer, cat parent, entrepreneur. Connect with me: hello@copyfoxpro.com