Post being nicked and hand gestures in Greece


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Ok – let’s take this bit by bit.

So, the other day a book arrived for me from Amazon.  It was left in the hallway of my building, on the desk with all the other post.  I’m in a rush to get to work and have a bag full of schoolbooks, aka FULL so I decide against taking said post right now and figure I’ll pick it up on my return from work.
Hmmmmm – only to find on return from work, said post has disappeared. 
“Ok,” I muse “let’s give someone the benefit of the doubt and assume they have mistakenly taken it” (God I am so naive sometimes – but I believe, to some extend, in hope.  Without hope we might as well all jump off the Golden Gate Bridge).

I digress.

Not there the next day.  Nor the next.  It is at this point I am pushed too far and let RIP via various text messages to my poor landlady (a very sweet Greek girl who is quite concerned for me and, I think justifiably, more concerned by the number of ‘mad’ ranting texts she’s receiving from her tenant!)
Anyway, she kindly writes a message in English and Greek about the fact a book was taken, I expect it to be returned to the post desk – if it is not done so I can only assume it’s been stolen and involve the police (as if the police here would do anything!  But still, that’s not the point…)

And GUESS WHAT??  A week later, the book is humbly returned to the desk – in its cardboard Amazon packaging and re-sellotaped up!  I mean, the person even bothered to re-tape it for me (making it obvious someone’d opened it!)

I am JOYOUS by this stage – openly clutching my package in the hallway, ripping down my messages I posted up and smiling broadly – believing maybe there IS hope in the world. 
A woman sees me doing this and asks me in Greek if it’s my book (I assume she is asking this, my Greek is still appallingly bad and I decide she’s doing this because she’s pointing at my book and at the place the signs were stuck). 
“Nai” I yell happily, “Ego” (“me” is the literal translation and don’t forget I have to use pigeon Greek).
She smiles at me, clearly used to seeing people doing this in the hallway (it’s amazing what Greeks find odd and find normal) and pats my arm, then proceeds do to the following (try and picture):

Hand extended in a vertical position, fingers apart, hand moved in a circle motion near side of head/brain and the other hand (struggling with the dog’s lead) also pointing at the ceiling (with the poor dog almost being pulled up to the ceiling too).  She kept repeating “Tesera” (4) and I can only assume that she was saying some crazy person on the 4th floor nicked my post. 
I just gave a good natured smile/shrug and repeated the eye rolling/hand circle movement and repeating ‘Nai’ (‘Yes’) ie; “Yes I agree with you, Greek woman, there is a crazy person in this building who clearly thinks it ok to take post.”  Meanwhile I am looking worriedly at her dog – she really is straining its lead by pointing at the 4th floor – until I can bear it no longer and pull her hand down whilst pointing at the poor dog and shrugging helplessly.  She laughs embarrassingly, then does the crazy hand gesture as herself then takes herself off up the stairs (probably to the 4th floor).

Any other hand gestures anyone can think of?  There are plenty in this country – too many for this post alone, but I’m sure we’ll have time to discuss them another day.


  1. Gestures are a language in their own, and vary just as much as verbal languages do. Where I come from, if you see a friend across a room and wish for him or her to come over, you can extend your arm toward your friend, palm up, and wave with hands and fingers toward yourself. Not in Southeast Asia–that is only used for summoning a prostitute. In Southeast Asia you only wave to your friend with palm facing down. I remember hearing of a linguist going to a new area where the language was unknown to outsiders. He wanted to learn the names of things, so started pointing at them with his index finger, and tried to make it known that he wanted to know the word for what he was indicating. The reply: “Glink.” He pointed to a tree. “Glink.” To a cloud. “Glink.” To a person standing nearby. “Glink.” “This is going to be an easy language,” thought the linguist. “Only one word!” Turns out “glink” means finger. You don’t point with your finger in that culture; you point with your elbow! Happy translating, Bec! Both words and gestures!

  2. Just like the HSBC advert – see how things differ country to country? What gesture means ‘mad’ in your respective countries?
    Is it similar to the Greek one as mentioned in my post? I think in the UK it’s the index finger pointed at the side of the head and moving in a circular motion, accompanied by a rolling of the eyes to the heavens.