Monday 2 August 2010

What will happen to my writing if I keep living here?

As you know, I live in Greece. Everyday, I walk out of my little isolated world of reading and writing, and into the obnoxious and chaotic world of Athens, Greece. I hear Greeks curse, chat about nail varnish and make-up, politics (which to me, in Greek, is incomprehensible), boyfriends cheating, husbands lying, children screaming in public, expensive supermarket prices ... general universal conversation really. Isn't it?
But you know what the difference is with these conversations? They're in Greek. Not only is the language completely different to English, but so is intonation, facial expression, and hand gesture. Emphasis on particular words in a sentence is also completely different. Their way of answering the phone, to us seems ubrupt and rude sometimes, or even doesn't make sense. Would any English speaker answer the phone and say, 'Yes?' or 'Please?' No. I didn't think so.

If I keep living in this country, is my idea of a realistic English conversation going to flush the opposite way down the toilet bowl? What's going to happen when my mind is filled with Greek mannerisms rather than English ones? What's going to happen to my writing?
Yes, I do watch English films, read English books, and speak English on a daily basis, but in my world, in my surrounding environment, 'life' is not in English. How am I supposed to successfully eavesdrop?
Am I going to lose touch? Am I going to be able to evolve with the English language? Or am I going to be one of those people who doesn't realise that when someone says 'She's bad', in a particular context, they actually mean she's a strong independent woman instead of misbehaved?
It's scary. Really scary. Is my future as a writer doomed?


  1. People are different, so I can't say for certain, but I don't think it is that bad. I've been overseas almost continuously since 1993. I guess I am missing some American fads, but from what I hear, I'm not missing anything good. Drooping jeans that expose underwear? I can't imagine anything good about that. And the music is just flat terrible compared to what it used to be. People once used to play their own instruments. Surpising, I know. I'll only miss American culture when it goes in a good direction.

  2. OH honey, I hear ya. I'm livin the same thing over here in France. The way I try and 'keep up' with modern english is by watching TONS of american series through online streaming. I also continue to order newly released books in english that give me an idea of what kind of language is being used. Other than that, I don't have any other advice. I speak in english with my kids, but its limited (not like you can really get into a detailed conversation with a six year old). My husband and his family, my friends, the people outside 'my world' all speak french. With french mannerisms. and french criteria of what's polite and whats not:)

  3. I've been wondering for a while what took you to Greece...? And what keeps you there?

    That aside, these are important and interesting questions. With the number of English movies and literature out there, I think you can certainly find ways to stay on topic of the conversation. But, will that soon seem foreign to you as well? Being surrounded by a language, or even just a twist on a language (there are certainly areas of the English-speaking world that sound completely different from my home!) will certainly impact you.

    I think the next question is how to use that to your advantage? THAT could be the answer to your brilliance and longevity in the world of literature.

    Gothic Lit today at SouthernCityMysteries

  4. Yes. It is doomed. (How's that for a Monday morning uplift?!!!HA!)

  5. I'm thinking of a movable feast. You'll always have it with the rich spices of culture.

  6. I lived in Spaain for three years and yes one get caught up with a different culture but there was also a prodominant English community where my son works, So I caught up with alot of knowledge there. I miss the Spanish easy way of life and would go back tomorrow given the chance.

    I read your post with interest and hope you're not feeling homesick.

    Take care.

  7. I understand what you are saying. Cyprus is great for me, it gives me Greek Cypriots and Expats all in one.

    I think it has more expats here than Greece, so I benefit from a variety of folk from around the world if I go into the main towns.

  8. I haven't lived in an English speaking country in 20 years... And then, I only lived in one for half a dozen years. Yet whenever I go to the US and find myself in social situations people have a hard time accepting that I'm not from the US.

    I don't know the publishing industry, so I can't say anything on that level. But provided that your English doesn't get grammatically corrupt, then any particularities it may develop just contribute to your unique voice as a writer...

  9. I think you get used to the habits of one place, but as soon as you go anywhere else, the original habits flow back.
    When I was at University in the South of England I adapted. When I came back up North it was like slipping on comfy shoes. :)

  10. Remember that line from Jurassic Park? "Life will find a way" So will the writer. And everything you experience finds a way to enrich your writing.

  11. The answer is yes. I have lived in Mexico about four years and my English has gone down the toilet. I have to watch English television everyday and only listen to English music to keep my language up. Ugh, I relate.


  12. Not doomed, somehow enriched. You're active in the blogosphere. The Internet has a way of keeping people connected...

  13. I'm with Dawn. You're not losing, you're gaining. It's going to make you a better writer, for enriching your life.

  14. I hate reality shows, but they might be a way to stay connected with casual English conversations. Not that those people are real...

  15. Wow, I hadn't thought about that. I suppose living in Germany and hearing German constantly could cause that problem for me as well. I need to spend the majority of my two weeks back in the states in a coffee shop just listening!

    You have given my mind something new to dwell on.

  16. You're Australian, so it's not like you've ever made much sense to us Yanks anyway.

  17. Life in Greece will change you. How you look upon that change determines how you feel about it.

    As Lydia and others have said, your experiences will give you insights you could get no other way.

    Your speech patterns will change as will your perspective. Take that into consideration when you write. Others have mentioned watching modern American TV programs and reading the current bestsellers.

    Ted, believe me, seeing someone in baggy, drooping shorts with their underwear showing is ... underwhelming. Roland

  18. I think this will enhance your future as a writer. You're experiencing an entirely different culture and way of life. Values, worldviews, actions... Yes, it's definitely going to help you!

  19. I think your experience may do just the opposite of what you fear. I think you're probably becoming more aware of how people react and act. You're able to compare and notice things some of us may never see. It's going to make your writing stronger as you'll be more aware of the details.

  20. A foot in two worlds. I live between two countries and they both speak English. But they do not speak the same language at all. Different mannerisms, different slang and even different words. Would you like to join me in the land of the bewildered?
    Inkpots n' Quills

  21. I live in Alaska, but travel extensively. I find that some of my best inspiration comes when I'm in a foreign country.

  22. It can only help. Bring together an American and a Greek who both speak English, but of course two very different forms of English that can introduce conflict, misunderstandings, and other related challenges.

    Stephen Tremp

  23. That totally ruins my image of Greece being full of great food and toga parties. On the flip side, I would still stay for the gyros.

  24. When I lived in France, I went weeks at a time (sometimes longer) not speaking in English. I dreamed in French -- which freaked me out! At that time, no one had Internet. (It was too expensive. Connecting to a server meant a long distance phone call, and paying long distance fees for every minute you were on the Net.) We had satellite TV and some American sitcoms aired in VO (version originale) with French subtitles. All this to say that yes, I know what you're saying!

    But I think your exposure to Greek language and culture will only increase the depth and color of your fiction.

    Hope your vacation is going well!!

  25. I think you have an advantage, actually, of being able to realistically include some other cultures. You may lose a little on how up to date you are with slang, and such, but that is easily caught up (AND there are English speaking places that are decades behind--I'm from Idaho--I KNOW this)

    Hope you are having a fabulous time!

  26. I really don't have anything to add because your circumstance is beyond my realm of expertise. I did enjoy reading everyone's comments however. :)

  27. You are going to write in English about Greek settings, and your books are going to be richer for the experience. Yes, honestly.
    Who says only the English, American and Australian mannerisms are the only right ones?

  28. Perhaps tainted a bit, but not lost. I think your opinionated readers here will keep you current on the English blah blahs.

  29. Wow, I wouldn't have thought of that, but I think you're right to a certain extent. Maybe not in a "I'll have no clue what's going on in my own native language" sort of way though.

    I think as long as you continue to read books that are popular in English speaking countries (and keep hanging out with us here on the web) you'll be fine. It just might be that your characters are a little edgier than they would otherwise be if written by someone NOT living in Greece. They may not be a bad thing!


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris