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  • Victoria H

Culture Shock

“Did you experience culture shock when you returned?”

Friends asked.

In 1983 I had a dream. In 2018 I fulfilled it…traveling alone to Crete for the better part of a year. It took me decades to dare to do it. I blinked and it was time to leave.

Crete, a place in which people and connections are valued.

Crete…where chairs are placed next to check stands so you can sit and chat for a while.

A place where cars stop, blocking the road because the drivers want to visit.

Or the Ferry boat captain and fisherman pause, “midstream” to share a bit of gossip. No one seems to mind.

And the children!!! Children of all sizes, colors and ages are adored and tended to by caring adults, who often are strangers.

Crete…where my heart remains, high in the mountains, waiting to welcome me back to the home of my soul.

At the end of my time there, my husband joined me to share a holiday and reconnect.

Driving down a very narrow road to the beach one day, I was ranting on, about the way tourists drive here. Unlike home…it’s not about the “right of way” or who has it. It’s about giving space. I went on explaining how tourists cause accidents.

Just then, a little red car a few curves ahead, pulled off the road onto a rare and teeny bit of space. This meant, when we met, I would be able to pass. It was the only possible place for two cars to get by one another. “See?’, I said. “Now that’s a Greek driver for sure.”

As we were gingerly passing each other, I realized it was my friend, Artemis. She saw me too. We both braked, backed up end to end, and jumped out of our cars to hug and visit. She had not seen my husband since he arrived so, as she ran past my open arms, she laughed: “You are second today. I have not seen Don before this.!”

Just then a group of young Greek men on motorcycles approached and were blocked by the open door of my car. My apologies were cut off by the lead man who said: “No worries…no problem”. He got off his bike and closed my door. Laughing, they squeezed by, one foot up on the bank, one on the road…single file. Looking back, they wished us good day (Kali Mera) and off they went.

We were hugging in the road. We were happy to see one another. The young men saw that. THAT was more important than being delayed by a few minutes.


Three days later we flew from Hania to London.

In the airport a female hologram assured us the train to Terminal 5 would be arriving in 3 minutes…over and over and over, for 25 minutes! It finally came as I was asking my husband what happens when a hologram is kicked in the shins. I’m still curious about that. We boarded an over-stuffed train in which no one spoke or made eye contact.

While we were waiting to board our plane, I went into a store to buy a book. No humans in the store. No check stands with chairs next to them. No check stands at all. Rather, a bank of machines. Said the machine: “Scan your item please. Check bag or no bag. Scan credit card. Check here for receipt or no receipt.


No need to look at another human being. No need to interact. And…if that unwelcome event were to occur…well…there is always the smart phone to help avoid connection, accidental eye contact, interactions or, god forbid, engagement! Oh…I was sad.

Only hours after leaving a culture that embraces authentic human engagement and all the messiness that entails…a culture in which people are not afraid of emotions or expressing them…a culture in which boundaries are a “suggestion” and difficult to maintain…a culture in which people spontaneously break into song, dance or spew poetry and philosophy… a culture that holds space for passion…and traditions abound…in other words: a CULTURE.

I was now, back in a place…surrounded by people, packed in…with no acknowledgement that I existed. A place of people in trance. I felt disconnected and bereft.

“I love Crete, it’s people and their values”, she said as she re-entered the USA.

And yes, dear friends…I did experience culture shock.

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