Culture is something that I think is truly underappreciated. It seeps through every moment of our lives even when we probably don’t realize it. I’m from the Midwestern United States, more specifically the great land of corn: Kansas. The culture and world I grew up in was really polite with incredibly minute and intricate details that one would probably easily miss. We have a very entangled way of interacting, changing from person to person. I didn’t even realize this until I went to California a few years ago. While we have a very labyrinthine system for dealing with really anything, theirs is much more straight-forward. I noticed this especially in conflict. In the Midwest, we’re more naturally passive aggressive, intricately talking about a subject where every word is treated like a live grenade. In California, not so much.
Culture can be found anywhere. It bleeds from every crack in our lives from saying hello to how we eat.
In Korea I found culture in a glass of beer. In Japan, I found it in food. In Italy, I found it in a strange, Coca-Cola-esque soda. And in Greece,
I found it in a cup of coffee.
I woke up at 7 AM to a quiet room. The sunlight beamed through the window, stretching across the floor, getting ready for the day ahead. My roommates were still asleep, sprawled out in their bed. I got dressed and wandered into the hotel’s nearly empty dining hall. I walked out onto the small balcony at the end and took a seat as the sunlight peeked across the never ending olive grove below. A dark green ocean stretches from mountain to mountain. A large lake lies behind with hills wrapped around it. Below me sat a long, spotted hill of trees here and there leading in. The salty, cool morning breeze encapsulated the air as a bird perched onto the railing, enjoying the view with me. We had spent the trip so far seeing everything we could: Athens, museums, ancient temples, the ruins of Delphi, and anything in between. It was our last day before shipping off to Italy.
I hadn’t really felt like I was truly in Greece. Our trip was so rushed, constantly moving to a rhythm too fast to play along with. Every moment felt like a postcard, carefully orchestrated for us to take a picture and move on. I had spent the whole trip with Americans and never quite felt like I was somewhere else.
Some staff wandered here and there behind me, preparing for breakfast. After a while I wandered a bit with them, listening to their passionate conversations, tossing Greek back and forth like a game of catch, and watching their fervent morning routine. I whipped up a quick cup of cappuccino and went back to the balcony as they swamped the hall, prepping it for the day. I took a sip and a deep breath. The excited conversations seeped into the background with words I couldn’t understand but with words I could feel. The birds chirped along with them, a passionate chat of their own. The welcoming smell of breakfast wafted its way out to me as the grove lit up with the morning sun. Somebody came into the hall, cracking open his foreign newspaper, taking a sip of his morning brew, chatting with a worker. His exhausted eyes woke up as he let out a guffaw, patting the employee on the back. A symphony, passionately playing over what should be a mundane morning. I took another sip, lost in its bitter taste.
It wasn’t until I had that cup of coffee that I really felt like I was in Greece.