Driving in Greece Worse Than Walking in Saigon

July 11, 2011 § 8 Comments

In Saigon, I was shrieked at for taking a step backward, as a solid phalanx of motorcycles came thundering upon me as we all held hands crossing the street.

“Never go backward!” shouted my mother and her two friends (though they did so in Cantonese). “No one expects you to go backward! Don’t look back, don’t go back!”

Soon I understood the Saigon traffic wasn’t the chaos it appeared to be but another sort of order: everyone drives shoulder to shoulder and pedestrians stride carefully into the stream, so long as everyone is responsible for what is ahead of her. No one looks behind. No one passes. Once you understand that, Saigon traffic works.

In Greece, however, the only rule seems to be that no matter how careful you are, some Greek driver is going to drive like shit in your presence and blame you for it.

Observed already:

  • Cars taking up two lanes
  • Cars coming suddenly to a stop and parking in the middle of the road for no apparent reason
  • Passing at speed on the right shoulder
  • Cars driving on the double yellow center line on a two-way street
  • An inattentive cellphone-using driver who cursed a car that had signaled (must have been a tourist) and slowed to turn right
  • Cars trying to pass on the right while someone ahead is turning right
  • Drunken drifting (a lot of this)
  • Women with children crossing major four-lane avenues in the middle, using their children or baby strollers as human shields
  • Stop signs utterly ignored
  • Crosswalks utterly ignored
  • Traffic lights utterly ignored
  • Motorcycling morons with no helmets tearing down the road between car traffic

Greeks are fond of blaming tourists for all this bad driving, but ask yourself truly: would tourists curse in Greek?

I need to figure out what to scream at the weekend drivers from Athens who come pouring fast down the middle of our little side street and honk at us and shout that we can’t go up that street because it’s a one-way street, which it is not, which we know because we live here. I think the correct phrase will be some translation of “it’s a two-way street, like your ass.”

For your education, here are a few videos of indigestion-inducing Greek driving.

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§ 8 Responses to Driving in Greece Worse Than Walking in Saigon

  • Whatever you say about Greek driving, you’re a priori right. The aggressiveness displayed is astounding! Don’t think that Greeks blame tourists for the bad driving, they’re fully cognizant of how aggressive they are.
    Ι kinda think the people parked in the middle of the street are just those who “double-parked” (or “triple-parked” on wide enough roads), making two rows of cars parked side by side, only their own car stayed parked there while the others eventually left as time passed. When this happens, the remaining parked car looks like it was landed by extra-terrestrials coming with the Enterprise.

    And what about this little gem? 😉

    (He’s shouting with just complaint: “You had a red light! You had a red light, damn it!” She’s too numb to say anything at all)

    When you try cross the road on Varkiza while the Athenians are driving speedily over to the beaches (did you have a swim yet? I see a post coming up about sunbathing clothing style & tribles of the beach!), I suggest you make the international basket sign of “time-out” or -if your upbringing allows you- after they disregard your gesticulating plea you give them the “moutza” (palm with fingers extended, I’m sure friends told you about it). If anyone complains, you can justifiably claim you don’t enough of the Greek lifestyle to know what it means! (Wish I could do that myself!!!)

  • Oops, two typos already:

    “trying TO cross” and “tribes”…..Sorry!

  • It comes as a shock to realize that Tania, you are staying in Greece. I didn’t know that. Dare I ask: “Why on earth did you do that?” LOL. I was born in Athens, lived most of my life here and I still feel like I am sleepwalking in Athens.

    • Welcome. It is a shock to me too to realize that I am staying in Greece. Every morning.

      As for why we are here, it is a long and boring story of administrative snafus, which led to this ineluctable, absurd conclusion, a great unwritten Kafka story called not The Trial but The Grant.

      • The Grant. Ha, story of scientists everywhere I guess. Relative of mine in comparable field got one in UK and is constantly complaining on the unending rain, the ugly rotten teeth of the natives, the lousy state of food in general and the obligation to restrain himself from showing anything that resembles ordinary human display of emotion under any circumstances.

  • Persolaise says:

    The third video is one of the most frightening things I have ever seen.

    And here’s something to add to your Saigon collection:

    (I hope the link works.)

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