Written by Antonia (Tonya) Strantzi
MSc Computer Animation & Visual Effects
Hello Greek people! Geia sas, ti ginetai? So if you’ve been wondering what it’s like being a Greek in Bournemouth, this is the verdict: it’s quite great.
First of all, it’s incredibly surprising how many Greek and Cypriot people there are here. When I first came here, I could not believe it. Apart from the fact that one of my flatmates is Greek, in the building I live in, out of the 90+ residents, eight of us are… you guessed it, Greek! To put it in a nutshell, there are a lot of us here. It seems like there’s a massive exodus of young people from our country. I wonder why…
Now I know one of the most important things for us is food. It’s really bad we can’t have our mothers’ and grandmothers’ cooking while we’re here so we really have to find good substitutes. My number one substitute is Lidl. Apart from the fact that I can find some of the exact same products that I get in Greece, like cereal, juice, ice cream etc. they also have several made in Greece products, like feta, olives and stuffed vine leaves (aka ntolmadakia), which have always been one of my great loves and I thank Lidl for keeping them in my life. Apart from those products, there have been a couple of “Greek weeks” throughout the year where they brought even more products, like spinach and cheese pies, gyros, gigantes beans, meatballs and even halvas. Apart from Lidl, I was really excited to find yoghurt made in Serres (where half of my family is from) in Waitrose. There are also a lot of Turkish food shops in Charminster where you can find a lot of products that we have in Greece too, and I’ve also heard of, but never visited, a Mediterranean food shop in Lansdowne (called Meditarabia), where they also sell some of our products.
So if you are good, or even medium, at cooking, you will definitely not miss a lot food-wise. The only thing that you are going to miss is the Greek junk food, which, let’s just admit, is the best thing ever! You are going to miss gyros and souvlakia, in a pita, for only €2.50. You could try making them but sometimes, you just need the right setting for this kind of food, like eating it in a grill house at 2am after a night out. Nevertheless, you can have this kind of food in the Greek restaurants that can be found in various places in the town.
Now I’m gonna lay off the food topic (because I’m really tempted to run to the fridge), and I want to mention another important aspect of Bournemouth: the beach. Now you may be from parts of Greece that are not too close to the sea, but I’m from Thessaloniki. I need the beach and if I don’t see it regularly I get withdrawal symptoms, and I miss the smell of Thermaikos gulf – ok, that was a joke. Now in all seriousness, the beach is a good aspect, because it makes the town more familiar to us visually, and it’s pretty different from the “classic” grey and cloudy image that most of us have in our minds about the UK. The proximity to the sea also makes the climate milder and not as cold as one would expect the climate to be in northern countries. In the summer, you can even go swimming in the sea, and the beach is crowded during those months. Now I know the beach will definitely not be like the ones in Halkidiki or the Ionian islands but it’s still quite good, and even if you don’t want to swim, it’s a beautiful place to go and have a relaxing time.
One of the things that you will not find in Bournemouth is an organized Greek and Cypriot student society, because I guess it was never really needed, so we never pursued it. There are so many of us here that we have already formed friendships and groups and we spend quite a lot of time together. During our earlier months here, some of us organized a Greek night in our accommodation and we cooked Greek food and invited people over. It was a night that ended up being really great fun, and the food was unanimously loved.
In conclusion, Bournemouth is really nice to live, and it’s not exactly the stereotypically dark and rainy English town that you would expect. You will definitely get a lot of those days, let’s be real, but there is sun, there is food and there is good company. Fun times ahead!
By Antonia Strantzi