Lillian Wanninger: Culture in Greece vs the United States

500 379 Ellen Ensher
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Lillian Wanninger Headshot

I was always told by my family that the first thing to pack when embarking on a trip is to pack extra flexibility. If anything, that has been what I relied on most for my time in Greece. This trip has taught me to embrace the unexpected. There is a fair amount of planning one can do but at the end of the day none of us really know where the day will take us. I have found that to be the beauty of traveling. It is much more than the aesthetic sunsets, delicious meals and epic landscapes of Greece but more about the little moments in between that allow you to fully grasp the character and essence of each place you visit. I have found that traveling can be the best teacher. Before my time in Greece, not having a full plan and control over things was something that often scared me but now I face the unexpected.

Shanna Dietz Surenda a cultural affairs officer for the US Embassy in Athens and her visit touched me personally. Before my stay in Greece, the only job that piqued my interest was something in the sports industry. Her speaking and sharing her experience has opened my eyes to working abroad for the US. I have always seen myself as an independent person who can thrive in stressful situations and loves challenges so working in the industry does appeal to me. In the US, many of the benefits that come with jobs are standard, such as social security, discounts and paid time off. However, working for the embassy she informed us that free education, free travel and free housing were all parts of the benefit package. In the US nearly 30% of income made is spent on housing, in Greece it is significantly higher around 40%. If one makes around 75k nearly 25k before taxes is saved. This provides a huge benefit to the job because it allows personal savings to grow.

I have always wanted to have children. One thing that has often come across my mind is being so far away overseas without them would be a major source of discomfort. I am an only child so having my immediate nuclear family nearby is extremely important to me. I would want to have a job that would include my family so when Shanna mentioned that the children of embassy workers receive free education it seemed like a major benefit, especially since many public schools in the US lack what private and often expensive schools can offer.

Traveling as I once said has been something that has opened my eyes to a new world. I always hope to be in a place both financially and mentally to be able to travel a lot. I know traveling can also be quite expensive so being able to have a benefit of free travel when it comes to work is something that seems like a no brainer. My time in Greece, especially when interacting with everyday hotel staff has often served as a reminder we are visiting an island that is seasonal and these workers may be in the same country, but still remain distant from home with long hours of work. She touched on the fact that the job requires, “In this lifestyle you have to be very flexible and a lot of decisions are made for you. You have to learn to feel confident and secure in your space as a human being but not necessarily with what is going on around you.”

Our world seems to be rapidly changing and every day there is a new issue to solve. It may seem overwhelming but being in Greece has allowed me to fully submerge myself into another country and their own struggles. I think often it is easy to step aside and let others solve issues, but this trip, if anything , has left me with a strong desire to change whatever corner of Earth I can.