I was nervous to go to Greece alone. It would be my first solo female travel experience.
I’ve always done things like that – diving into the deep end first, before working my way up to it.
Honestly, I’d wanted my first solo trip to be to a surf camp in Puerto Rico, but then I effed up my neck and shoulder.
So Greece was Plan B.
Anytime I travel somewhere new, I never know exactly how people are going to take my red hair.
In Israel, a homeless man called me “ginjie”, which apparently (ironically) is Hebrew for “ginger”. It’s one of the only words in Hebrew that sounds like the English word too, as far as I know of the few Hebrew words that I do know.
Some not-so-nice Israelis asked me why I was so pale – weren’t there beaches in America?
So Greece being so close and similar in some ways to Israel, I was nervous to be there, especially alone.
My first day, I found my hotel and changed into a black-and-white maxi dress with an Aztec pattern. I added gold crown headband that looked quite like a tiara. And then pinned my eons of hair high on top of my head. I topped it all off with a bright pink lipstick.
I knew I had just made myself stand out even more.
But to my great surprise, the outfit was quite similar to what I saw Greek girls wearing on the street. And countless people, despite being fluent in English, and me assuming it was obvious by my looks that I did not speak Greek, approached me and initiated conversations with me in Greek. It may have helped that I was in Psyrri, ,a trendier neighborhood with less tourists.
But, multiple Greeks initiated conversation with me in Greek, and me not wanting to admit I didn’t understand, would smile and nod. Eventually they’d figure it out and say, “You don’t speak Greek?” and switch over to perfectly fluent English.
I was shocked by the number of times this happened. Maybe Greek redheads aren’t uncommon, or maybe because I wasn’t in touristy areas, they assumed I spoke Greek. Or perhaps, and most likely, because it was their home country, they spoke in their native tongue.
In one tourist shop in the Plaka, the touristy neighborhood, a shop owner started speaking to me in French. I stared at him, and he responded in English. “You look French,” he said. That’s the second or third time that someone in a foreign country has assumed I’m French. Not sure if that means I look chic or snobby haha. ... When I told my dad this, he said he didn't think of redheads as being French..
But overall, no one said anything to me about my hair. Shockingly. That doesn't even happen in the States! (And no one assumed I was American, which I always consider a compliment in my book.)