Thursday, June 05, 2008

Found money

One of the most common social activities for the thirtysomething professional here in Greece is to gather with a bunch of friends/colleagues at a taverna. I enjoy it because it is nice to put faces to the names of people my husband works with, and for the most part psychiatrists seem to be intelligent, interesting people so I don’t mind their company that much. Typically, a bunch of salads, side dishes, and meats (and let’s not forget the alcohol) are ordered and everyone shares – unlike such gatherings in the U.S. where everyone orders their own dish. It took me awhile to get used to the idea (and get used to non-relatives sticking their forks in the shared plates of food, although not everyone does that, thank god) but now I kinda like it, because it gives me a chance to try things I never would have tried on my own (who knew I loved fava beans?!).

The general agreement when it comes to paying for meals like this is to divide the total evenly amongst the number of people. It seems to work well, I’ve never heard a complaint, even if someone doesn’t drink or eat much, and since it is generally a group around the same professional level, money (or lack thereof) isn’t really an issue because most everyone makes about the same salary. The cost almost always comes to about fifteen euros a person, which is really a bargain considering the sheer amount of food and drink ordered and consumed.

I don’t know exactly how it happens, but every time we put all the money together (after a tense few seconds where everyone wonders if it will be enough) we end up with twenty euros (or more) too much. So every time, we all redo the math to make sure the per person amount is correct (it always is), question if someone didn’t get change if they had a bigger bill, etc., but we come up with nothing. So if someone did get shorted, they don’t speak up. Of course, since I first started noticing this phenomenon, I’ve watched the money collection process very closely – who pays the exact amount, that people get the change they deserve – and there are no errors. So it is perplexing where this extra money comes from, and what to do with it. Sure, we could leave it as a tip, except most tavernas have a 13% or so tip built into their prices, so the general rule there is to leave a couple of euros extra, certainly not twenty. Most attendees regard the extra money as if it is the plague and leave the table, but I assume someone eventually takes it. But where does it come from? Obviously, there is money just walking around all over Greece - probably sad, lonely money – that sees a pile of its own kind and decides to jump on. That is the only explanation. Until I come up with a better one, I will be closely monitoring the situation, because we all know money doesn’t fall from trees.


neoinileias said...

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Cheryl said...

It's so funny, in our circles(typically) we're fighting over 1 person covering the bill...and the fight can last for a while. But when we go out back home, most of the time we are in a situation much like you described. So, when we go out and there's actually someone calculating what they the penny...we're shocked and almost insulted because we're so used to splitting everything evenly even if someone ate more or less than the next guy.
BTW-I'd like to find that pile of money. I'll keep my eyes open too.