Wined and dined by my "sympethera"
We are celebrating today. Its a special “round-numbered” birthday of a family member and I found myself getting my tongue in a twist whilst telling Loraine, from the office, that we are being wined and dined by our son-in-law’s mother, who is English and on holiday in Corfu to celebrate the occasion. How much easier is the Greek equivalent description of the relationship “sympethera”. It also covers the awkwardness at the beginning of such relationships. You don’t have to fumble over whether it is appropriate to use Christian names right at the start – but automatically use the title. How odd it would be to say any of the following: “Good morning son-in-law’s mother” or “daughter’s husband’s mother” or even “Marcus’ mother”. Jane and I would simply call ourselves “sympethera”, and it also somehow makes you feel like family, and therefore a bit more special, than the simple use of the Christian name.
Of course (this is Greece, after all) it isn’t so straightforward with other relationships. My sister-in-law (husband’s sister), for instance is my “kouniada” but I am her “nifi” or bride. If I had a brother, his wife, equally my sister-in-law, would be my “nifi” not “kouniada”! This is to do with hierarchy in the family – any sons in a family bring their wives home to the patriarchal home and the title is thus established “nifi or bride of the family”.
This bringing of the wife home by the male members of the family is exactly the opposite of the English tradition, where the daughter is far more likely to bring her husband to her family home than vice-versa. The old saying “Your son’s your son till he finds him a wife, but your daughter’s your daughter for the whole of her life” just doesn’t quite work in Greece.