Folk Belief

Never swim until 3 hours after you eat.

Sophia, who is a Greek-American like myself, heard this belief from her Greek grandmother. Her grandmother would give this advise after every meal, whether they intended to swim or not. Sophia describes this advise as her “grandmother’s motto”, despite the fact that it rarely pertained to the context in which she would advise. Interestingly, my Greek grandmother repeated the same warning to us after many meals. Although my grandmother would advise this before we went swimming, our two accounts nevertheless provide evidence for the multiplicity of this folklore. The saying is concerned with the concept of eating, a valued aspect of the Greek culture. The saying advises not to swim after eating in order to prevent one from drowning. It is an extreme belief in many aspects. The suggestion that one would drown after a meal implies the consumption of a very large amount of food. Additionally, advising to wait three hours is also very extreme and continues the implication of a large meal. The stress placed on food is evident in the opposition to this folklore; the saying does not advise to ‘eat less so one is not at risk of drowning’.