Etiquette in Greece
Greece and its many islands have long been the destination of choice for many holidaymakers. Greece’s profound and famous cultural history ancient architectural gems, abundance of hot weather and stunning shorelines has attracted a steady stream of tourists for many years. But whilst basic ‘western’ perception of manners and etiquette apply in Greece, and shouldn’t be a problem for the average holidaymaker, as with every country there are specific social customs that should be taken note of.
FamilyGreeks are extremely warm, welcoming and hospitable people. If you are welcomed into a Greek person’s home, the likelihood is that you’ll be treated like a V.I.P.! It is important that you make a good impression with all relatives, as family is very important to Greeks, and obviously it follows that the general opinion of the family holds a great deal of weight. Honour and family honour is also very important to a Greek person. Bear this in mind should you feel the urge to publicly or privately demean or confront someone in Greece. If you challenge one person, in some respects you are taking on the whole family! So any grievances or problems should be dealt with in a very noble, polite and low-key way.In Greece, the extended family is one of the most important factors within society. Grandparents and senior citizens are treated with dignity and respect, and as such you should make an extra effort to endear yourself to them.
Greek GreetingsWhen meeting in Greece, a firm handshake should be used as standard with both men and women. If introductions to a Greek family are being made, bear in mind that it is good manners to acknowledge and shake the hands of any children present too. Once you have made a firm acquaintance with a Greek person, you may find that hugging and kissing each cheek becomes the norm with women, and a friendly resolute pat on the shoulder or back more common between men.
Social and Dining EtiquetteGreek people are very open and emotive in their speech and body language. You should easily be able to tell what a Greek person is feeling and thinking, as they often punctuate their words with gesticulations.
You should be aware that in Greece, the ‘OK’ signal of making an ‘O’ shape with your thumb and forefinger is actually a vulgar gesture. The alternative and acceptable way of gesturing ‘OK’ is by making a fist and pointing your thumb to the sky.
It is also vital that you distinguish the different movements that signify ‘yes and ‘no’, as they differ slightly from the usual nodding and shaking of the head. ‘Yes’ is signalled by a slight nod of the head downwards, and ‘no’ is signalled by a small bob of the head upwards.
As Greek people are famous for their big-heartedness and hospitality, don’t be surprised if you are invited to a Greek family home for dinner. Whether dining out or invited to a dinner party, you should make sure that you are conscious of the proper dining etiquette in Greece. Quite often, especially in popular tourist areas, dancing will feature as part of the entertainment during your meal. It is considered good form to get up and have a go at dancing yourself – your Greek hosts and peers will welcome this gesture of trying to join in!
Punctuality to dinner parties is not such an issue in Greece. When invited to a Greek home, you should be aware that the ‘proper’ etiquette is to actually arrive a good half an hour after the stated time of the party! When you arrive you should bring your Greek host a small gift – a good wine, flowers, sweets or some pastries should all be well received as a gift. You may receive a toast from your guest, which can be returned later on during the meal.
Try to eat everything on your plate, and don’t be surprised if your host or fellow guests share the food from their plates with you. It is good manners to follow suit and offer to share some of your own food.