Ten things you should know about Greece

Visiting Greece for a vacation can sometimes be an interesting experience! There are several things which might puzzle, shock, or annoy you that people who live in Greece take for granted. Read on to find out ten things you should know about Greece before you visit!

Ten things you should know about Greece

DO – Be prepared for people smoking indoors

One of the things you should know about Greece, is that smokey places are thriving. Although the anti-smoking law came into effect in 2010, it has not been widely applied in bars, cafes and restaurants. If you are visiting in summer, this is hardly a problem, as you can sit outside and enjoy the nice weather. In winter, however, it might be more of an issue – unless you are a smoker yourself.

Smoking sign in Greece

If you can’t read Greek, this sign says that smoking is allowed! Some laws in Greece are clearly more flexible than others. All is not lost though. This map shows places that actually respect the anti-smoking law! It’s only in Greek at the moment though. Also, watch out for our future article on places in central Athens where there is no indoor smoking!

DO NOT – Be discouraged by the lack of organisation

A delayed boat, a public transport strike, a waiter who forgot your order. You might encounter one or more of these situations while visiting Greece, but it will all work out in the end. Greeks have long ago been stereotyped as being laid back and disorganised. Whereas this might be true sometimes, it should not discourage you from enjoying your Greek vacation. Remember the “slowly” culture – siga siga!

DO – Check before you cross zebra crossings

One of the things you should know about Greece, is that pedestrians rank low on the food chain! If you assume that cars will stop for you to cross a zebra crossing, please think again! Apart from the city of Trikala and the zebra crossings at the Athens airport, no other place in Greece that we know of follows this rule. So, whenever you need to cross the street, please look carefully, and cross quickly. In fact, the same applies even if there is a green ‘man’ indicating you can cross. Perhaps even more so! Keep your wits about you, as it’s better to be safe than sorry!

DO NOT – Be surprised if cars are parked illegally

While in Greece, you will most likely spot illegally parked cars. You may see cars parked on the pavement, under a clear “No-parking” sign, or even on the street, blocking other parked cars.

Cars parked on the pavement in Athens, Greece

Of all the things you should know about Greece, this is the least likely to affect you. Unless you are actually driving, in which case it is worth keeping it in mind.

DO – Throw toilet paper in the toilet bin

You may have grown up in a country where toilet paper goes down the toilet. This is generally not the case in Greece. The sewage system in the majority of Greek buildings is old, so you need to put the toilet paper in the little bin next to the toilet.

No paper in the toilet in Greece

You can probably guess what will happen if you don’t, and trust us, you won’t like it!

DO NOT – Assume that everyone is trying to cheat you

You may have been advised to bargain hard when buying souvenirs, and have read that taxi drivers might try to charge you extra. You may think that the waiter will knowingly add a few euros to your bill. While we can’t promise that none of this will happen to you, we firmly believe that Greeks are generally honest people. In a way, this may be even more the case since the crisis began.

DO – Relax with a frappe in the sun

We can’t stress enough the importance of enjoying an iced coffee in the sun! Greek coffee culture is not really about the coffee. It’s about meeting a friend or two and going for a chat for a couple of hours. Remember, the siga-siga (slowly) culture is quite prominent in Greece. Most visitors are surprised at the number of Greeks sitting in cafes, despite the crisis. The truth is, staying at home won’t really help get rid of the crisis, so there’s nothing wrong with meeting friends for a coffee.

Enjoy a Greek frappe in the sun!

Even if the idea of a cold coffee doesn’t excite you, give it a go – you may discover your new favourite drink!

DO NOT – Be a prude on the beach

Naturism started becoming popular in Greece in the late 1960s. After Greece joined the EU in 1981, thousands of visitors were happy to spend their summer holidays enjoying fully the Mediterranean sun. Naturism and free camping became quite common at isolated beaches throughout the country. Although both are illegal, they are well tolerated, or even the done thing, in designated beaches. Going topless for women is also fairly common on non-naturist beaches.

Beach on Gavdos island, south of Crete

Most of the naturist beaches are not easily accessible, so you are unlikely to see something you didn’t mean to. That said, if you like isolated bays, you might come across people who took off their swimsuits. If you decide to give it a go, make sure you don’t forget your sunscreen! Check out our article on the best beaches in Greece.

DO – Learn some Greek

“It’s all Greek to me” – you will say, and you will be absolutely right. Learning a few words in Greek, though, will earn you at least some smiles, and possibly some treats! Among the things you should know about Greece, this might be the most beneficial. You can start with having a look at the Greek Alphabet. Chances are that you have seen some of our letters before, especially if you have studied Maths.

The Greek AlphabetIf you want to learn a few words in Greek, you can also have a look at our quick guide to learning Greek. This will give you some more inspiration!

DO NOT – Expect to see tons of ancient buildings in Athens

Athens grew from a town of 5,000-10,000 people in the 1820s, to a bustling capital city of almost 4 million people today. In fact, the city mostly expanded over the last 60 years.

A view of Athens from above

Among the ancient Greek and Roman buildings you will also see Byzantine churches, a few neoclassical buildings and many rather unappealing blocks of flats. It’s a rather unique combination that makes Athens what it is today!

BONUS: DO – Experiment with Greek food

Souvlaki, moussaka, feta cheese, baklava, Greek salad. Is that all? No way! The Greek cuisine is one of the most varied in Europe, if not the world. Have a look at our section about Greek food, and you will see that there are plenty of Greek dishes that are worth tasting!

Food in Greece - a Greek meal - things you should know about Greece

Our advice: be bold, experiment, and order dishes you haven’t heard of. Chances are, you won’t regret it!

Ten things you should know about Greece

Can you think of any other things you should know about Greece before you visit? Please let us know in the comments!

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