If you’re traveling to Greece, you should be aware of some Greek customs and habits. Here are a few tips that will help you understand modern Greek culture.
Strange Greek habits and customs
Greek habits and customs go hand-in-hand with Greek tradition and culture! If you want to understand Greecs beyond its iconic ancient sites and beautiful islands, understanding Greek customs is important.
I’m Vanessa from Athens, and I’ve written this tongue-in-cheek article to help you understand cultural norms in Greece… because self-sarcasm is important!
So, if you want a Real Greek Experience when visiting Greece, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Greeks love breaking the law
Greek people love to break the law, wherever possible. Love it or leave it, this is something that happens a lot in Greece.
Most Greeks have, at some point in their lives, broken the law. They may have crossed the street with a red light or a STOP sign, parked illegally, built an illegal house extension, smoked inside a restaurant, failed to pay their taxes, or something else.
As an example, parking on the pavements is very common in Athens. In fact, it’s more unusual to see a sidewalk you can actually walk on! Thankfully, this excludes the historic city center.
This is why curfews practically don’t exist for bars, and why the anti-smoking law took several years to be taken seriously in Greece.
While some people hate this trait, others find it liberating. I have met several expats who said that they moved to Greece because things are more “relaxed” here.
2. Greeks are loud
Greeks talk loudly and quickly, and use their hands a lot. This sometimes confuses people, especially those from countries where loudness is neither expected, nor encouraged.
Often, it looks like people are arguing. However, they may be talking about what they ate for lunch, or where they should go for a coffee.
Loudness is also expressed in Greek dancing. Traditional dances are still popular, even among young people. During the famous Greek festivals, panigiria, you are bound to see people dance like there is no tomorrow.
Greeks also use tons of curse words. For example, the word “Malaka” has become world-famous!
The loudness isn’t only limited to talking, but extends to many activities, such as driving in Greece. Honking is common, and drivers often honk to the car in front, a few milliseconds before the light turns green…
3. Greeks love to complain about everything
Greeks like to complain about anything and everything. Whether it’s a minor thing, or a major issue, a Greek will almost always complain.
- It’s so hot today!
- I hate this rain!
- The government sucks!
- I wish this neighbor would move out!
- This company is terrible!
- This malakas drives like crazy!
Whether any of them will also try to fix the issue, is another matter.
With that said, in recent years several civilian movements have been created, in an effort to change society. Many of their actions are related to public space, pollution and the environment. Demonstrations and strikes are a common occurrence in Greece.
4. Strikes are common in Greece
From time to time, workers in Greece go on strike. This doesn’t really happen as frequently as some people think – but when it does, it might disrupt your vacation so you should be careful.
5. Greeks believe that everything originated in Greece
When talking to a foreigner, Greeks tend to point out the words of Greek origin in a conversation. Guess what? There are LOADS of them.
Words like philosophy, photography, economy, sarcasm, problem, method, school, idea, music and many, many others, come from Ancient Greece. That’s right – our ancestors used them too! Obviously we are proud of this, and want to share it with everyone!
And don’t forget that Ancient Greeks invented philosophy. Here are 12 Greek philosophers who changed the world – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and a few more!
6. There’s no summer like Greek summer
Like many tourists, Greeks love going to the beach in summer. In fact, for most Greek people, summer without any beach time on the islands doesn’t really feel like summer.
We love spending the whole day on the beach, with a few breaks to swim, maybe a couple of games of beach tennis, known as raketes, and a visit to the canteen or the beach bar.
Apart from the number of ice creams they eat over the summer, Greek children also keep count of how many times they go swimming. Whether you get one or two points for a second swim on the same beach on the same day, is up for debate.
If you have a summer trip to Greece planned, read my tips on visiting Greece in the summer.
7. Coffee culture in Greece – Not just Greek coffee
The Greek coffee culture is extremely important. “Let’s go for a coffee” essentially means “Let’s go and sit down for a chat for a couple of hours”.
Whether it is frappe, freddo espresso, Greek coffee or cappuccino, Greeks drink their coffee at a slow, relaxed pace – siga siga.
Here is some more information about Greek Drinks, including a few alcoholic ones.
8. Greek cuisine is a huge part of the Greek culture
Greeks take their food VERY seriously. This is why this blog has a whole dedicated section on Greek food!
Very few (if any) Greeks will prefer any other cuisine over a home-made Greek dinner. The simplicity and diversity of Greek cuisine, make it one of the most popular cuisines in the world.
Some of the staple ingredients in Greek dishes are tomatoes, onions, garlic, lemon, meat, fish, cheese, legumes, vegetables and olive oil. Most locals will eat some bread with their meal, and olives are a staple treat.
Whatever your preferences, Greek food will definitely make an impression.
9. Greeks take Easter and other religious holidays very seriously
The official religion in Greece is Christian Orthodox, and many people are religious. But even people who are not believers often follow our religious tradition.
Greek Orthodox Easter is the most important celebration of the year. It’s time to observe certain religious rituals, and get together with family. As you would expect, eating is a big part of the tradition and the Easter table is particularly rich.
All in all, there are dozens of special occasions throughout the year. Have a look at this article with festivals, national holidays and celebrations in Greece.
10. Greeks run late for appointments
If you have an appointment with a Greek person, don’t be surprised if they arrive 10-15 minutes late. Unlike several other countries, it’s not considered particularly rude.
To be fair, tardiness is usually only seen on social gatherings with family or friends. As an example, if you are a taking a guided tour, your guide should be on time. Well… most times!
I should add here that, generally speaking, Greeks are night owls. Many restaurants still serve food at 22:00 or 23:00 – so if you are arriving to central Athens in the evening, you will definitely find somewhere to eat!
More tips about Greece
I hope you’ve enjoyed this fun article about Greek customs and habits! Have a look at these other guides:
- The best souvenirs from Greece
- Tipping in Greece
- Facts about the Greek flag
- The Greek Alphabet and 20 basic Greek words
- Useful words and phrases in Greek
- The temple of Apollo at the archaeological site of Delphi
Hi! I’m Vanessa from Athens and I love helping people who travel to my country. If there is anything else you’d like to know about life in Greece, please leave any questions below!