So, you are planning a trip to Greece – or you may have travelled to Greece a few times. Even better, you realized that you like this country so much, that moving here felt like a great idea. Here are some things you might find helpful when trying to understand Greek habits and customs.
Greece is more than than its history. More than its islands and more than its buildings. Greece is really about its people.
So, if you want a real Greek experience, perhaps there’s a few things you’ll want to keep in mind first.
Note: The following is tongue in cheek. That’s because humor is important in Greece!
Breaking the law
Breaking the law, where 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, parked illegally, built an illegal house extension, smoked inside a restaurant, or something else.
This is why curfews practically don’t exist for bars, and why the anti-smoking law has never been taken seriously in Greece.
While some people hate this trait, some other find it liberating. We have met several expats who said that they moved to Greece because things are more “relaxed” here.
Parking as shown above is not unusual in Athens. In fact, it’s more unusual to see a sidewalk you can actually walk! (Apart from the historic center. Check out our post on Athens walking tours with a local).
Loud and proud
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.
Quite often it looks like people are arguing. More likely, is they are talking about what they had to eat the previous night, or where they should go for a coffee.
Loudness is also expressed in Greek dancing. Traditional dances are still popular, even among young people, and during the famous Greek fiestas, panigiria, you are bound to see people dance like there is no tomorrow.
Greeks also use curse words (expressed loudly) a lot – the word “Malaka” has become world-famous! Not to mention honking at the car in front, a few milliseconds before the light turns green…
Complaining 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 neighbour would move out!
- This company is terrible!
- This malakas drives like crazy!
Whether they will also try to fix the issue or not, is another matter. That said, in recent years several civilian movements have been created, in an effort to change things. Many of their actions are related to public space, pollution and the environment.
Educating the world
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 Greece. And yes, we are proud of this, and want to share it with everyone!
Interested in learning more about speaking Greek? Check out our guide to How to Speak Greek.
No summer like a Greek summer
Like many tourists, Greeks love going to the beach in summer. In fact, summer without some time on the beach 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 eaten over the summer, Greek children also keep count of how many times they go swimming.
If you have a summer trip to Greece planned, read our tips on visiting Greece in the summer.
Coffee culture in Greece
We can’t stress this enough: 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, coffee in Greece is consumed at a slow, relaxed pace – siga siga.
More here about Greek Drinks.
Greeks take their food VERY seriously. This is why we have a whole dedicated section on Greek food! Very few (if any) Greeks will prefer another cuisine over a home-made Greek dinner. The simplicity as well as the diversity of Greek cuisine, makes it one of the most popular cuisines in the world.
Some of the staples in Greek cooking are tomatoes, onions, garlic, lemon and olive oil – most recipes call for at least one of those ingredients. Whether you are more a meat and fish person or a vegan / vegetarian, Greek food will definitely make an impression.
Easter and other Religious Holidays
For many Greeks, religion is a big thing. Even for people who don’t believe in God, following religious traditions is taken for granted. Easter is the most important time of the year, and it’s celebrated accordingly throughout the country.
As a visitor, you are more likely to appreciate the cultural rather than the religious aspect – Easter Sunday feast is unlike anything you have seen before. Check out our article about religion in Greece.
Greek customs and habits
We hope this article was enlightening as well as entertaining! If there is anything else you’d like to know about Greek customs and habits, please leave a question below!