Greece is a country steeped in culture and tradition that goes back to ancient times. With its unique blend of ancient and modern, Greece offers a vast array of cultures and customs that can be experienced when visiting. Whether it’s taking in the stunning views of the Parthenon or savoring the flavors of traditional Greek cuisine, there’s something for everyone.
But before visiting, it’s important to be aware of the customs and traditions that are so important to the Greek way of life. From greeting etiquette to dining customs, understanding the culture and customs of Greece will help make your visit even more enjoyable.
You can see greece tourism statistics here, but also read on to discover some of the essential Greek traditions and customs to know before your visit.
Greeting etiquette in Greece
When greeting people in Greece, it’s important not to make direct eye contact, as this is considered rude. In addition, when shaking hands, it’s important to keep your hand below your waist to show respect. Handshakes are generally reserved for business interactions and rarely occur in social situations. When meeting and greeting, the appropriate greeting is “Kalimera”, which translates to “Good morning” or “Hello”.
If meeting someone in the afternoon or evening, the greeting changes to “Kalispera” (Good evening). In some regions of Greece, it is also common to greet one another with a light kiss on the right cheek. This is generally reserved for family members and close friends.
Traditional Greek cuisine
Traditional Greek cuisine is a deliciously diverse blend of ingredients and flavors, including lots of seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, and grains. Meze, a selection of appetizers, is always served before a meal. Appetizers might include yogurt with cucumber and garlic, cheese, olives, eggs, or a selection of other salads and dips. Fish, meat, and vegetarian meals are all common, though vegetarian dishes are typically flavored with olive oil, herbs, and cheese, rather than dairy. Traditional desserts are often flavored with almonds and honey, and are served with thick, Greek yogurt.
Music and dance traditions
During your visit to Greece, you may be lucky enough to experience a traditional Greek dance performance. If you do, you will notice that dancers often wear costumes, or costumes are worn in the background, with ornate fabrics and impressive headdresses. The costumes are significant, and represent different things for different dances. For example, a red dress symbolizes love, passion, and romance, while a blue dress represents the sea. Dance traditions are often linked to music, and in Greece, it is common to see musicians playing traditional instruments, including the lute and the bouzouki.
Greek religious customs
Christianity is the dominant religion in Greece, but the country also boasts a great deal of diversity. Each of the main religions in Greece has its own unique customs and holidays, but some are shared across faiths. For example, Orthodox Easter is one of the most popular holidays in Greece, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Orthodox Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which is around March 21-22 each year.
Greek hospitality and gift-giving
Friendly and hospitable, the Greeks are very welcoming and appreciate visitors. They also expect guests to bring gifts, usually sweets and other foods, as a token of appreciation. When invited to someone’s home, it is important to bring a gift. It is customary to bring sweets and chocolates, but it is best to check with the host ahead of time to make sure they are not allergic to chocolate. Flowers are another great gift to bring when visiting.
Greek superstitions and beliefs
Like many cultures, the Greeks have a wide variety of superstitions and beliefs. One of the most common superstitions is that the number four is bad luck. This is because in the Greek language, the word for “four” sounds like the word for “death”. There are also a variety of traditions that are associated with weddings. For example, it is customary to hang knots of rope, called a klimakion, at a wedding as a sign of good luck.
Greek family values
Family is a central part of Greek culture and is extremely important, both to the individual and to the community as a whole. Family members are expected to commit to the good of the family above all else, including personal aspirations and interests. Marriage is expected between the ages of 18 and 30. Family members are expected to live nearby, often in the same town or village, and to regularly gather together for holidays and celebrations.
Language and dialects
The official language of Greece is Modern Greek, a language with roots in ancient Greek. However, there are many dialects of the language throughout the country. The most common dialect is Demotic Greek, which is the language commonly used in newspapers, magazines, and television. Other, more rural dialects include Cretan and Pontic Greek.
Greek fashion and style
The tradition of fashion in Greece goes back thousands of years. In ancient times, clothing was often made from fabrics dyed with different colors and shades, including red, blue, and yellow. Today, Greek fashion is modern and diverse, and looks to both Eastern and Western influences for inspiration.
Greek holidays and festivals
There are many exciting festivals and holidays in Greece, including Carnival, Easter, and the Fes t of the Assumption. The Carnival is celebrated in February and is a colorful festival with lots of music and dancing. Easter is celebrated between March and April, and is when Orthodox Christians observe the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Assumption is celebrated on August 15 and marks the day that Mary ascended into heaven. These celebrations last for several days, with most ending with fireworks.
That’s a wrap
Now that you know a bit more about the way of life in Greece you are ready to pack your bags, book that ticket, and set of into the gorgeous Greek sunset with your family and friends. Enjoy the journey!