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Anonymous asked in TravelEurope (Continental)Greece · 1 decade ago

What habits should be avoided when visiting Greece?

I'm leaving in a month for Greece for a two week study abroad. Although I've been studying many travel guides about Greece, I'm having a hard time discovering what things I, as an American, should avoid doing to keep from accidentally offending people in Greece. I've heard that waving is not acceptable and drinking heavily (while something I shouldn't do anyways) is extremely frowned upon. Do you have any advice on things that should be avoided when touring Greece? I'm visiting Athens, Mykonos, Crete, Delphi, and Olympia, just in case someone knows of differences in habits in those areas.

6 Answers

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    Sensitive Topics

    Do not say that Greece is part of Eastern Europe; Greece was the only openly pro-Western country in a shore of Communist neighbors, both pro-Soviet and neutral. It is not geographically correct either.

    The Macedonian issue is considered a very sensitive topic: the name "Macedonian" is stolen from them and used by Tito's partisans in southern Yugoslavia to address themselves.

    Also, be very careful when talking about the Byzantine Empire, which is a symbol of their national pride and splendor; however,most will say the polar opposite when talking about the military junta of the late 1960s-mid 1970s.

    Many Greeks-- not just Communists and other left-wing groups-- have suffered severe repression and view its leaders with utter resentment. Some Greeks also take pride of their ancient history as well, since the ancient Greeks are well known civilization to first develop the concept of democracy.

    Likewise, be polite when asking about their relationship with the Turks, the Ottoman occupation and the Cyprus civil war of 1974, as these create passionate, sometimes aggressive, debates, given the past turmoil between the two nations.

    Rude gestures

    To "swear" at someone using their hands, Greeks put out their entire hand, palm open, five fingers extended out, like signalling someone to stop. This is called "mountza". Sometimes they will do this by saying "na" (here) as well. It is basically telling someone to screw off or that they did something totally ridiculous. "Mountza" is known to come from a gesture used in the Byzantine era, where the guilty person were applied with ash on his/her face by the judge's hand, in order to be ridiculed


    Greeks rate politeness with a person's behavior and not their words. Furthermore, there is an air of informality; everybody is treated like a cousin. They use their hands to gesture a lot. Have fun with this. Sometimes over-emphasizing politeness in spoken language will only make the person dealing with you think you are pretentious. It's nice to learn basic words like "thank you" (Ευχαριστώ: ef-khah-rees-TOH) or "please" (Παρακαλώ: pah-rah-kah-LOH).

    Greeks generally consider it proper etiquette to let the stranger make the first move. You may find that on entering a cafe or passing a group on the street you feel that you're being ignored, but if you take the initiative by saying hello first, you're likely to find that people suddenly turn friendly.

    Greeks take leisure very seriously; it is a work-to-live culture, not live-to-work. Don't take perceived laziness or rudeness harshly. They do it to everyone, locals and tourists alike. Rather than fight it, just go along with it and laugh at the situation. It can be very frustrating at times but also appreciate their "enjoy life" attitude. They do take politics and soccer very seriously.

    Dress codes for churches include covered shoulders for women and knees covered for both sexes. This tends to be lightly enforced during the height of the summer tourist season, simply due to sheer volume! In any case, appropriate clothing is usually available at the entrance of churces and monasteries, especially the ones receiving most tourist traffic. Just pick it up going in and drop it off on the way out. ~

  • ?
    Lv 4
    5 years ago

    Greece is failing because: a) is a minor economy in the EU, although it has an immense merchant fleet(mostly not under Greek flag), natural resources (not yet exploited) and highly educated work force. b) the political system is corrupt. For years the two former big parties have managed to build and sustain a "democratic" mechanism that allows them, their "minions" and their favored companies (banks, media, constructors etc.) to actually steal from the states budget, by overpricing public works, or healthcare provisions, or even just pins and pens to be used in ministries. c) same as above but now its about countries.... in order to gain political support from Germany or the US or France, we've spent billions in imports not needed. And not only we bought, lets say weapon systems, we bought them overpriced. d) total lack of accountability for politicians and business tycoons. By law in Greece politicians cant go to court for ANY crime committed, unless the parliament allows it. This has happened only once in the last 40 years and the only one found guilty had already died. When it comes to corporations it seems the more you steal, the easiest it is to get off the hook. Just see what happened with Siemens......

  • 1 decade ago

    Greeks are normal people, don't worry. Waving is not bad, I think you confuse it with opening your fingers wide, like when you want to say "five", and stretching your arm with the fingers open towards a person (this means go to hell). Still, Greeks know that foreigners don't know the meaning of this, and they don't misunderstand them.

    As for drinking, it is not the actual drinking that is frowned upon, but the silly things people do after they get drunk. As it would be anywhere.

    So don't worry at all, have a good time. Oh, the only thing to consider, if you visit churches and monasteries, don't wear tops that leave your shoulders open or shorts. Some monasteries may ask you to wear a skirt if you are a woman.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Greeks are basically friendly people, if you understand their generally "relaxed" mentality.Just smile, learn some basic greek phrases and be respectful especially to the elders. Avoid making a fuss even if there is fuss all around you and DON'T, repeat DON'T get into politic discussions, as greeks are generally anti-American and there's no point wasting your time convincing them otherwise (of course that is of concern only if you are from the US).

    Watch your step in traffic-congested road crossings, as there is a notorious chaos in greek roads. Don't drink too much, one more reason is that many bars/clubs tamper with their alcohol to reduce costs, so choose bottled drinks like beer and breezers - smoking is another story though, nobody seems to care, even in places that they normally should.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Waving isn't frowned upon, you probably confuse it with a muntza(see link below). Stretching an open palm/doublepalm towards someone's face is a demeaning act towards that person, and it is usually accompanied with swearing.

    Apart from that, only from the fact that you are interested to know about proper etiquette i believe you will be just fine. We are not easily offended, moreover with foreigners.

  • Kimon
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    I agree with all the above and I'd like to add drinking heavily is not frowned upon. Most Greeks are very heavy drinkers.

    What is frowned upon is drunk behavior. You can get pissed drunk, and no one with think anything of it, but you start acting stupid, then you can end up in prison, and many Americans and British have...

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