What are some of the customs and etiquette that you should know when visiting Greece?

Greece is a beautiful country with a rich history, culture and tradition. It is also a popular destination for tourists who want to enjoy its stunning landscapes, ancient monuments, delicious cuisine and friendly people. But before you pack your bags and head to the land of gods and heroes, it is important to know some of the customs and etiquette that will help you make a good impression and avoid any cultural faux pas. Here are some of the things you should know when visiting Greece:


Greetings are an important part of any culture, and in Greece, a few specific customs are expected of you when you meet someone. The most common way to greet someone is by shaking hands, while maintaining eye contact and smiling. You can also say “Yassas” (Hello) or “Kalimera” (Good morning) for a formal greeting, or “Yia sou” (Hi) for a more informal one. If you are introduced to someone for the first time, it is polite to use their title and surname, such as “Kyrie Papadopoulos” (Mr. Papadopoulos) or “Kyria Georgiou” (Mrs. Georgiou). However, if you are invited to use their first name, you can do so.

If you are meeting someone who is a close friend or relative, you may also exchange kisses on the cheeks, starting from the right. This is more common among women, but men may also do it if they are very close. Hugging is also acceptable among friends and family, but not with strangers or acquaintances. In general, Greeks are very warm and expressive in their greetings, so don’t be surprised if they touch your arm or shoulder while talking to you.


Communication in Greece is mainly based on direct, frank talk, and communication can be quite assertive. Greeks are not afraid to express their opinions, emotions and preferences, even if they disagree with someone or something. They may also interrupt each other, raise their voices or gesture emphatically to make a point. This does not mean that they are angry or rude, but rather that they are passionate and engaged in the conversation.

However, communication in Greece also involves some subtleties and nuances that you should be aware of. For example, Greeks may use irony, sarcasm or humor to convey a message or criticize something without being too blunt. They may also use indirect ways to say no or refuse something, such as “maybe”, “we’ll see” or “I’ll think about it”. This is because they want to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or causing conflict. Therefore, you should pay attention to the context and the tone of voice to understand what they really mean.

Another thing to note is that Greeks use different forms of body language that may differ from what you are used to. For example, nodding your head means no, while shaking your head means yes. To avoid confusion, you can also say “ne” (yes) or “ohi” (no) while nodding or shaking your head. Another gesture that you should avoid is holding your hand up with your palm facing outwards and spreading your fingers. This is called the “moutza” and it is considered very rude and offensive. It is equivalent to giving someone the middle finger in other cultures.


Greece has a wide variety of local cuisines and dining customs, depending on the region. However, some general rules apply when eating out or at someone’s home. First of all, you should know that Greeks love to share food and eat together. It is common to order several dishes for the table and enjoy them with bread, salad and wine. These dishes are called “mezedes” and they can include cheese, olives, dips, grilled meat, seafood, vegetables and more. You can also order a main course for yourself if you prefer, but don’t be surprised if others want to taste it too.

When dining at a restaurant or a taverna, you should know that service may be slower than what you are used to. This is because Greeks like to take their time and savor their food and company. They may also linger after the meal for coffee or dessert. Therefore, don’t expect to get the bill right away or rush out of the place. You can ask for the bill by saying “logariasmo parakalo” (check please), but don’t leave a tip on the table. Instead, round up the amount or leave some change in the folder. Tipping is not mandatory, but it is appreciated if you are happy with the service.

When dining at a Greek home, bringing a small gift such as pastries, chocolates, or flowers is polite. It is also customary to wait until everyone has been served before eating. Small talk is an integral part of the dining experience, so be prepared to chat about various topics, such as family, work, travel, politics or sports. However, avoid sensitive or controversial issues, such as religion, history or the economy. You should also compliment the host on the food and their hospitality, and accept any offers of more food or drink. Refusing something offered can be interpreted as an insult. On the other hand, don’t finish everything on your plate, as this may imply that you are still hungry and need more food.

Gift giving

Gift giving is an important part of Greek culture, especially on occasions such as birthdays, name days, weddings, baptisms or holidays. Greeks are generous and thoughtful in their gifts, and they expect the same from others. However, there are some things you should avoid when giving gifts in Greece. For example, don’t give anything that is black or purple, as these are colors associated with mourning and bad luck. Don’t give anything that is sharp or pointed, such as knives or scissors, as these are symbols of cutting ties or breaking relationships. Don’t give anything that is artificial or cheap, such as plastic flowers or imitation jewelry, as these are signs of disrespect or stinginess.

Some good gifts to give in Greece are wine, spirits, sweets, chocolates, books, music, perfume or cosmetics. You should also wrap your gifts nicely and present them with a smile and a sincere message. You should also open any gifts you receive in front of the giver and express your gratitude and appreciation.

Dress code

Though dress codes on the beach are entirely informal, they’re much less so away from the sea; most Greeks will dress up to go out, and not doing so is considered slovenly at the least. There are quite a number of nudist beaches in remote spots, with plenty of locals enjoying them, but on family beaches, or those close to town or near a church (of which there are many along the Greek coast), even toplessness is often frowned on. Most monasteries and to a lesser extent churches impose a fairly strict dress code for visitors: no shorts, with women expected to cover their arms and wear skirts (though most Greek women visitors will be in trousers); the necessary wraps are sometimes provided on the spot.

Some etiquette in Greece tips regarding clothing: Do show a modicum of decency and use your common sense. Carry a shawl around with you that can be used as a cover for legs and shoulders if needs be. Don’t show your bare legs or shoulders in a church, especially not a monastery, and men: please keep that singlet on.

Other tips

  • People may keep less personal space when queuing or talking to you. This is normal and not meant to be intrusive.
  • Do not cross your legs in front of those who have a higher status to you or in a formal situation. This is considered rude and disrespectful.
  • There is a cultural expectation in Greece that one accepts the generous offers of others. This can include invitations to their homes, meals, drinks or gifts. Declining them may offend the giver.
  • Be careful when commenting on a Greek’s possessions. They may feel obliged to offer them to you out of politeness.
  • Be respectful of the Greek history and culture. Don’t make jokes or negative remarks about their past struggles or achievements.
  • Be aware of the local holidays and festivals. Some of them may have special customs or rituals that you should observe or participate in.

Greece is a wonderful country to visit and explore. By following these customs and etiquette tips, you will be able to enjoy its beauty and charm without any problems. You will also make friends with the locals who will appreciate your respect and interest in their culture.