Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos: Communication Guidelines for GREECE

Posted on January 16, 2013 by

The Latest! Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos – A Series of Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z: GREECEGreece

The Greeks are known for their hospitality and generosity towards guests.

They are not known for their timeliness. Visitors to Greece should be prepared for meetings to start late and run late, however as a foreigner you will be expected to be on time for appointments.

The subway system, put in for the 2004 Summer Olympics, can be much faster for getting from one side of the city to another than taking a taxi.

The Greeks celebrate two national days among other holidays that are religious in nature. Independence Day is celebrated on March 25 and “Oxi” (which means No) Day is celebrated on October 28.

During business meetings you will be offered a Greek coffee, often accompanied by a small sweet of some kind. A typically Greek coffee resembles an espresso and can be quite strong.

Greeks are avid conversationalists and typically very knowledgeable about world events. The Greek style of conversation can be louder and more emotional than what
some people may be used to.

It has been said that Greeks live their lives with an exclamation point. Whatever the emotion that they are feeling, they live it to the fullest!

Greeks may engage you in a conversation about politics however let them bring up the topic. They are well educated and will have a wide of range knowledge about the political issues.

They use expansive arm and hand gestures when speaking. Physical contact is common, even amongst two friends who may be of the same gender.

Hugging, kissing on the cheek and walking arm in arm are all common. They will maintain strong eye contact when speaking.

While the Greeks may criticize aspects of their society or daily life (politics, traffic etc.) they do not appreciate the same criticisms being offered by outsiders.

First names are commonly used however, for higher business levels they may add a title such as Mr. or Mrs. before a first name as a sign of respect.

Greeks are great negotiators and their conversation style is skillful when negotiating. For foreigners coming from a more direct conversational style, the meandering style of the Greeks may be confusing at first.

It is recommended that a local partner or lawyer be found to assist in any negotiations. This is important not only for the legal issues, but also as the Greeks place great value in knowing who they are working with.

Presentations should be formal in nature and should focus on the senior executives who make most of the decisions.

The Greeks often use the phrase “slowly, slowly” when talking about making progress. Be prepared for changes and delays.

The OK sign is considered obscene in Greece and should be avoided. The open hand facing outward (the hand signal that is often used for “stop” in the US) is also considered offensive.

5 Key Topics or Gestures to Use in Conversation

  • Passing along a compliment, or showing interest in learning more about the impact of Greece in the world.
  • Greece has so much history that anything historical is a welcome topic.
  • Discussion about the great people and philosophers from Greece.
  • The distinct Greek Cuisine and drink is always a good topic.
  • Architecture, the progressive Greek cities, scenery, nature and the diversity of the country terrain.

5 Key Topics or Gestures to Avoid in Conversation 

  • Politics can be a touchy subject for foreigners so unless they initiate the discussion, it is best to avoid this topic when you are first developing a relationship.
  • Cyprus is also a touchy subject, as is the topic of Turkey, so both should be avoided if possible.
  • Greeks are sensitive to people from larger countries that feel that they are more important based upon where they are from.
  • Anything negative about their food or coffee.
  • Greece is a very proud culture, so avoid criticism of anything pertaining to Greece or the Greek people.

Bon Voyage!

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Author: Gayle Cotton, International Keynote Speaker & Cultural Expert

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Contact EMMY AWARD WINNER, Gayle Cotton for your next meeting or conference to help your business become more successful in today’s Global Business Marketplace. Gayle is President of Circles Of Excellence for Corporate Training & Executive Coaching. She is the author of the BOOK. ‘Say Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communications’. She travels worldwide as a distinguished Professional Keynote Speaker. Gayle’s vast experience living and working abroad will entertain and inspire any audience with her fresh, unique and humorous approach to Cross-Cultural Communications! Having worked with companies of all sizes and industries, including 50 Fortune 500 companies, Gayle has successfully helped them grow their businesses internationally. Success in the global business arena can only be accomplished with awareness of the various distinctions in communication styles, business strategies and approaches to cultural etiquette in different countries.

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Diane Marcus says:

Dear Ms. Cotton,
My family is Greek and I have been to Greece three times. You are so correct in figuring out the mannerisms that Greeks have. I hope to recommend your business in one of my up and coming newsletters for my business etiquette site. I just talk about customs in general in different countries. I do not go into depth. I encourage companies to hire someone like yourself to do in depth cross cultural training before going abroad to do business. Many Americans are clueless when it comes to other cultures.
Could we connect on Linkedin?
My email address is stmalo777@yahoo.com

admin says:

Thank you for your comment Diane!