Do's & Dont's
As in any country, there are certain do's and don'ts in Greece. Many times, a
foreigner might think some of these customs strange or may disagree with them,
but we should all respect a country's ways when we visit it.
Even though the late Greece's archbishop Christodoulos has stated that anyone is
welcome in the Greek-orthodox churches ("come as you are" is a well known quote
by him) people should not show too much naked skin. In monasteries women have to
cover their shoulders and wear long skirts, and men must wear long trousers.
It is sad to see holidaymakers walking into churches and monasteries wearing
swimsuits or women covering shoulders wearing a bikini top.
Greeks are in general well-dressed, and you should just think what you would
wear in a holy place at home. Religious or not, most people find it reasonable
not to walk into any kind of church half-naked.
Concerned or curious holidaymakers ask about how the Greeks see them walking
around in bikinis or just shorts and nothing else. Most people will have noticed
on holiday in Greece that the Greeks themselves almost never walk around that
way except on beaches. The young ones though do.
The answer is quite simple. Imagine people walking around in bikinis or shorts
with bare upper parts of the body in your own hometown or city. It would look a
bit strange, wouldn't it. Its got nothing to do with weather. The Greek believe
beachwear belong on the beach and nowhere else. They live and work on the
holiday-resorts, surrounded by classmates, colleagues, family and friends.
Now, as far as the tourists are concerned, they understand our longing for the
sun and how we want to relax when on holiday, but they sometimes think we are a
little bit vulgar. But we are excused, we're foreigners!
When you walk into a Greek Orthodox church, you should light a candle. You get
it by the entrance and there is usually a slot where you can pay for it.
Basically you can give any amount, but usually you put 50 or 100drs in it.
The next thing the Greeks do is to kiss the icon of the patron saint. It is
usually situated in front of you as you walk inside, or near the iconostasis
(wall of icons).
During sermons, the people stand up, but there are chairs for elderly or
physically challenged. What is quite characteristic is that people walk in and
out of the church during sermon, and they do not whisper.
As a non orthodox person you are not expected to do all of the above but there
is a BIG DON'T you must observe: no one goes or looks behind the iconostasis.
That's only for the clergy, and behind it is the holiest part of the church,
where the altar is.
IN BARS AND RESTAURANTS
When you are at a tavern or a bar you might be given a drink or a sweet and all
you have to do is to thank the giver, or say cheers (yamas) and then you
basically do not have to touch what you have been offered. Many a times have I
been told how holidaymakers have forced themselves to drink the ouzo or eat the
sweet in order not to be rude, but the fact is that all you have to do is to say
thanks and maybe have a sip and a tiny bite.
When yawning or picking your teeth you should cover your mouth.
White wine or retsina is nice when mixed with soda.
Smoking is basically is not allowed everywhere anymore, but women that smoke in
the street are considered of low morale (but only in some villages and by the
Almost all Greeks are chain smokers so raising your eyebrows or coughing in
order to make the man behind you in the bus stop to put out his cigarette will
most likely be misinterpreted.
The rudest gesture is to thrust the palm of your hand in front of someone's
face. Do not attempt to do this even jokingly!!!
In some areas you should not stare too much at someone, especially not children,
as you may pass on the Evil Eye to that person (see The Evil Eye). Those
superstitions however are disappearing in modern Greece.