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Sofia Ps.
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Weird things Greeks do

I’ll be honest with you. Growing up in Greece, I had no clue that all the weird things Greeks do were actually seen as odd. It wasn’t until someone pointed it out to me that I realized some things were indeed a bit odd. As Ellen Badone says in Intersecting Journeys, “defamiliarization heightens cultural awareness”. Sometimes, to truly understand your own culture, you need to step back or see it through others’ perspective. That’s what happened to me after working with many non-Greeks for several years. Getting to see my culture through their eyes was strange, yet surprisingly fun! So, let’s explore together some of the weird things Greeks do!

Having a wish for everything

I’ve heard it said that Greek is a language filled with blessings and curses; Greeks are a passionate bunch, always eager to express their feelings in full force. And it shows in our language. From ‘Kalimera’, meaning good morning, to the greeting ‘Kalo mina’, wishing someone a great month on the first day of that month, we not only wish others happy holidays or happy new year like many other cultures, but we also wish them a happy week, happy weekend, happy summer, and many more! I think it’s also quite fun and interesting how we wish people well with anything new in their lives, whether it’s a fresh haircut, a new shirt, or even a new house! And my personal favorite? ‘Kalo taxidi’, which means have a good journey or happy travels! If you’re ever in Greece, here’s your guide of some Greek greetings and wishes.

Celebrating name days

In Greek culture, celebrating name days holds a significant place in social and familial traditions. Each day of the year is associated with a specific saint or martyr, and individuals named after that saint celebrate their name day on that date. Similar to birthdays, on your name day you could have a party or an outing (where you’re supposed to treat everyone) and you also receive gifts! In addition, it’s pretty common to bring candy to school or your workplace and treat everyone to share joy with the others!

Asking you where you’re really from

Yes, I know how this sounds. In some cultures, it’s considered rude to ask a person where they’re really from and insist on knowing their life’s story. But in Greek culture, it’s a very normal thing to ask. Greeks are fascinated with family history. When you ask a Greek where they’re from, you’ll never get a simple answer. They’ll share where they were born, where they grew up, where their parents are from, their grandparents, or even the origin of their great-grandparents and more. They’ll share stories and memories connected to specific places all over Greece and abroad. And more often than not, they’ll be very proud of their origin, no matter where they’re from. So, the next time a Greek asks you where you’re from, please don’t be offended. They’re trying to start a conversation and show sincere interest in you. After all, we’re all from somewhere different, but it’s always from the same planet.

Insisting you eat something

I hate stereotypes. They’re often inaccurate, and even when they hold some truth, they only capture a fraction of the reality, not the whole picture. However, I’m afraid there’s some truth to this specific stereotype about Greeks. Food and coffee are our love language! If you’re invited to dinner and you don’t eat enough, the host will likely pressure you to eat more and often won’t take no for an answer. We like food, so deep down we always think that everybody wants to eat something. Trust me, family dinners can pose a challenge if you’re trying to eat less by choice. Yet, it’s heartwarming to have so many people care about you and be genuinely excited to share all the delicacies they’ve made with love!

Never going to a house empty-handed

In Greece, it’s almost a rule to never show up at someone’s place without a little something in hand. Whether it’s a box of pastries, a bottle of wine, flowers, or even just a small token of appreciation, it’s ingrained in our culture to bring a gift when visiting someone’s home. It’s not just about politeness; it’s a way of showing gratitude and respect for the hospitality extended to us. Plus, it adds a little extra warmth to the gathering, knowing that everyone comes bearing a little something special.

Votive relief with scene of worship. A family offering a piglet to Zeus, 330-320 BC. Archaeological Museum of Thebes.
Votive relief with scene of worship. A family offering a piglet to Zeus, 330-320 BC. Archaeological Museum of Thebes.

Dressing for the season not the weather

In Greece, we experience four distinct seasons, although spring and autumn are a bit shorter than summer and winter. However, the weather can be highly unpredictable at times. For instance, in the midst of winter, when temperatures typically range from 5-10°C (41-50°F), you might experience a brilliant sunny day with temperatures soaring to 25°C (77°F). On such days, you’ll spot tourists strolling around in T-shirts, while the Greeks remain clad in long sleeves and even coats! It doesn’t matter how warm it gets; if it’s January, we’re wearing coats!

“Zaketa na paris”

Speaking of clothing, in Greece, showing you care means making sure nobody catches a chill. It’s super common, especially with parents, to remind their kids before they head out: “Don’t forget your jacket” (=”Zaketa na paris!”). It’s kind of funny, really, because it’s like this irrational fear that a little cold air will make you sick, even if it’s not all that cold outside! But hey, better safe than sorry, right?

So, to sum up, some Greek customs might seem a bit odd, but hey, they’re what make us who we are! Embracing these quirks brings us closer and makes life more colorful.

Do you do any of the above things? Do you have any weird customs in your culture?

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