The cultural profile of Greece

Situated at the crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa, Greece's strategic location has been appreciated for centuries.

2 chairs facing the deep blue Mediterranean sea. The essence of Greece

Economy

In recent times, since the early 1990's Greece has been showing a steady economic growth. However, today (2015) this country of liberal yet fiercely traditional people finds itself in a difficult phase of its tumultuous journey. Years of financial indiscipline have driven Greece into a very precarious financial situation. Tottering under a vast burden of debt, and under the guidance of the EU, the nation has been forced to adopt various austerity measures to pay off its debt and regain credibility on the world stage.

This situation has brought Greece to its knees. Unemployment has sky rocketed to over 35% (some sources claim it's over 50%) amongst people under 25, and has forced many young Greeks to move outside Greece for work. This mass exodus of usually young and highly educated workers is creating all sorts of problems to the Greek economy.

Greece's main source of income is its tourism industry which accounts for about 20% of the GDP as well as 20% of jobs.

Culture

Greece, because of its location, is a country of diverse roots. Greek consciousness is keenly aware that the Greek city-state period laid the basis for Western European civilization and today's liberal democracies. Greeks believe strongly in their intellectual powers, intuition and sense of artistry and they have a keen appreciation of their glorious past. However, four centuries of Ottoman occupation (between the 15th-19th century) created a culture that is a mix of Eastern and Western traditions, beliefs and practices.

Greeks take their cultural traditions seriously, and Greeks today manage to draw a circle of traditions around themselves even with modernity encroaching at every turn. Most of those traditions are tied to religious practices, such as the Easter traditions of dyed red eggs and roasting of the lamb, but others may stem from pagan or other ancient customs. Name days are still celebrated in Greece, in some cases more so than birthdays.

Greeks love to dance, drink and eat so it's not uncommon to see people busting into a dance during family or religious celebrations, or even during a regular family outing at a taverna. The Greek penchant for partying dates back to Dionysus and is evident in the vibrant night life of most Greek cities and towns. It's not uncommon in large cities like Athens to see people going out for dinner as late as midnight on a regular week night. Most restaurants are open until very late at night, and most Greek bars are open and server liquor until early in the morning. Greeks sure know how to party!

Manners, communication and way of life

Greeks are usually very friendly and hospitable people. They're excellent and generous hosts and their hospitality can many times be embarrassing to non-Greeks. Hugging and kissing in public is very common. Greeks usually greet each other (men and women alike) by embracing and kissing each other on both cheeks. Overall Greeks are very demonstrative and affectionate. When someone is invited to a dinner out they're not expected to pay. The person who extends the invitiation usually pays for all people invited. If you're a foreigner try to speak a few Greek words or join in Greek dances. Your hosts will love you!

Greeks are very verbose, theatrical and intense in their conversations. They hold many lengthy, argumentative and intense discussions amongst themselves. Non-Greeks will find them extremely loquacious, digressive, often volatile. They respect logic, however, and are skilled at pleasing (and often manipulating) other nationalities. They can display great understanding and charm, often appearing extremely flexible and accommodating. They all believe in their own powers of oratory and use a mix of rational arguments and emotive content to get their message through. During casual discussions (even in business meetings) expect Greeks to ask personal questions, such as "are you married?", "do you have kids?" etc. They're not being rude, they just want to get to know you personally.

Elderly people have a lot of authority in Greece and are usually given a lot of respect by the younger people. Children usually care for their elderly parents and never put them in elderly homes and men consider it a personal honour and responsibility to care for their family.


greek tradition, greek superstition, mati, evil eye

Traditions/Superstitions

Tuesday the 13th

Greeks believe that Tuesday the 13th (and not Friday the 13th)is an unlucky day. It's said that Constantinople fell to the Ottomans on Tuesday May 29th, 1453 so Greeks have since considered Tuesday an unlucky day. It's unclear why number 13 is considered unlucky. This is possibly a non-Greek superstition integrated into the Greek superstitions.

The evil eye (mati)

Many cultures believe that receiving the evil eye will cause you misfortune. This was a widely extended belief among many Mediterranean and Asian tribes and cultures. In Greece the evil eye is known to have been a fixture dating back to the 6th century BC, when it commonly appeared in drinking vessels. The evil eye is cast away through the process of xematiasma, whereby the "healer" silently recites a secret prayer passed over from an older relative of the opposite sex, usually a grandparent. Such prayers are revealed only under specific circumstances, for according to superstition those who reveal them indiscriminately lose their ability to cast off the evil eye. According to custom, if one is indeed afflicted with the evil eye, both victim and "healer" then start yawning profusely. The "healer" then performs the sign of the cross three times, and emits spitting-like sounds in the air three times. To avoid the evil eye people wear (or carry) a charm, a little blue bead with an eye drawn on it.

The itchy hand

The superstition of the itchy hand is a sign that you will either receive or give money. The Greeks believe that if your right hand is itchy then it means you will get money, however if your left hand is itchy it means you will give money.

Sneezing

If you're sneezing this means that someone is thinking or talking about you.

Spitting to ward off evil

It is customary for Greeks to spit to ward off evil. If a Greek hears bad news they may spit on themselves three times to ward of the possibility of anything bad happening to themselves. Even in the Greek Orthodox church during the rite of Baptism the priest will spit. When a child is baptized the priest will blow into the air three times to glorify the Trinity, and spit into the ground three times at the devil. The three times spitting is believed to come from this.