Greek Culture


Basic Etiquette

  • People may keep less personal space when queuing. It is not considered rude for your belongings to make contact with the person in front of you or behind you when waiting in line.
  • Do not cross your legs in front of those who have a higher status to you or in a formal situation.
  • There is a cultural expectation in Greece that one accepts the generous offers of others. If you refuse something legitimately, it may be seen as a token protest made out of politeness. Therefore, instead of accepting your refusal, a Greek may insist that you receive what is given. This can lead to awkward situations in which a person can feel the offer is being forced upon them.
  • Refusing something offered can be interpreted as an insult. For example, a refusal of food implies you do not trust the person’s cooking skills. It is best to accept everything offered.  
  • Be careful when commenting on a Greek’s possessions. If you show a lot of admiration, they may feel a compulsion to be generous and give it to you.
  • In Greek culture, ‘on time’ can mean 20, 30 or even 45 minutes late. Nevertheless, tardiness is usually accompanied with a heartfelt apology and a legitimate excuse.



  • Greeks generally take a lot of pride in their hosting skills. The tradition of hospitality traces back to ancient times when people believed a guest on a doorstep could be a god in disguise.
  • Greeks tend to be very generous at giving invitations, even upon first meeting people. You may find that an invitation to have coffee leads to an invitation to dinner, escalating to an invitation to join a family event. Try to accept this as part of the forthcoming nature of Greek culture.
  • In townships, friends often visit one another without prior notice. However, Greeks living in urban areas generally prefer to be notified of a guest’s arrival.
  • It is customary for guests to arrive roughly half an hour later than the time agreed upon by the host.
  • Gift giving is not essential when visiting one’s home, but it can be a thoughtful gesture to bring a small gift of flowers, sweets or wine.
  • Try to accept anything offered by the host during your visit as a gesture of politeness. This could be an invitation for you to stay longer, eat, drink or even take something home with you when you leave. As a general guideline, if the host has insisted on anything several times, you should appease them by accommodating their request.
  • Always make an effort to compliment your host’s hospitality.
  • Expect social activity to carry on late into the evening.
  • Upon your exit, make a recognisable effort to show that you would have liked to stay longer. This sentiment compliments their hospitality and shows you want to enjoy their company.



  • Traditionally, mealtimes were the social time when everybody in the family would congregate. However, this is not always practised in the fast-paced environment of the modern day.
  • The eldest person is usually the first to be served.
  • Do not begin eating until the host has indicated it is time for everyone to do so.
  • When serving yourself from shared dishes on the table, pass them onto the next person on the left.
  • If passing a knife, place it near the person on the table and let them pick it up from there.
  • If possible, avoid being picky about your food. Greeks are proud of their cuisine and expect it to be eaten in its traditional form. For example, a request for your steak to be “rare” is unlikely to be accommodated.
  • Accept a second serving of food if possible. It is considered a great compliment to the host’s cooking skills.
  • It is best to eat everything on your plate to show your host provided sufficiently and you enjoyed the food.
  • To indicate you are finished eating, place your napkin on the table.
  • If the host gives a toast, it can be a good gesture to return the toast at a later point in the meal.
  • The common toast in Greece is “Eis igían sas” (formal) or “Stinygiasou” (informal), both meaning “to your health”.
  • Drink any alcohol served slowly at the same pace as everyone at the table. It is frowned upon to get drunk at a meal.
  • Do not leave the table until everyone has finished eating.
  • It is polite to offer the host your help in preparing and cleaning up the meal. That being said, do not expect your gesture to be accepted unless you insist.


Gift Giving

  • Gifts are usually exchanged on birthdays, holidays and name days (see Naming for information on name days). Smaller token gifts are given when visiting someone’s home.
  • Depending on the context, it may not always be appropriate to give expensive gifts. Sometimes the recipient can feel that they will be unable to reciprocate a gesture of equal value.
  • Avoid giving knives or scissors as gifts. These are considered bad luck.

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