This week is dedicated to one of my greatest passions traveling. Greece is not just a destination to me, it’s home, and I’d like to share with you some tips that will help you enjoy your time there, specially if you’re visiting for the first time. Without any further ado, let’s begin our trip to Greece…
*Greek Tourism Organization Vintage Posters
With it’s sparkling white beaches, crystalline water, the venerable ancient sites and the legendary night life, Greece is a rewarding destination to all kinds of travelers and wanderers. But how to approach this versatile country with enough islands to suit everyone’s taste and antiquities that could take a lifetime to explore?
Truth is you can’t see and do everything that you should see and do in Greece in one visit. Most first-time visitors choose the islands as their destination but will arrive and depart through Athens, which makes an excellent jumping-off point or punctuation at the end of the trip. Despite this sounds like a dream vacation (and in most cases is) here’s a few things you need to know before you land to Greece for the first time.
*Greek Tourism Organization Vintage Posters
Embrace the Culture
Time Difference. In Greece things work on different time standards. Delays are expected in a way that programming your days only seems like a waste of time. Of course I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t make plans on how to spend your days there, I’m just saying be prepared to be flexible and always stay positive. Relax…you’re on vacations and after all as Diaen Shugart (author, Athens by Neighborhood) said “To enjoy Athens (or Greece), you must follow the pace of life. Stay up late. Forget lunch at noon and dinner at 6 p.m.—you’ll miss all the action.”
Yes and no. So this is a bit confusing. The Greek word for “yes” is “ne”. And the word for “no” is “okhi”. Obviously these can get confused with “no” and “okay”. Also, head nods are done slightly differently – just a downward tilted thrust for yes, and an upwards thrust with a click of the tongue for no. Try and be clear in whichever language you try and speak, and add a clarifying sentence (i.e. “yes, I would like the desert menu”) to make things clear.
Physical affection. People in Greece are often a bit touchy-feely. This means it’s common for someone to touch your arm during conversation, or when walking along. For those unused to this kind of physical contact it can be a bit uncomfortable, but be assured it’s meant to make you feel included and welcome.
Smoke Signals. Greece is a nonsmoker’s nightmare. Despite smoking is banned in stores, restaurants, public buildings, and banks, smokers puff away at will and bristle if asked to stop. There’s not much you can do about it but you could try and tell them in a really polite way that all this smoke is bothering you -Greeks tend to have a good response to politeness.
Eating Etiquette. Greeks are not sticklers for table manners. At home and especially at tavernas, everyone at the table shares foods, with diners dipping bread into dishes to soak up olive oil or sauce, talking and laughing loudly during the whole time. Dinner time in Greece is a social event and an opportunity to enjoy the companion of friends and family so in case you dine with Greeks be prepared for a 2-3 hours long dinner with a lot of sharing and laughing.
Engage. Get involved, have fun, meet people, start conversations, dance – all of it. In general, people in Greece enjoy a lust for life and will respond well if you make an effort to really engage. Many Greeks, especially outside of the usual tourist areas, can be incredibly hospitable and may invite you in for coffee or give you fruit out of their garden, or the chef may invite you into the kitchen for an impromptu cooking demonstration. Don’t turn down these opportunities to share a moment together. It will add an unforgettable dimension to your trip.
*Pinterest search for Greek food – Greece
DOs & DON’Ts
Do try some traditional Greek food. Souvlaki, pies and seafood should be on top of your list.
Don’t stick to mousaka, this dish is more popular among tourists than it is among Greeks, act smart eat like a Greek (preferably away from tourist areas).
Do rent a car, it’s amazing what you can see and visit in a 50km distance. Be extra careful because Greeks drive like maniacs.
Don’t rent a bike, Greeks drive like maniacs.
Do buy Greek art, Greeks are famous for pottery, textiles, handmade leather sandals, jewelry and wood & marble sculpture.
Don’t expect to find the real thing in tourist souvenir shops, make your research and try to dig out the countless workshops with hidden treasures – internet is your friend.
Do ask for help, directions or tips. People will be more than happy to give you all the info you need and share their tips for the area (things to do, to eat, to visit).
Don’t start a conversation about politics or the crisis. Show some understanding, Greeks are going through a very difficult period and don’t appreciate being mocked for it.
Do try local spirits and wine (bottled). Greek winery is blooming during the last decade. Cocktails are also monumental in Greece, make your research and find some of the most exquisite cocktail bars.
Don’t drink barrel wine. Though bulk wine in Greece is very popular and usually of good quality, taverns in tourist areas tend to serve very low quality. It is a pity to visit the country where wine drinking became an art thousands of years ago and leave with the wrong impression.
When traveling abroad always keep an open mind and remember…
It takes a lifetime for someone to discover Greece,
but it only takes an instant to fall in love with her.
Till next time…