15 Things About Life in Greece That May Seem Weird to Anyone Who Doesn’t Live There
The first things that come to our minds when we think about Greece are Zeus, The Odyssey, and Greek salad. However, this country is the perfect place to live life and to rest in. In Greece, there are 300 sunny days a year, you can swim in 4 different seas, and the locals are hospitable and welcoming. However, just like in any other country, Greece has some nuances and everyday difficulties.
We at Bright Side decided to find out how Greek people live and what exactly is so special about this amazing country.
1. It’s hard for a woman to take her husband’s last name.
It’s almost impossible to take your husband’s last name after getting married. You could try and get the court’s permission but only if there are very good reasons for it. “When I was getting married to a Greek man, I wanted to have his last name. I was so shocked when I found out that it was legally impossible,” is an example of what many women from foreign forums about Greek Family Law talk about. You can file an official plea to have a double last name. However, it will take quite a lot of time and will cost a lot of money. Plus, there’s no guarantee that you will get a positive answer. Children, on the other hand, can get either their father’s or their mother’s last names.
Interestingly enough, before 1983, there was a law in Greece that made women take their husband’s last names. It was compulsory. But then, a famous Greek politician named Andreas Papandreou fell in love with a flight attendant and decided to get divorced from his wife, Margaret Papandreou. The insulted wife said, “There will be no other Mrs. Papandreou.” Somehow, the woman influenced lawmakers and Greece eventually adopted the law that prohibits women to have their husbands’ last names.
2. People in Greece rarely get divorced.
A divorce in Greece is something completely out of the ordinary. The marriage institution is carefully protected, so the percentage of divorces is the lowest in Europe. In order to get divorced, people in Greece have to overcome a lot of bureaucracy procedures and spend a lot of money. And according to Greek law, you can’t get divorced if you’ve been married for less than 6 months.
For Greeks, a family is everything and they really value family ties. Family celebrations in Greece typically consist of parties of 100 people with dancing and national songs.
3. Greek people love kissing.
In Greece, people kiss twice — once on every cheek. What is interesting is that this tradition is spread among men just as much as it is among women. Of course, this works for friends and acquaintances but if you’ve seen a Greek person more than once, they think you’re a good acquaintance, so kissing is inevitable. The Greeks think that this is a way to show other people that they are the same as them.
4. Children are very important in Greece.
Many women that move to Greece are surprised by this attitude. For example, there’s a tradition that says 40 days after a child is born, they can’t be visited but can be given presents. So very often, men come home from work with new presents for their newborns from their colleagues. Additionally, some tourists are amazed at how Greek people react to babies. They can easily look into the baby’s stroller, smile, and even “spit” close to the child “as not to jinx them.” This behavior is seen not only in older people but in younger ones too.
But Greek law is not as casual. If you’re on maternity leave, you can get a 10-month paid vacation. After that, you can get 4 months off but they won’t pay you for that. However, if you don’t go to work after 14 months, you will lose your job.
5. All inhabitants and all foreigners have the right to get free medical help.
In Greece, they have compulsory health insurance. However, getting to see a doctor in the government hospital is not an easy thing to do — there are too many people and the lines are too long. Usually, you have to wait for your appointment for at least 2 weeks. This is why Greek people usually have second insurance plans from their employers that let them visit private hospitals. Also, some specialists are not even included in the basic package like dentists and eye doctors, for example.
Non-government doctors can diagnose you over the phone. This means a patient can call their doctor on the phone at any time, tell them about their symptoms, send a photo via messenger, and the doctor will give them an online appointment.
6. Greeks follow the principle of “sigá-sigá.”
Sigá-sigá, which can be translated as “take it easy,” is the motto that Greeks always follow. Every Greek person thinks that they have the sacred right to take a little rest. Why should you always be in a rush? They can always “do it later.” The sigá-sigá phrase explains the slow pace of the Greek lifestyle. This is probably where stories about Greeks being lazy come from. But it’s not laziness, it’s just that they move at a slower pace. They postpone anything that they can.
7. They have their own siesta known as “mesimeri.”
Because of the hot climate and the tradition of following a slow-paced life, Greeks have their own version of a siesta. Most of the time, they start their days quite early: they get up at 6 am or 7 am but during lunchtime, they find some time for a nap. The mesimeri (or siesta) is believed to be one of the main reasons why they live so long — the average life expectancy in Greece is 80 years! During mesimeri, small towns and villages basically die out and you’ll only see tourists out and about while all the locals are at home. During the siesta, there’s a silent time when any noise is prohibited. There are 2 periods of this. In the summer (from April 1 to September 30), people can’t make noise from 3 pm to 5:30 pm and again from 11 pm to 7 am; and then in winter (from October 1 to March 31) from 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm and again from 10 pm to 7:30 am.
These rules are quite strict so if you break them, you’ll have to pay a fine.
8. It’s the most seismic region in Europe.
There are many earthquakes in Greece. Even though there are a lot of them, sometimes several times a month, there are not a lot of big disasters. Last time there was a serious earthquake was in 1999.
The local people are calm about this because they think that earthquakes are part of their national identity. Even in big cities, there are very few buildings that have more than 6 floors because of earthquakes.
9. Greek salad is actually called a village salad.
The salad that is popular around the world is called a “village salad” in Greece. This is the simplest meal made of the most popular foods you can find in Greece: cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, olive oil, feta, and oregano. And they don’t cut the feta into cubes, they put in a whole piece. And its ingredients aren’t usually cut into small pieces. Sometimes, they add some sweet pepper or capers but there’s no lettuce in the classic Greek salad.
The olives in the salad aren’t usually pitted and one serving of the dish in a local tavern is very big, so you should order 1 for 2 people.
10. They have very different kinds of fast food.
Street food is very popular in Greece and it doesn’t include burgers. The most popular foods here are souvlaki and gyros.
A gyro is a bit similar to shawarma: they put chicken or pork on a vertical grill and when it gets fried, they cut off small pieces and put them into a pita (a piece of warm bread). They also add French fries, onion, and garlic sauce.
Souvlaki is fried chicken, pork, or lamb which is also wrapped in bread.
But most Greeks really love visiting taverns and it’s a serious part of their lives. In the evenings, all taverns are usually busy and it’s not because the locals don’t like cooking. It’s just that it’s a lot more fun to go to a tavern with your family than to stay at home and it isn’t all that expensive. Plus, you don’t need to do the dishes afterward!
11. The Greeks are very emotional.
There’s a phrase that says, “A quiet Greek man is a Greek man you can’t hear from 2 blocks away.” This means they’re quite noisy! They love arguing, they express their opinions very emotionally, and they love demonstrating their positive and negative feelings. For them, it’s perfectly normal to walk with their partner and still look at other attractive guys and girls that walk by.
Many Greeks don’t like to hide their true emotions: if they want to shout, they will and if they want to sing, they’ll hum a tune — and people around are very likely to sing along. But Greeks are still very attentive to each other and are good listeners.
12. It’s not expensive to rent an apartment here.
Greece offers very affordable apartments for rent. It would cost around $300 to $600 a month to rent a decent apartment with 2-3 bedrooms in a big city. The higher the floor, the higher the price. Also, apartments for long-term rent are usually unfurnished. Only wardrobes and kitchen furniture may be there and the rest is up to the tenant.
13. The men here are passionate about soccer.
The main topics Greek men can be heard conversing about are soccer and politics. The Greeks love soccer and often go to stadiums to see the games and even play soccer themselves. By the way, considering how emotional they are, it’s not always safe to visit the stadiums. Despite the country’s passion for the sport, the Greek soccer team only won the European Cup once in 2004. It’s also worth noting that their love for sports has been passed down to children in school. During the kids’ breaks, they’re taken outside and special teacher-coaches play different games with them including soccer and even mini-golf.
Greeks that live in big cities are actively interested in politics and often take part in public protests and demonstrations.
14. The Greeks love coffee and going to coffee shops.
The most popular drink in Greece is, of course, coffee. The Greeks drink huge amounts of it. Spending some time with a cup of coffee in a coffee shop is an everyday ritual for most Greeks. It’s not just a 5-minute break but a real pause for rest and communication. Elderly people love coffee shops very much. Unlike the taverns, coffee shops only sell drinks.
Also, the frappe (cold coffee) was invented in Greece. To make it, they take a small amount of cold water and coffee, mix it with a special machine until there’s foam, and then add cold water and ice to the drink.
15. The Greeks have their own beauty aesthetic.
Many foreigners say that Greek men are more attractive then Greek women. Most of the time, Greek women are pretty short and a bit overweight. Also, many of them have skin problems. Cosmetologists say that it’s due to the climate (the heat forces the pores to be open all the time) and their lifestyle (in other words, their love for coffee and cigarettes). In order to hide these flaws on the skin, the local women love using a lot of bright makeup.
Greek women also love jewelry. They wear all kinds of rhinestones, beads, and other things. They love sparkling items as well which is why a lot of them have piercings. Additionally, many local people have beautiful hair — they love wearing long hair and in turn, take very good care of it.
Have you ever been to Greece? What interesting things about this country did you learn? Share them with us in the comment section below!