Experiencing the Unique Features of Greece
Greece is a country with its own customs, traditions, and habits that may surprise or confuse some foreigners.
In this article, I will share with you some of the most important and interesting aspects of Greek culture that you should know before you visit this amazing country.
So sit back, relax, and get ready to discover the secrets of Greek culture. 😊
Social Life and Philoxenia: Welcoming the Stranger
Hospitality, or "philoxenia", is deeply ingrained in Greek culture.
The warmth and openness of the Greek people make visitors feel like cherished guests, creating a sense of belonging and forging meaningful connections.
Greeks are known for their love of conversation, spending hours at cafés engaging in lively discussions over a cup of strong Greek coffee or a refreshing frappé.
The concept of "parea," or a group of friends, is highly valued, and it is not uncommon for strangers to become friends after a single encounter.
In Greece, particularly in rural areas and away from urban centers, it is customary to greet strangers on the street.
A smile or a "good morning" is often exchanged as one traverses the narrow pathways of an island village or a quaint countryside town.
This simple gesture reflects the genuine warmth and friendliness of the Greek people, inviting visitors to feel welcome and connected to the local community.
To experience the essence of being Greek, there are two coffee options you can choose from:
If you want to embrace the vibrant and refreshing Greek coffee culture, go for a frappé.
This "Greek invention" has become a symbol of summer and carefree moments.
A frappé is an iced coffee drink made by combining instant coffee, sugar, and a small amount of water.
The mixture is shaken or mixed until it forms a frothy foam, which is then poured over ice cubes and diluted with cold water.
It's usually served with a straw and can be enjoyed with or without milk.
This energizing beverage is perfect for warm days and provides a taste of the Greek lifestyle.
- Greek Coffee
For a more traditional and authentic experience, opt for Greek coffee, also known as "Ellinikós kafés."
This strong and aromatic coffee is prepared using a small pot called a "briki."
Finely ground coffee, water, and sugar (if desired) are combined in the briki and heated over a stove.
As the coffee heats up, it creates a thick layer of foam on top.
Once the foam rises, the coffee is poured into small demitasse cups, including the foam.
Greek coffee is often savored slowly while engaging in conversation or relaxing.
It offers a rich taste and a glimpse into the deep-rooted coffee traditions of Greece.
In Greece, there is no need for foreigners to change their coffee preferences because all types of coffee, such as Americano, Espresso, or Cappuccino, are available everywhere.
By choosing either a frappé or Greek coffee, you can immerse yourself in Greek coffee culture and enjoy a taste of what Greeks savor on a daily basis.
In Greece, enjoying a cup of coffee is often accompanied by a delightful treat known as "koulouri"
Koulouri is a circular-shaped bread roll covered in sesame seeds, offering a satisfying crunch and a hint of nuttiness.
It is commonly sold by street vendors or in local bakeries, making it easily accessible for those in search of a quick snack.
Greeks often pair their morning coffee, whether it's a frappé or Greek coffee, with a freshly baked koulouri.
This combination creates a harmonious blend of flavors and textures, where the bitterness of the coffee complements the slight sweetness and crunchiness of the koulouri.
Embracing the tradition of enjoying coffee with koulouri allows visitors to truly immerse themselves in the Greek coffee culture and experience the full range of flavors and rituals that accompany it.
Purchasing Essentials at Periptera
In Greece, small everyday items like cigarettes, lighters, magazines, beverages and chocolates are commonly purchased from small kiosks called "periptera"
These convenient 1.3m x 1.5m standalone kiosks, can be found throughout the country, offering quick access to essentials.
They adapt to their surroundings so you may find a serious newspaper like the Economist in central Athens while only Greek newspapers and magazines in a neighbourhood far from the tourist trail.
Greek street food
A beloved culinary tradition that has captured the hearts and palates of locals and tourists alike.
Greek street food stands out for its affordability, making it an accessible option for everyone to enjoy.
What sets Greek street food apart is the fascinating blend of flavors and ingredients that create unique taste experiences.
Grilled skewers of pork, chicken, or lamb, often served in a pita with toppings like tzatziki, tomatoes, and onions.
Slices of seasoned meat (typically pork or chicken) cooked on a vertical rotisserie, served in a pita with tzatziki, tomatoes, and onions.
Spinach and feta cheese wrapped in flaky phyllo pastry.
Cheese-filled pastry, often made with feta or a mixture of cheeses.
Traditional Greek pastry made of thin layers of filo dough, filled with sweet custard.
It is often sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon and served as a popular breakfast.
These flavorful street foods offer a quick and delicious taste of Greek cuisine.
Meze refers to a style of dining in Greece, where a variety of small dishes are served as appetizers or shared plates.
Meze often includes dishes like tzatziki (yogurt, garlic and cucumber dip), dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita (spinach and feta pastry), and taramasalata (fish roe dip).
This style of dining encourages social interaction and the exploration of diverse flavors.
The Greek Cuisine
At the heart of Greek culture lies its culinary tradition, renowned worldwide for its flavorsome dishes and fresh ingredients.
Greek cuisine emphasizes simplicity and showcases the use of locally sourced produce, including olive oil, herbs, and aromatic spices.
Wouldn't it be intriguing to try your hand at preparing something Greek in the galley of your boat?
Greek cuisine is considered one of the healthiest and most balanced cuisines in the world.
It follows the principles of the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with longevity and lower risk of chronic diseases.
It also reflects the history, geography, and culture of Greece, having a story behind every product and recipe that goes back to ancient times.
Here follows some popular Greek dishes:
- Greek Salad
Tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, extra virgin olive oil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper
Eggplants, ground beef or lamb, tomatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg.
It is then topped with a creamy béchamel sauce, grated cheese (usually Parmesan or kefalotyri) and baked until golden and bubbling.
Macaroni pasta, ground beef or lamb, cinnamon, nutmeg, grated cheese (usually Parmesan or kefalotyri), and béchamel sauce.
- Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Grape leaves, rice, fresh herbs (such as dill and mint), lemon juice.
- Gemista (Stuffed Vegetables)
Tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplants, rice, fresh herbs (such as parsley and mint), olive oil.
Potatoes, zucchini, eggplants, bell peppers, onions, garlic.
- Imam Bayildi
Eggplants, onions, garlic, tomatoes
Greek desserts are known for their indulgent flavors and textures:
- Baklava, a pastry made with layers of phyllo dough, nuts, and honey syrup, is perhaps the most famous
- Loukoumades (deep-fried dough balls drizzled with honey and cinnamon)
- Galaktoboureko (semolina custard wrapped in phyllo), and various fruit-based desserts
These distinctive elements, combining fresh ingredients, Mediterranean flavors, and a rich culinary heritage, contribute to the unique and delectable nature of Greek cuisine
Greeks have a deep appreciation for their beverages, which play a significant role in their culture.
From lively social gatherings to casual taverna visits, drinking is a cherished part of Greek life.
- Greek wine
Greek wine is highly regarded for its quality and diverse range of flavors.
With a long history of winemaking, Greece offers unique indigenous grape varieties and distinctive winemaking techniques.
For more information, you can reach our article "Wine and winemaking in Greece".
A traditional Greek alcoholic beverage that can be described as an anise-flavored liqueur.
It is commonly enjoyed as an aperitif and is known for its distinct licorice-like taste and strong aroma.
Ouzo is typically clear and turns milky white when mixed with water or ice, as the anise oils emulsify.
It is a popular choice among Greeks and visitors alike, often accompanied by mezes (appetizers) during social gatherings.
Ouzo is deeply intertwined with Greek culture and is considered a symbol of hospitality and conviviality.
Α traditional Greek spirit that is highly popular among Greeks. It is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the pomace, which is the solid remains of grapes after the winemaking process.
It is known for its strong, clear, and often high-proof nature. It has a distinct flavor profile, with hints of grape and a strong alcoholic kick.
A traditional Greek liqueur that combines the flavors of raki (a grape distillate similar to tsipouro) and honey.
It is a popular drink in Greece, and is typically made by infusing raki with honey, along with various spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and sometimes orange peel.
The result is a sweet and flavorful liqueur with a smooth texture. Rakomelo is often enjoyed as a digestif.
- Mastic liqueur
This one-of-a-kind drink is made from the resin of the mastic tree, which is found exclusively on the Greek island of Chios.
It offers a distinct and refreshing flavor, with hints of pine and a subtle sweetness
In Greece, you will generally find a rich variety of lager beers available in 500 ml bottles.
There are numerous brands to choose from: Amstel, Heineken, Mythos, Fix, Alpha, Mamos.
If you're not a fan of lager, you can also find a limited selection of Pilsner beers: Kaiser.
Many cafés in Greece serve beer in smaller 330 ml bottles, the popular option for those who prefer a smaller serving size.
Fortunately, in recent years, there has been a rise in craft breweries in Greece, catering to the more discerning beer drinkers.
These microbreweries have found their home on the picturesque Greek islands, producing a range of beer styles, including Pilsners, Ales, Pale Ales, Red Ales, IPAs, as well as black and smoked beers.
- Cultural events
Greece has a rich cultural heritage, and there are numerous events and festivals throughout the year that showcase music, dance, theater, and art.
From classical concerts in ancient theaters to contemporary art exhibitions, there is always something for everyone to enjoy.
Also, Ancient Greek theatre is a mesmerizing experience that every foreigner should see.
With its grand amphitheatres, powerful performances, and rich storytelling, it offers a glimpse into Greece's cultural heritage.
- Religious events
Greece is known for its rich religious traditions, and many cultural events have a religious character.
Throughout the year, you can find various celebrations and festivals dedicated to the Virgin Mary or local saints, particularly on the Greek islands.
These events often involve religious processions, liturgical ceremonies, traditional dances, and songs.
Visitors have the opportunity to witness and participate in these vibrant displays of faith and cultural heritage.
It's not uncommon to find local delicacies and traditional food being served during these events, adding to the festive atmosphere.
- Open air cinema
What makes open air cinemas special is the combination of film, nature, and the enchanting Greek ambiance.
During the summer months, open air cinemas can be found in various locations across Greece, including city rooftops, parks, and coastal areas.
These venues are often transformed into cozy and atmospheric spaces, with comfortable seating, large screens, and high-quality sound systems.
If you're visiting Greece during the summer, experiencing an open air cinema in the Greek islands, is a must.
It provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Greek culture, enjoy a film under the stars, and create lasting memories of your time in this beautiful country.
One thing to note here - the film usually starts at 20:45, just when mosquitos most like to have their dinner.
Cover yourself in mosquito repellant before you go as you really don’t want to be the highlight of the movie experience for both man and beast!
...And one don't:
In Greece, it is common to encounter signs advising against flushing toilet paper in the toilets, particularly in cafes and other establishments.
Visitors are encouraged to follow this practice to avoid any plumbing issues.
Instead of disposing of paper in the toilet, it is recommended to use the designated bins or trash receptacles provided.
This is especially important on boats, where the plumbing systems are sensitive.
Embrace the warmth of our culture, immerse yourself in the vibrant traditions, and savor the flavors of our gastronomic treasures.
Greece awaits you with open arms, ready to unveil its secrets and create memories that will last a lifetime.