Are you looking for some Greek culture facts? Today, we present to you six (6) random things Greek people do. From adding oregano on everything to saying one thing and meaning another, here are the most random facts about Greece and the Greeks.
There are different YouTube channels dedicated to the Greek language and culture, such as Helinika. Two examples are LinguaTree and EasyGreek. Here are some of the best Greek YouTube channels that are not targeted at Greek language learners. They are commentary, comedy, lifestyle, and other types of channels, which can help you immerse yourself in the language.
If you are an absolute beginner, you might find it hard following their videos. But if you have a basic understanding of the Greek language, watching the content these channels produce will significantly improve your fluency.
The comedian Labros Fisfis has a nerdy, self-deprecating sense of humor that can be enjoyed by an international audience. At the same time, you will learn about certain aspects of the Greek culture that even we, Greeks, make jokes about. It is recommended to watch his videos on Greek motherhood and Greece in general.
Giorgos Vagiatas is a personal favorite, since he is gifted with making everything sound funny. His sense of humor could also be described as nerdy and foreigners will also find many Greek “inside jokes” that will help them understand more about the Greek culture. Vagiatas is also uploading travel content from time to time and he is known for his “camper” traveling series here on YouTube.
Dionysis Atzarakis is a very talented actor, director and comedian, with a very sophisticated sense of humor. No loud noises, weird face expressions, or try-hard jokes. Just pure sarcasm and irony. His jokes might be harder to understand, since he adds many references to Greece’s pop culture and media.
Greek Scientific & Informative YouTube Channels
The Greek YouTube community includes many scientists and knowledgeable people.
Astronio is a YouTube channel dedicated to the science of Astronomy. It explains complicated phenomena of the cosmos in an easy and understandable way. Behind the channel there is a real astronomer named Pavlos Kastanas, who is also a science lecturer at Mediterranean College. You can also find interviews of other scientists on this channel.
Kathimerini Physiki (Καθημερινή Φυσική) translates to “Daily Physics”. It is a Greek YouTube channel that explains scientific phenomena to a broad audience. The face of the presenter is not shown on screen.
A very interesting Greek YouTube channel is “The Skeptic Theory”, which covers a wide range of topics – from religion and conspiracy theories to human psychology, ethics, and logic. The face of the presenter is again not shown and viewers who are currently in the process of learning Greek will be able to expand their vocabulary.
Yannis Sarakatsanis is a mathematician and actor here in Greece who uploads high quality content on YouTube. His videos on various philosophical matters are very well researched and he also gives great book recommendations.
Konstantina Adamaki is a Journalism graduate who creates mostly commentary videos but also some satirical videos. By watching her videos, you will get an understanding of Greece’s current affairs. The YouTuber has been called a “leftist” and a “conservative” by commentators, since her opinions do not follow a specific political agenda.
Nefeli Meg is a young lawyer who posts informative and entertaining content. She usually comments on Greece’s current affairs and, as a lawyer, she is able to present both sides of the story. It is as if she debates with herself, which requires a lot of research. Both native and non-native speakers should watch her videos, since they can improve their Greek vocabulary.
Greek Lifestyle Channels
There are several Greek lifestyle YouTube channels but here are the ones recommended by Helinika.
Evelina Nikoliza is a singer and presenter who also shares parts of her life on YouTube. She has a great sense of humor and she has some of the most hilarious storytime videos. Greek language learners will easily follow her stories.
Danae Georganta is a half-Dutch – half-Greek YouTuber who is known as “I Mikri Ollandeza” (the little Dutch girl). She was one of the first people who made YouTube their career in Greece. Danae started with beauty and fashion videos but, at the moment, she mostly uploads vlog and lifestyle content.
By exploring these YouTube channels you will probably come across other Greek creators, whose content will be interesting to you. If you watch any of their videos, feel free to leave a comment, letting them know how you discovered them. Have a nice day and keep learning!
If you are interested in learning Greek but there are no classes taking place in your area, don’t be discouraged. Helinika, a platform dedicated to the Greek language, history, and culture, offers affordable Greek language lessons online. Learn Greek during Quarantine.
When non-Athenians visit Athens, they usually explore the three historical neighborhoods surrounding the Acropolis hill. But Athens is more than Plaka, Monastiraki, and Thiseio. Here are some of the lesser-known Athenian neighborhoods you should explore or consider living in.
Mets is a popular and quite central neighborhood of Athens. Built amphitheatrically between the Hill of Ardettos and the Hill of Loginnos, most houses and apartment buildings have a great view of the city of Athens. Mets is also very close to the ancient Temple of Olympian Zeus. The neighborhood got its name from the first Athenian brewery that was founded by the Bavarian Karl Fuchs.
Today, Mets it’s the neighborhood of choice for artists and writers. The local art center frequently organizes cultural events and exhibitions. Although it is situated in the heart of Athens, it is quiet and green. Last but not least, it is one of the few neighborhoods of Athens where you can still find many neoclassical buildings from the 19th century.
Nea Smyrni, Athens
Nea Smyrni is a family-friendly municipality in the southern part of Athens. Its name derives from the Greek refugees who settled there after the catastrophe of Smyrna in 1922. Many Athenians choose Nea Smyrni because it is close to the city center but, at the same time, it has the benefits of a suburban area. It has parks, a small forest called “Alsos Neas Smyrnis”, and many two-story houses with gardens.
Paleo Faliro is a coastal district in the southern part of Athens. Just like Nea Smyrni, Paleo Faliro housed many Greeks from Asia Minor in early 20th Century. Today, locals often call it “Falirofornia”. That is because of the countless palm trees planted across its beautiful marina and public park called “Flisvos”. Athenians love it because of its ideal geographical position. You can easily reach the center of Athens and the port of Piraeus. And most importantly, finding an apartment with a seaside view is easier than in other parts of Athens.
Ano Petralona, Athens
When visitors arrive in Athens, they start exploring Syntagma, Plaka, Thiseio, and Monastiraki. But they often overlook a central Athenian neighborhood that is known for its authentic (and non-touristic!) Greek tavernas and restaurants.
Ano Petralona is a neighborhood located next to Thiseio. It has an excellent public transportation system and it is much quieter than most Athenian neighborhoods that are located within walking distance from Syntagma square. It is also an affordable neighborhood to live in, considering its central location.
Exarcheia is both one of the coolest and one of the most avoided neighborhoods of Athens. Situated close to Panepistimiou Street and the National Technical University of Athens, it is inhabited mostly by students and young Athenians. The area has also attracted many left-wing intellectuals and artists, since it has been associated with the Polytechnic Uprising of 1973 against the Greek Junta. Over the years, radical activists and anarchists started residing there.
Foreign visitors often avoid Exarcheia because of its reputation as the “Anarchist Neighborhood” of Athens. But the chances of a random person being bothered by the anarchists of Exarcheia are very rare. Visitors usually have nothing to be afraid of in Exarcheia but it is recommended to avoid the neighborhood on November 17th and December 6th, to avoid coming across a protest. You should also avoid parking your vehicles in this neighborhood.
Next to Exarcheia, there is the historical and picturesque neighborhood of Neapoli. Located on the northern slope of Mount Lycabettus, it offers a panoramic view of the city. It is perfect for those who want to live in the center but despise large crowds and noises. Neapoli is also known for its countless bookstores and publishing houses. Many writers and artists reside there.
Close to Neapoli and Exarcheia, there is Kolonaki neighborhood. The name literally translates to “little column”. That is because of an old 2-meter high marble column that was located there.
Kolonaki is one of the most upscale neighborhoods of central Athens. It is the fashion center of the Greek capital, with many fashion designers and architects choosing one its countless neoclassical buildings for their studios. Benaki Museum, the Byzantine Museum, and the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art are all located there.
Kolonaki square is known for its fashionable cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs. The neighborhood has two major metro stations (Evangelismos and Megaro Mousikis) and countless luxurious hotels for business travelers. Finally, Kolonaki is the home of many foreign embassies.
Few blocks away from Syntagma square, right by Kalimarmaro stadium, you can find one of the coolest neighborhoods of Athens: Pangrati. The neighborhood has recently received great attention from young and creative business owners, which translates to higher rent prices.
Pangrati is one of the most authentic Athenian neighborhoods, since it rarely receives attention from tourists. Athenians visit Pangrati for its historical cafes and parks, and often choose it for their main residence.
Neo & Paleo Psychiko, Athens
Psychiko – Neo and Paleo – is located just 5 km northeast of the city center. It is a wealthy residential area, chosen by doctors and lawyers. It was historically the home of Greek aristocrats and “old money” families. Psychiko has also countless prestigious private schools, such as Moraitis School, Arsakeio, and Athens College. Finally, just like Kolonaki, the neighborhood hosts many foreign embassies.
Koukaki was a snubbed neighborhood of Athens that gained great popularity the past ten years. Vogue has announced that Koukaki is now the “new cool neighborhood of Athens”.
Koukaki is a popular brunch destination for Athenians, but it is also known for its hip cocktail bars. Many galleries and museums are located there, including the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum.
But the main reason locals love Koukaki and are desperately trying to find an apartment there, is its proximity to the Acropolis Hill. Koukaki is not as crowded nor touristic as Plaka, but it is just few steps away from the temple of the Parthenon.
Did you know any of these neighborhoods? If yes, what is your favorite?
Theatrical machinery – devices used for theatrical effects – are much older than you might think. They were used on stage since the beginning of the history of theater. Here are some of the tricks ancient Greeks used to help the audience get fully immersed into the play.
You may know this machine with its latin name “Deus ex Machina”. “Mechane” or “Aiorima” was a crane used in ancient Greek drama. Ancient Greek tragedies would often require the intervention of a god or goddess in times of crisis. The divine character would hang over the stage with the help of the mechane and provide a solution to the tragic character’s problem. Euripides, the most alternative tragedian, used the aiorima for a non-divine character – Medea. Since then, mechane has been used to land any type of character on stage, if the plot requires them to fly around.
Periaktos -often seen in plural as periaktoi – was a wooden device that rapidly changed the theatrical scenes. It had the shape of a triangle with three different backgrounds painted on each side. The periaktos would rotate, changing the set of each scene. This device gained popularity during the Renaissance period and that is when theatrical designers, such as Nicola Sabbatini, were admired for their work.
Ancient tragedies often delt with the darkest side of the human psyche. The plot usually included violent crimes, including murder. But depicting such devious scenes was not allowed. That is why they would use a wheeled platform called ekkyklema to remove and reintroduce characters on stage. For example, a character would be rolled out of the scene before his murder and pushed back in while laying on the ground.
Theologeion was a stage trick similar to mechane. It was a raised platform which was very well disguised as part of the scene. Actors who played divine characters would climb up these platforms and spoke the word of god from above.
Anapiesma was the ancient Greek version of the stage trap we know today. It was a concealed opening under the stage floor, where actors and props would be hidden before they appeared on stage. Such traps are used even today.
Vronteio & Keravnoskopeion
In ancient Greek drama, weather changes often symbolized the mood of the gods and goddesses. Storms would take place when a character committed hybris. Tragedians would employ two devices to mimic the sounds and lightnings of a stormy weather: vronteio and keravnoskopeion. The first was a metal box full of rocks that was shaken to produce loud noises. The second was a type of periaktos that had a side with a mirroring effect. It was used to reflect the sunlight in a way that resembled a lightning.
Other Theatrical Tricks
Ancient Greeks constructed their theaters amphitheatrically. The goal was that everyone could see and hear whatever happened on stage. The locations were chosen carefully, and Greek theaters still have incredible acoustic. The acoustic did not only occur naturally but also with the construction of obstruction behind the stage. This happened in order to enhance the physical phenomenon of reflection, which causes echoes.
If you enjoyed watching this video, feel free to like, share, and subscribe. Stay tuned because, next week, we will be covering the plot of our first tragedy.
Hybris, nemesis, and catharsis are three important aspects of every ancient Greek tragedy. Hybris and nemesis were mentioned way before the birth of Greek theatre; we know the terms from ancient Greek mythology. And catharsis is a concept that was introduced in drama. But what is the meaning of these three theatrical terms?
Antigone by Sophocles is one of the most well-known ancient Greek theatrical plays. It belongs to a collection of tragedies – the Theban plays – since it takes place in the Greek city of Thebes. It was written by the great tragedian Sophocles and was presented at the theatrical competition of Dionysia in 441 BC. It is based on the myth of Oedipus but Sophocles manages to make the story even more tragic. It focuses on the subject of written vs. unwritten rules and absolute power.
In 412 BC, the ancient Greek tragedian Euripides presented a trilogy of plays at the annual theatrical competition of Dionysia in Athens. One of those plays was Helen – inspired by the legend of Helen of Troy.
Thessaloniki is the second biggest city in Greece and one of the most beautiful ones as well. Situated in the Greek region of Macedonia in northern Greece, the port city of Thessaloniki has been a cosmopolitan city for many centuries. Known for its unique architecture, relaxed lifestyle, and rich history, Thessaloniki attracts many visitors every year. The city is also one of the places that see some snow from time to time during the winter, with many Greeks visiting it for this exact reason!
Another reason to visit Thessaloniki is the fact that is considered the food capital of Greece. Do you like sweet treats? Try the traditional sweet-savory bougatsa pie with lots of cinnamon and you will instantly fall in love with the city. Do you prefer fine dining? You will find plenty of restaurants to choose from. Since the Greek summer can be quite hot, hence reducing people’s appetite, make sure to visit Thessaloniki in the winter.
# 9 Athens
The capital of Greece might be visited all year round, however, it is recommended to visit it during the winter. Just ask a tourist who did outdoor sightseeing in Athens in July. Athenian summers are always very hot, with the temperature reaching often 40 degrees Celsius during the day. Therefore, coming during the winter is more enjoyable.
The city of Athens is always sunny, and the temperature can reach 20 degrees Celsius even in December. Pack your lightest coat and a few thin sweaters (or your shorts if you are from Scandinavia) and climb up the Acropolis of Athens and the Filopappou hill. Walk around the ancient Agora and National Gardens and explore the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos. Visit the Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeological Museum, the Benaki Museum, and Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center. Go thrift shopping in the second-hand markets of Monastiraki and Omonoia and order a nice cocktail in the bars around Square Klafthmonos.In the winter, there are also several theatrical plays. If you understand Greek at a basic level, watching a play in the birthplace of drama is a lifetime experience.
#8 Mounts of Attica
Athens is situated in Attica, a region with rich history. Attica is visited throughout the year by nature and hiking lovers because of its mountainous landscape. Try exploring Mount Hymettus, Penteli, and Parnitha. These mountains were considered “magical” since ancient times and there are often visited by paranormal investigators. A great example would be the “haunted” cave of Mount Penteli. If you love skiing, you can also visit Mount Parnassos ski center!
Due to its geographic location, Xanthi is one of the most culturally diverse cities in Greece. Situated in the northern region of Thrace, Xanthi welcomes many visitors during the winter. The city is known for its unique architecture. Byzantine churches, next to Ottoman-era mosques, and neoclassical buildings from the 19th century. Every winter, the city celebrates one of Greece’s most popular events: the carnival of Xanthi. It is recommended to visit the folklore museum, the old town, and the nearby waterfalls.
#6 Trikala of Corinthia
In the North Peloponnese, Greece holds one of its greatest secrets: Trikala. The picturesque town is known for its beautiful landscape, traditional homes made out of stone, and numerous winter traditions. Many families visit Trikala during Christmas to see the “Mill of the Elves” – the most beautiful Christmas themed park in Greece (which is completely free of charge). Not only that, but Trikala is one of the few smart cities in the world! It has automated citizens service center, mobile check apps, wifi for everyone, smart lighting system, smart parking system, smart waste management, and many more advanced municipal services. Trikala was also the first city to use driverless buses!
Zagori is a region in the Pindus mountains in the Epirus region of Greece. The area is known for its magnificent landscapes that are very rare in southern Europe. Rare animal species such as the brown bear and the wolf reside there. Greeks visit the area during the winter months to hike or explore the 46 traditional picturesque villages, known as the “Zagorochoria” (the villages of Zagori). Zagori has two national parks, traditional arched stone bridges, crystal-clear waters, and numerous Byzantine churches. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Greece.
If you love climbing, you might already know Meteora. It is a rock formation in central Greece, near the town of Kalabaka. The area is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is visited by people from around the world who are intrigued by its unique landscape. On top of some of the hills, there are Christian Orthodox monasteries that were built there during Byzantine times. Many climbers attempt to climb on top of the hills and countless film companies have asked for permission to film there. Meteora is one of the magnificent places to visit in Greece during the winter.
#3 Northern Pelion
Although South Pelion is a secret summer paradise, Northern Pelion – a mountain range in central Greece, is Greece’s winter hidden gem. Do you love skiing and winter sports? You can visit the ski resort of Chania. Do you love hiking? You can explore the cobblestone trails connecting Pelion’s traditional villages. Pelion is one of the few places where you can experience heavy snowfall in Greece.
The most well-known ski resort in Greece is the one of Arachova. It is situated next to one of the most picturesque villages of the entire country, Arachova. Located in the region of Boeotia, not very far from Attica, it gathers many visitors from Athens. The village is known for its woodcut creations, dark red wine, traditional carpets, and chylopites – a type of pasta that dates back to Byzantine times.
It was believed to be the home of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece. The kingdom of Zeus and Hera. A magnificent mountain that reaches the heavens. How could it come second or third on this list? Mount Olympus is one of the most popular hiking and climbing destinations in Greece. It is also a ski mountaineering destination for avid skiers! On Mount Olympus you can find several beautiful villages, including some ghost villages such as Morna. The village was abandoned for unknown reasons and many urban legends have spurred over the years. The village was built on the “dark” side of Olympus, where sunlight is limited. Since ancient times, Greeks avoided this part of the mountain, since it was visited by chthonic deities, and not by the gods and goddesses who resided at the top.
Close your eyes and try to think of Greece. What was the first thing that came into your mind? Was it the white and blue houses on a hill in Santorini? The temple of the Parthenon standing proud on the Acropolis hill of Athens? For many people, Greece is connected to specific popular destinations: Santorini, Mykonos, Zakynthos, Crete, Corfu, and Athens. But what about the rest of the country? Here are seven Greek destinations that people who don’t live in Greece rarely know. Stay till the end to discover an unpopulated island that could be described as “heaven on Earth”.
Some of the most iconic Greek islands are the Cycladic islands, which are known for their dry, golden terrain, white-blue houses, and great Bronze-era civilization. Samothrace island, however, looks nothing like those islands – but it does have a rich history.
Located in the northern Aegean Sea, Samothrace has dense vegetation, a lot of natural springs, and many picturesque villages. The island used to be an important religious center in Hellenic and pre-Hellenic times.
If you have watched the video on the Eleusinian Mysteries, then you might remember a short reference to the so-called “Kabeirian Mysteries”. An ancient Greek cult with members from different parts of Greece would meet in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods that is located there and perform ceremonies to a group of chthonic gods called Kabeiri.
Today, many people visit Samothrace for its beautiful nature and numerous archaeological sites. It also has some popular camping sites. Some of the places you should visit are: the Paleopoli (where many ancient temples are located), the island’s waterfalls (including the waterfall «Fonias”, which means “Murderer” in Greek), and the mountain “Feggari”, which means “moon” in Greek.
#6 Halkidiki Peninsula
If you are not from Greece or from a neighboring country, chances are that you have never heard about (C)Halkidiki. Located in the northern Greek region of Macedonia, this peninsula can be easily located on the map; all you have to do is search for “Poseidon’s trident”.
The first two “prongs” of the “trident” are known for their beautiful beaches (which often have a natural shade), well-known restaurants, and bars. Northern Greeks are often quoted saying: «Σαν την Χαλκιδική δεν έχει», which can be translated as “No place like Halkidiki”. You might also remember from another video from Helinika that Aristotle was born there.
The third “prong” of the “trident” is known as “Mount Athos”, and it is an autonomous polity where 20 Greek Orthodox monasteries are located. Some date back to 800 AD. It is important to note that the monasteries cannot be visited by women.
Some places that you should definitely visit are: the Trani Ammouda beach, Possidi beach, and visit some archaeological sites, such as the Sanctuary of Ammon Zeus.
Epirus is a region located in the northwestern part of Greece and it is one of the few places with an alpine climate in the country. It is rugged and mountainous, with a rich vegetation consisting mostly of coniferous species. Epirus has also a big variety of animal species: bears, wolves, foxes, deer, even lynxes.
All these make Epirus a very unique place in Greece. You should definitely visit the Vikos National Park, Pindos National Park, Cave of Perama, and the Dragon Lake (Drakolimne). The central city of Epirus and lake Pamvotida are also two places worth visiting. When you visit the historic city of Ioannina, you can try the traditional frog legs served in the local restaurants.
If you visit during the summer, you should definitely go to the city of Preveza, which is situated in the seaside. You can find some of the most beautiful green-blue waters in this region.
#4 Monemvasia Fortress
Although most people around the world are aware of Greece’s ancient history, fewer know its Medieval past. The Island Fortress of Monemvasia in South Peloponnese is a reminder of Greece’s Byzantine history.
Monemvasia means “one-way”. The fortress was built in 583 AD, during the reign of the emperor Mauricius, on a rocky island which is connected to the mainland with a narrow road. Monemvasia is one of the most romantic Greek destinations and it should be on every architect’s checklist. Visit the Byzantine churches, the old castle, the folklore museums, and the house of Yannis Ritsos, one of the most well-known Greek poets.
#3 Mount Pelion
If you have watched Helinika’s video narrating the Argonautica, then you might remember Pelion; a mountain at the southeastern part of Thessaly that forms a peninsula resembling a hook. Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, spent his childhood and teenage years there, along with his teacher, Centaur Chiron. This mythical mountain was believed to be the home of the wise half-horse, half-man creatures.
Today, Pelion is often described as “paradise on Earth”, combining mountain and sea in one place. If you visit Pelion during the winter, it is worth visiting the northern part of the mountain; the picturesque villages of Milies and Zagora, but also the ski center of Chania.
During the summer, south Pelion is known for its beautiful coastline – the wild and crystal clear beaches facing the Aegean sea and the calm and family friendly beaches facing the gulf of Pagasitikos. Papa Nero and Potistika are some of the most popular summer destinations for people who love deep and wild waters, contrary to the swallow and calm waters of most Greek coastlines. Fun fact: most of the scenes in “Mama Mia 1” were filmed in South Pelion and some neighboring islands.
Pelion is also a popular hiking area for locals. The “kalderimia”, the traditional cobblestone pathways, connect small villages to each other through beautiful natural landscapes – forests, rivers, and waterfalls.
#2 Elafonisos Island
Elafonisos is one of Greece’s hidden gems and, to be honest, revealing it comes with a feeling of guilt. Situated between the Peloponnese and the island of Kythira, the beautiful island has a history that dates back to ancient times.
Its name derives from the Greek word for “deer” (Ελάφι), since it was inhabited by deer in the past.Today, it is a protected biotope of the program Natura 2000, since it is the home of countless rare Mediterranean plants and animals, including red tulips goulimyi, green sea turtles, microbats, and European blind snakes. Some of the paradise-like beaches are Simos, Panagia, and Lefki.
#1 Chrysi Island
Chrysi means “golden” in Greek. Also known as Gaidouronisi, Chrysi island could only be placed on the first position. It is an uninhabited Greek island in the South Cretan Sea, very close to the town of Ierapetra.
The island is known for its Minoan ruins from 1800 BC, its Roman cemetery, its old lighthouse and salt pan, a 13th century chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and its crystal-clear waters. The island has swallow and safe waters and it attracts anyone who loves snorkeling and diving.
The beautiful island is so small but, at the same time, it has such a long history and such beautiful scenery that could be described as the ultimate Greek destination. You can reach it by boat from Ierapetra and other places in Crete, such as Makrigialos, and Myrtos.
Greek Coffee Culture (+ Tea Consumption in Greece)
You might know Greek coffee as “briki coffee” or as “Turkish coffee”, because, yes, Greek coffee is no other than the traditional coffee consumed in Turkey and it is speculated that it originates from the Arab world. Greeks started drinking this type of coffee during the Ottoman rule of Greece and it was always referred to as “Turkish”. Things changed, however, after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, when the Greek-Turkish relationships became strained. Many coffee distributers and coffee shop owners realized that the word “Turkish” on their menus would bring negative emotions to their customers, hence reducing their purchase intentions.
Nowadays, less and less people consume this type of unfiltered coffee, not because of its Turkish origins, but because they prefer coffee that does leave any residue at the bottom of the cup. The sediment is very bitter when consumed by accident and it has no practical use in a modern society. In previous centuries, the shapes of the sediment were often interpreted to reveal truths about the past, present, and future. But this practice is not as popular nowadays.
Greeks take coffee very seriously and Greece is one of the top coffee consumers per capita in the world. Despite popular belief, Greeks today have a preference for Italian coffee, specifically espresso. Since the climate is rather warm, cold and iced coffee is very popular. It is named “freddo”, which means “cold” in Italian, and, surprisingly, freddo coffee is more popular in Greece than in Italy. In the past, before “freddo espresso” gained popularity in Greece, people would often make “frappe”, a cold beverage made with instant coffee, sugar, and milk. Frappe was invented in Thessaloniki in 1957 and it is becoming less and less popular nowadays.
In general, you will find three types of coffee places in Greece: the sophisticated «καφετέρια», the traditional «καφενείο» or «καφενές», and the practical “coffee-to-go” coffeeshops. A «καφετέρια» is a sit-down café where friends gather and drink coffee, not just for the shake of getting caffeinated, but also for chatting and catching up with each other. This is a weekly habit for most Greeks who meet with their group of friends every weekend to socialize and drink coffee, usually before or after lunch. In these types of coffee shops, you can find Italian-style coffee and its Greek variations, such as “freddo espresso”, while the traditional unfiltered Turkish coffee or frappe, are rarely included in the menu. Ordering sweet and savory pies is also very common in these types of coffeeshops.
A «καφενείο» or «καφενές» is a traditional coffee shop that you can find in small villages and some touristic parts of the cities. The term derives from the Serbo-Croatian “kafana” and it describes the coffee shops that were very popular in Balkan countries during Ottoman rule. When they were first established, they were the only places of socialization for men, while women would usually meet at home. If you visit a «καφενείο» today, you can order Turkish/Greek coffee, frappe, and alcoholic drinks that were also established during the Ottoman rule, such as ouzo and tsipouro. Prices are generally low in these shops and you might notice that the patrons are mostly elderly people.
A “coffee-to-go” place is -as the name suggests- a coffeeshop that does not have a sitting area and you can only order coffee to go. These places are popular among professional drivers, students, and people who work in offices that do not provide coffee machines for their employees.
If you have watched Helinika’s video on the Greek culture, then you might remember that the Greek culture is collectivistic, which means that drinking coffee is a social activity, as with eating meals, and drinking. “Coffee-to-go” shops were popularized after the arrival of American coffee chains that introduced the concept of drinking coffee on-the-go. Greeks usually spend at least one hour sited at a coffee shop, since this is a common socialization activity. You may also notice that waiters and waitresses rarely interrupt a conversation to ask for the bill, as it often happens in other European countries. In the Greek service culture, asking for the customer to pay as soon as they finished their drink or meal is often considered impolite.
Now it is important to also talk about the consumption of tea in Greece. Although neighboring countries, such as Turkey, consume a lot of tea, Greece ranks at the 50th position of tea consumers in a list of 55 countries. In fact, many Greek people dislike the taste of tea and drink it only when feeling sick. In the Greek mind, tea is more like herbal medicine, rather than something you drink to enjoy. Of course, there are many Greeks who are devoted tea lovers!
There are three types of coffee shops in Greece (modern, traditional, to-go).
Greeks are not big fans of tea.
Drinking Culture in Greece
Many foreigners are often recommended to drink ouzo, an anise-flavored aperitif, or tsipouro, an unaged brandy, when visiting Greece. These two, especially ouzo, resemble a popular alcoholic beverage from Turkey called raki. But visitors often taste these drinks in a way that surprises locals. They drink it plain and warm, in shot glasses, as if it is tequila.
Ouzo and tsipouro, however, are served in highball glasses with a lot of ice cubes and, sometimes, with icy cold water. Greeks also like drinking ouzo and tsipouro in the summer, preferably by the sea, along with seafood. These drinks are also paired with “meze”, a collection of selected dishes that are shared among everyone on the table.
“Meze” does not have Greek origins. It was adopted during the Ottoman rule and you can find meze restaurants in different parts of the world. Ouzo and tsipouro, however, are Greek beverages and their history takes us back to Byzantine times. There are speculations that ouzo in particular was consumed in ancient Greece but under a different name.
Ouzo, as we know it today, started getting produced in 1932 in Lesbos island. Tsipouro, on the other hand, is linked to the 14th century Greek Orthodox monks of Mount Athos. It is important to note that these two drinks are recognized as products with a Protected Designation of Origin in the European Union, prohibiting their production outside of Greece and Cyprus.
It goes without saying that Greeks also produce and consume wine from ancient to modern times. Ancient Greeks had a god dedicated to wine and his name was Dionysus. More than 6.500 years ago, Greeks would export wine, usually made from vitis vinifera (the common grape vine), in the Mediterranean region. Some well-known grape varieties today are: Agiorgitiko, Kotsifali, Mavrodaphne, Xinomavro, Assyrtiko, Malagousia, and Moschofilero.The island of Santorini, Crete, Thessaly, the Peloponnese, and northern Greece are some of the most popular wine producing regions in Greece.
Greeks also love beer, especially in the summer. Some years ago, archaeologists discovered that ancient Greeks consumed beer since the Bronze Age, despite previous speculations that they only drank wine. There are many breweries in Athens, the Cycladic islands, and other parts of Greece.
If you have watched Helinika’s video on the Greek culture, then you might remember that the Greeks have generally a balanced relationship between restrain and indulgence. That means that, for a lot of people, there is an ease at controlling desires and impulses, without associating certain activities with shame and guilt. Greeks indulge in alcohol regularly, without necessarily getting tipsy nor drunk.
Drinking a glass of red wine with dinner is often recommended by cardiologists and it is also common to meet with friends and colleagues after work for a glass of wine. At the same time, the concept of getting wasted on the weekends is not very popular. Alcohol is usually paired with food or snacks, such as almonds and carrot slices. Since the Greek culture is also a collectivistic culture, drinking alcohol alone at home is usually frowned upon.
In a nutshell:
Greeks drink alcohol regularly but in moderation.
“Boozing” culture is not popular in Greece.
Beer and wine have been consumed since ancient times.
Cardiologists often recommend a glass of red wine per day.
Can you measure the Greek culture? What does it mean to be Greek?What are Greeks like?
Although we live in the era of convergence and globalization, there is a call to protect local cultures and maintain a certain level of cultural diversity. If we want to protect our cultural identities, it is crucial to understand what our cultures actually are. Understanding cultures is also essential for anyone who wants to introduce products and concepts in a foreign market or working in a multicultural environment.
Understanding the Modern Greek/ Hellenic Culture
Today, we will try to understand the Greek culture based on different metrics and examples. Before we get started, it is important to clarify that we perceive the modern Greek culture as a continuation of the ancient Greek culture, with the difference that it has been influenced throughout the years from the cultures of the Frankish states, the Ottoman Empire, the Bavarian and Danish monarchies etc.
The Greek Culture as a High-Context Culture: Communicating Without Words
In a past video it was mentioned that Greeks place non-verbal communication at a higher level than others. We could safely say that Greek people are masters at decoding indirect speech and body language. Anthropological and cross-cultural studies agree with that statement.
High-context cultures use a lot of hand gestures. People like maintaining eye contact and pay close attention to other peoples’ posture and facial expressions. It is not about what is being said, it is about what is not said.
On the other hand, people in low-context cultures prefer speaking in a direct and clear way. They are not making a lot of gestures and rarely pay close attention to others’ facial expressions.
It comes as no surprise that Hall places the Greek culture in the first category. If you have ever visited Greece, you should have already noticed that people speak with their hands and always try to maintain eye contact when they speak to you. It is also important to note that, if you annoy a Greek person, they will most likely give you many cues. If you don’t notice them, don’t be surprised if you see them getting mad at you all of a sudden!
The Greek Culture as a Collectivistic Culture: It Is About “Us”
The American anthropologist also distinguishes cultures based on whether they are individualistic or collectivistic. Most western countries, such as the United States of America, are considered to be highly individualistic. People in these cultures strive to be independent from an early age. At the same time, they might find it hard to take decisions with others, maintain strong relationships over the years, and they are more susceptible to loneliness.
Greece is on the other side of the spectrum, since it is recognized as a collectivistic culture. Greek people love sharing experiences with others and maintain close relationships with their families throughout their lives. They like sharing food and they are less likely to travel alone. There is no shame in asking for help and independence is perceived differently than in the US or other individualistic countries.
If you ever visit Greece and want to immerse yourself in the culture, try ordering food with the group you are dining with. You can order a bunch of different dishes and try a bit of everything. If you are visiting alone, don’t be surprised if the locals approach you and invite you to join them. Philoxenia (φιλοξενία) is the Greek tradition of hospitality. Its roots go back to ancient times and it requires people to be welcoming towards strangers.
The Greek Culture as a Balanced Masculine Society with Feminine Characteristics
The Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede has also contributed immensely to the study of national cultures. He came up with many different cultural dimensions, including masculinity vs. femininity.
Masculine cultures, such as Japan and the United States, value success and do not view competition as something negative. People raised in these cultures learn the importance of standing out of the crowd and becoming winners.
On the other hand, feminine countries, such as most Scandinavian countries, strive at improving the quality of life of every person, instead of being considered “the best country in the world”. Characteristics that are considered feminine, such as being nurturing and caring, are valued more than being competitive and ambitious.
Greek culture ranks somewhere in the middle, maintaining a balance between masculine and feminine characteristics, but it is considered a bit more masculine than feminine. Greeks are very proud of their heritage. Successful people, such as Aristotle Onassis, a Greek shipping magnate who was one of richest men to have ever lived, are admired.
Hofstede has come up with many more dimensions for defining a culture, such as power distance, uncertainty avoidance, indulgence, and long-term orientation.
Greece has intermediate scores in indulgence, meaning that it has a healthy relationship between restrain and enjoying life, and in long-term orientation, meaning that it maintains some links with its past but looks towards the future.
Indeed, you will see Greeks enjoying nice meals most days of the week. Drinking red wine is often recommended by doctors to protect the heart and, according to statistics, the Greeks are the most sexually active people in the world. At the same time, there are some clear limits between indulgence and over-indulgence.
For example, drinking alcohol in Greece is enjoyed by most adults, however, our drinking culture is very different than of other nations. Drinking a little bit on a regular base and enjoying it with friends is preferred over “boozing” and getting black-out drunk every Saturday night.
This balance can be explained by the ancient Greek quote «(παν) μέτρον άριστον», which is often translated as “all in good measure”. This might be the quote that acts as a compass in each Greek person’s life. Enjoying life but not loosing control is the most common piece of advice we get from our caregivers and teachers in our childhood and teenage years.
The cultural dimension that is the most unbalanced is that of uncertainty avoidance. The Greek culture ranks as the most avoidant in the world when it comes to uncertainty. This dimension explains how different nations manage anxiety and react to threatening or unknown situations.
It is worth mentioning that during the years of the Ottoman Occupation but also after the Greek War of Independence, Greeks had and have faced a great number of wars, political instabilities, violent regime changes, national divisions, civil wars, and financial crises. Greeks have recently faced a great uncertainty: the Greek government-debt crisis in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, which created a social, cultural, and humanitarian crisis.
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The day is dedicated to freedom and Democracy and it is a reminder to never take these two for granted. It is also a call to stand against police brutality, militarism, and authoritarianism. The 17th of November is often described as a result of the prolonged political crisis that was rooted back to the Greek Civil War. From this perspective, the holiday is a reminder of the great dangers of extreme political and ideological division within a society.
On April 21 1967, colonels George Papadopoulos and Nikolaos Makarezos seized power in a coup d’état. There were several other military officers that had conspired to this plan, including general officer Stylianos Pattakos. The coup leaders started arresting politicians and authority figures, as well as citizens who they suspected were sympathizers of the left. It is estimated that over 10.000 people were arrested in one day.
Once Greece was at the hands of the colonels, articles of the Greek Constitution were suspended, civil liberties were restricted, politicians were exiled, and citizens were tortured and imprisoned. During the seven years of the Junta, four different dictatorships governed the country.
The first years were characterized by strong propaganda to gain the trust of the citizens who maintained a neutral position. The ideology was spread through schools and churches. Public works that were promised in the past were completed. Farmers’ debts were written off and forgotten. At the same time, economic scandals rose and the public dept almost doubled by 1973.
The Regime of the Colonels ended with the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in July 1974, leading to the establishment of the Third Hellenic Republic and the complete democratic transformation of the country. The regime was blamed for mismanaging the situation in Cyprus, while a great percentage of the public was outraged with the actions the colonels took to stop the polytechnic uprising.
It is worth mentioning that the Greek Junta was closely associated with the “Truman Doctrine”, an American foreign policy that aimed at halting the Soviet geopolitical expansion during the Cold War. Greece had experienced a civil war some years beforehand between those who supported left and those who supported right ideologies. Various external organizations have been blamed over the years for supporting the Greek Junta, including “Ordine Nuovo”, a far right paramilitary organization in Italy.
The Polytechnic Uprising:
University and high-school students in Athens were some of the first to reject the military regime. In 1973, massive student demonstrations were organized in the Greek capital, which stands as a global symbol of Democracy to this day.
Law students barricaded themselves in the Law School of the University of Athens in February 1973, an act that was followed by police brutality, inspiring more students to take an active stance against the Junta. On November 14 of that year, students at the Athens Polytechnic went on strike and occupied the University demanding “Bread-Education-Liberty”. Some of the students aimed at abolishing capitalism, while the great majority reportedly demanded the restoration of Democracy and Greece’s exit from the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO).
Non-students who wanted to protest against the regime started gathering at the Polytechnic University and a radio transmitter was set up to inspire the people to join them. In November 16, protesters showed their presence on the streets of Athens and the police responded with bullets. At least 24 people were reportedly shot dead during the protests. Other reports mention that the deaths were at least 40.
In the early hours of November 17, the anti-junta movement escalated when a military tank crashed the Polytechnic’s gates. People were reportedly clinging on the gates shouting slogans against the regime. It is also reported that the city of Athens was in complete darkness, since all the streetlights had been shut down. The area was lit only by the generators of the University. What happened after the crash remains a mystery and a highly controversial subject in Greece.
The official investigation that followed the fall of the Junta declared that there were no deaths during the Polytechnic incident. However, 24 deaths have been officially recorded in the protests that occurred outside the University. Moreover, it is estimated that the injured civilians between November 15 and November 17 were thousands. Several conspiracy theories have emerged throughout the years from both sides.
The 17th of November is a rememberance day in Greece, schools are closed, and commemorative services are held in the campus of the Polytechnic University. The commemoration day ends with a demonstration from the campus to the embassy of the United States. The demonstrations often get violent.
Every year, on the 25th of March, millions of Greeks around the world meet with their families and friends to dine together. In Greece, military and student parades are held and similar parades also occur in hotspots of the Greek diaspora, such as New York. You may or may not have heard that the 25th of March is the Greek Independence Day. However, who were the oppressors of Greeks at that time? Who did they revolt against?
To begin with, it is important to highlight that, if the events surrounding this day had never occurred, the Hellenic Republic of Greece might have never existed. The 25th of March signals the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire that lasted between 1821 and 1830. The events changed drastically the political, social, and cultural situation in Greece and in the Balkan peninsula. They also influenced central and western Europe in various ways, including the arts, aesthetics, and even the architecture; with examples being some of the most important European capitals, like Vienna. The term “philellin” (φιλέλληνας), meaning a lover/friend of Greece, was coined at that time. But now let’s dive into the history.
The Greek Independence Day. The Concise History of The Greek Revolution
Once upon a time, 200 hundred years ago, an idea had started to flourish. An idea of a liberated Greece which would embrace the cultural and political ideas of its ancient past.
In the 18th century, affluent and well-educated Greeks who studied and lived in western Europe came into contact with the radical ideas of the European Enlightenment. Known also as the “Age of Reason”, the movement questioned the traditional ideas of that time. The Enlightenment thinkers embraced rationality and focused on scientific discoveries that could improve humanity.
“Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!”
These ideas had yet to reach Greece or – to be more precise- the areas that we consider Greece now and the ones were, traditionally, Greek tribes used to reside (e.g. the western coastal areas of Turkey). That was because Greeks had being living under the Ottoman rule since the fall of the Byzantine capital city of Constantinople in 1453.
Greek scholars abroad, such as Adamantions Korais, were intrigued by the ideas of Enlightenment. They despised the lack of education amongst the Greek orthodox clergy at that time and the distinct influence of the Ottomans (and sometimes of the Byzantines) on the Greek culture. Their vision was that of a democratic Greece, that would recapture the glory of the Golden Age of Pericles. They were Influenced by events such as the French Revolution and they dreamt of a Greek national revolution that would liberate the Greek state with the following establishment of a proper constitution.
These ideas, in addition to the unfortunate fates of influencers such as Rigas Feraios, soon influenced three young merchants from the Greek diaspora in Russia to found the “Friendly Society” (Φιλική Εταιρεία) in Odessa. It is worth mentioning that, within the captured lands, klephts and armatoloi, anti-Ottoman insurgents that resided in the Ottoman Empire, were, in the meantime, undermining the dominance of the Ottomans in the area.
With the help of wealthy Greek communities in Britain and the United States and the support of Western European aristocrats, such as the poet Lord Byron, who were fascinated by classical Greece, the vision turned into a plan. And the Greek War of Independence finally started in spring 1821 with the legendary general Theodoros Kolokotronis being one of the most prominent leading figures in the battles that occurred. And the rest is history.
Note: History is a highly controversial subject. The influence of certain ideas, such as the Enlightenment, over the Greek Revolution are not widely accepted. The same goes for some of the narratives mentioned above. Please note that the importance of the role of certain people on the Greek Revolution is debated from time to time. For any further information regarding this topic, you can refer to the linked sources.