Learning the Social and Business Customs of Greece
Greeks take immense pride in their Ancient Greek heritage, and its contribution to Western society. Plays and dramas still take place in their original locations. Many Greeks also abide by their Greek Orthodox religion, which is important in every day life and Greek family structure, especially with the older generations. Most holidays and festivals have to do with religion, and Easter is the most important holiday. The family is the basis of society, and family relations are common in the business world.
Greeks are hospitable people. When meeting for the first time, it is custom to shake hands, smile and make eye contact. Good friends kiss on their greetings, and males slap each others shoulders.
Greeks often exchange gifts for name days, which are the birthdays of the saints they were named after. These are more important, and more commonly celebrated, than birthdays. When you give a gift, it does not need to be expensive, but should be wrapped.
When you are invited to dinner, it is customary to bring along a small gift. It is not important to arrive exactly on time. Dress well, and make sure to compliment the host’s house, as well as offer to clean up after the meal is done. Don’t start eating until the host starts. Usually, the oldest person begins eating before everyone else. It is considered good etiquette if you soak up the sauce on your plate with bread, and also if you finish all of your food. When you have finished eating, place your napkin next to your plate.
Greeks like to do business with people they know and trust, so relationships are of central importance, and take time to build. There is often a network of intimate family and friends that are involved in business, and nepotism is common. Face-to-face meetings are often preferred, as they are more intimate.
Respect is very important. Never question someone’s statements in public, and do not act pretentious. Business is often relaxed but taken very seriously. When you are at a meeting, be aware that people are often interrupted, and will speak on top of each other. Make sure to have printed material in Greek as well as in your native language. Companies are often hierarchical, and age is important. Business cards may be exchanged without any formal rituals. Have one side of your business card translated into Greek, and present that side to your recipient.
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