Greek Business Etiquette

Καλώς ήρθατε στην Ελλάδα. (Kallos irthatay steen Ellath.) (“Welcome to Greece” in Greek.)

Today, Greece is probably best known for its ancient mythologies and toga parties. Although the history and culture of the country are still important topics, Greece is much more than a history lesson.  Home to more than 11 million people, Greece has a Mediterranean climate and is a tourist destination for many because of its beautiful beaches, islands, churches, cities, and, of course, the historical ruins and museums.

Let’s learn about the dos and don’ts of Greek business etiquette.

The Lowdown

  • The national language of Greece is Greek, spoken by 99% of the population, but many Greeks learn English as their second language. Some also learn French, Spanish, German, and Italian as a second language.
  • The capital of Greece is Athens, the currency is the Euro, and the government is a presidential parliamentary democracy.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is becoming increasingly important in Greece. Companies are applying strategies in order to become more competitive globally. They are notably more involved in the environment, human resources and local communities.
  • There are some hand gestures, including the western hand sign for ‘ok’ and ‘stop,’ that are considered very offensive in Greece. Just to be safe, try to avoid talking with your hands.

Dressing Sharp

  • Men should wear conservative suits in dark colors (black, navy, or grey).
  • Women should wear professional outfits, also in dark or subtle colors, and avoid anything provocative.
  • It can get very hot in the summer, so more casual clothing is acceptable during this season (eg: a dress shirt with no tie for men, and lighter clothing for women -but not too tight).

Make or Break Meetings

  • Greeks are known for their laid back attitude, so scheduling is not always necessary and short notice is acceptable, but planning ahead is considered courteous.
  • Punctuality is expected, but keep in mind the laid back attitude and don’t be surprised if the Greek party is late. Also, meetings will probably run late, so give some leeway time between appointments
  • When meeting, smile and shake hands while maintaining eye contact. Greet them according to the time of day and when parting, say goodbye to each person individually.

Dining Decorum

  • Business dinners are social occasions, mainly used to strengthen social connections. It is acceptable to discuss business over a meal as long as your host allows it.
  • Your host may invite you for coffee before the meal, and it is polite to accept.
  • Share some appetizers at lunch and ask your host's opinions on what dishes to try.
  • Be prepared for a long meal, as they can last for two to three hours and will probably be followed by drinks.

Giving and Getting Gifts

  • Greeks exchange gifts for some holidays, and gift giving is seen as a kind gesture. They are not required in a business setting and are not expected on a first meeting.
  • Gifts are generally expected to be reciprocated, so a small gift will suffice. Appropriate gifts include flowers, chocolates, or a bottle of wine or liquor.
  • Gifts may be given when invited into someone’s home, or nearing a birthday or holiday like Christmas or Easter.
  • Be careful when giving gifts, as bribery and corruption are serious crimes and have been under more scrutiny in recent years.

Down to Business

  • Get to know the Greeks! Greeks are very proud of their history and culture. Ask them personal questions and tell them about yourself. They want to get to know you before conducting business.
  • Meetings can get noisy as it is normal for many people to talk at once. This is a good sign, meaning they are interested in the topic and want to actively discuss it.
  • Greeks will test your knowledge of the product or service and want time to form their opinion. They won’t negotiate during the first meeting, so be patient and give them time to decide. Know the hierarchy of the company as the most senior person will be making the decisions.
  • English is spoken by many Greeks, but not all. Make sure that your audience can understand you, or ask if an interpreter is needed.

Now that you’re well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Greece, don’t forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb! 

αντίο. (Adio) (“Goodbye” in Greek).