Practical Communication Tips For Holidaying in Greece

Many English words and idioms are derived from the Greek language. In addition, most Greeks speak at least a smattering of English, which is taught in public schools. So, if you’re planning a trip to famously friendly Greece there’s no need to be concerned about the language. That said it is always appreciated when visitors make an effort to communicate in Greek.

Useful phrases for travellers

Good morning - Kalimera (kah-lee-MEHR-rah)
Good afternoon / evening - Kalispera (kah-lee-SPEH-rah)
Good night - Kalinkta (kah-lee-NEEKH-tah)
Goodbye - Kherete (KHE-reh-tay)
Hello - Yassas (YAH-sahss) / Yassou (YAH- soo)
How are you? -   Ti kanete? (te-KAH-neh-teh)
Well / good - Poli kala (po-LEE kah-LAH)
Thank you -    Efkharisto (eff-kah-rees-TOH)
You’re welcome / please - Parakalo (pah-rah-kah-LOH)
Sorry - Signomi (seegh-NO-mee)
Yes - Ne (neh)
No - Ohi (OH-hee)
What is your name - Pos se lene? (POHS seh LEH-neh)
My name is … - Me lene … (meh LEH-neh)
Do you speak English? - Milas Anglika? (mee-LAHS Ang- lee-KAH)
I don’t understand - Den Katalaveno (then’ kah-tah-lah- VEH-no)
Can you help me? - Borite na me? (Boh-REE-tech nah)
Where is …? - Pou ine? (POO EE-neh)
How far is it? - Posso makria eenay?
How much is it? - Poso kani? (poh-soh KAH-nee)
Left - Aristera (ah-rees-the-RAH)
Right - Dexia (thek-see-AH)
Cheers - Yamas (YAH-mas)

A different kind of “sign language”

Greece has its own brand of “sign language” for which it is world famous. You’re bound to experience some colourful gesticulating between Greeks. However, sometimes what appears to be an argument might actually be some locals have a normal and not unusually loud, expressive conversation.

Need to know non-verbals

Don’t be too alarmed if a stranger tends to stand or sit a little closer than you are used to. Remember to keep eye contact, as letting your gaze wander during conversation is an affront. Usually Greek people are affable and helpful, even more so on the islands and you will become accustomed to some of the many gestures and facial expressions. Important ones include a kind of a nod when a local says “no”. Also, “neh”, which sounds like “no” actually means, “yes”.

Before you head off on your dream holiday

Ultimately, the Greeks welcome tourism as a mainstay for the economy. Most hosts at accommodation establishments, restaurants and sites and attractions will be patient with your innocent errors in communication judgement. Greek good-naturedness is world-renowned although every culture has its limits. At the very least enquire about and be respectful of the local customs of various parts of Greece as these might vary region-to-region on the mainland and island-to-island.

Obviously some of the more remote and traditional parts of Greece may observe some seemingly outdated traditions. Still, it really costs very little to be polite, to smile and to take along a user-friendly phrase book. Simple gestures such as greeting someone in the morning with a friendly “kalimera” will go along way to making friends. You might even enjoy learning the basics of one of the oldest languages in the world and come to appreciate the culture even more.