Cultural intelligence (CQ)

is defined as a person’s capability to function effectively in situations characterized by cultural diversity.
In other words, a traveler’s adaptability.

 

 

 

 

When traveling, we think part of the fun is meeting people of different cultures and learning about their everyday lives. But the thing is, you can’t really do that as a “tourist;” instead, you need to be a “traveler.”

 

At Inspiration Ventures, we help our travelers go beyond staged tourist spaces – beyond just monuments, commercialized restaurants and recipes, and cheap touristy souvenirs. (Although they can certainly be fun, under the right circumstances!)

 

If you’re seeking authentic cultural experiences, you’re looking to immerse yourself in Greek culture. If you are inquisitive and friendly, you’d like to mingle with Greeks and indulge in a hands-on kind of experiences.

 

We’ll help you dig deeper.

We’ll introduce you to local traditions and social mores.

We’ll treat you to the best of the best insider’s trips to Greece.

 

Greece is thoroughly European, so you’ll find that local culture is similar to other parts of the Western world.

That said, there are some differences you should probably know in advance, so you can travel with cultural intelligence, seek out meaningful interactions, and enjoy your time with us.

 

 

 

 

 

So, here’s what to do when…

 

 

 

 

When Interacting with Greeks

Generally speaking, Greeks are very friendly and outgoing. We’re also quite curious. Once we meet you and like you, we’ll probably ask questions about your life, your family, and what it’s like back home. Be aware that, true to our Mediterranean reputation, Greeks are also rather animated. So if someone raises their voice, they’re probably having an interesting conversation, not a fight.

  Thus, when in Greece…

Do:

Do shake hands, kiss two times, or even hug someone in greeting.

Do smile. (We’ll smile back!)

Do use eye contact; it’s a form of communication!

Do try to use the local language for simple words such as “thank you” (efharisto) or “good morning” (kalimera). It will be very much appreciated!

Don’t:

Do not use your high-school Spanish or French in an effort to communicate. Greek is very different from other European languages, and throwing in non-English vocabulary will probably confuse any Greek who’s trying to help you.

Don’t speak English quickly.

Do not raise your hand with an open palm. This is an extremely rude gesture called “mountza,” and is usually followed by harsh words. In Greece, it is a gesture of intentional offense.

When in a restaurant…

In popular tourist destinations like Athens, Santorini and Mykonos, you’ll find that most restaurants offer English-language menus, and many servers have a working knowledge of English. But that doesn’t mean that there’s never any confusion. For example, if your salad has “rocket” in it, you’ll be munching on arugula!

Here are a few tips to better understand the food culture in Greece:

Vegetarians: Vegetarianism isn’t very common in Greece, so there’s no precise word to describe the choice of not eating meat. Instead, memorize the word hortofagos, which is literally translates as “grass-eater,” and will be easily understood. If you’re a vegan, the best way to communicate your dietary restrictions would be to say “nistevo”, which means “I follow the rules of religious fasting”; this excludes all kinds of animal product, but be aware that by using this word, your hosts will likely conclude that you are very religious.

Take your time: In Greece, food is connected with companionship and socializing. Take your time! We sit at a restaurant table not only while eating, but afterward. This means that staff will never push you to leave or offer the bill, so about 10 minutes before you’re ready to go, raise your hand and say “to loghariasmo parakalo” (the bill please).

Tipping: The Greek word for tip is “philodorima” (philos = friend, dorima = gift), and although it is part of our general culture the exact amount is up to your discretion. To be on the safe side, for most services, a tip of 10% is appreciated.

When in a store...

In Greece we say, “plastic does not take you everywhere.” Credit cards are common at hotels, stores and restaurants in densely populated areas (city centres and popular islands), but everywhere else – rural destinations, taxis, historical sites, small shops – you should plan on cash.

You should also know that, unlike our neighbours in Turkey or Egypt, Greeks don’t often bargain. Instead, ask for a discount. (Insider tip: If you pay in cash, you’re more likely to get a discount.)

When visting archaeological sites

Here are a few tips to get the most out of Greek historical sites and museums:

Dress appropriately: Archaeological sites often sit on uneven or slippery terrain, so wear sneakers or walking sandals. (Flip-flops can be dangerous!)

Sun protection: The Greek sun is hot! From spring through fall, always wear sunblock and a hat. Carry a filled water bottle, as many tourist sites offer only soda or coffee. (Insider tip: In many museums, water is the only drink permitted inside.)

Check your (big) bags: In many museums, you’ll be asked to check large backpacks at the entrance cloakroom. Purses and small bags are usually fine.

No flash: Flash photography can damage artwork and antiquities, so many sites prohibit its use. Additionally, in most museums, people are not allowed to pose (or take selfies) next to the exhibits. Finally, it is against the law to take a photo in front of the monuments with any kind of symbol (e.g. your team flag or even a teddy bear).

Entrance fees: Entrance fees are always posted by the entrance to each site. Major archaeological sites accept credit, but the option is not available everywhere. Paying with cash, not credit, will speed up the process. (Insider tip: Children under 18 are eligible for free admission, as long as they have their passports with them. Only senior citizens residing in EU countries are eligible for discounted admission.)

When on the beach...

In Greece, all beaches are public so wherever you see blue water, jump on in! If you’re not weari ng your bathing suit already, there’s often a nearby café or restroom where you can change. (Although do be sure to buy something first!) Or, just do as the Greeks do, and wear your bathing suit to the beach; afterward, hit the local taverna to change, then indulge in a beer, French fries and a Greek salad.

Insider tip: If you see beach umbrellas or sunbeds, know that these usually carry a separate fee OR they belong to a beach pub, where patrons have exclusive use.

 

When on the road…

 

It’s best to approach Greek driving with a sense of humour. (Travelers have been known to joke that in Greece, “street signs are more like a suggestion than a rule.”)

Also approach Greek driving with caution. For example, do not expect a vehicle to stop when you’re at a crosswalk. Don’t expect a vehicle to stop on a yellow light. Etc. etc.

 

When invited to a greek home

 

If you travel off the beaten path, chances are someone will invite you into their home. (There’s the friendly Greek hospitality we were talking about!) A few tips:

Punctuality: You’re not expected to arrive on time; 15-30 minutes late is normal.

Host gift: In thanks for an invitation, you should bring a small gift, such as flowers, pastries or a bottle of wine.

Start off on the right foot (literally): In Greece, we enter a home with our right foot forward. This is a sign of respect for our hosts, and is considered good luck.

You don’t have to clean your plate: Your hosts will serve more food than you can eat. Don’t panic! In Greece, it’s not rude to leave food on your plate.

Don’t wash the dishes: Strange but true: It’s considered offensive for guests to wash the dinner dishes. A Greek hostess will never accept your help, as we like to treat guests as royalty!

Who pays?: If you are invited out to dinner, you may offer to pay. However, it’s unlikely that your offer will be accepted. Do not insist, as this may offend your hosts.

When in a local market...

Open air local food markets are a tradition in Greece. Producers bring their products and sell them in open air stalls to the consumers.   Wandering around a market is quite and experience. There is action, color, interaction and more… . The farmers at their stands shout the praises of their goods loudly. What they shout is probably “greek to you” but you won’t fail to understand is that they are telling you that whatever they sell is the best in the market. The most fresh, the most tasty… To prove to you they speak the truth, a fisherman may suddenly thrust a fish under your nose to show you it still smells sea. Farmers will cut their fruits and give you taste or treat you pistachios or nuts from their farm. It is ok to accept or to pass the treat without any obligation. Prices are higher early morning and go down towards noon time. Keep in mind that fruits, fish and meat are sold by the kilo. Vegetables too with some exception like small bouceuts of parsley or cellery . You can negotiate a little especially before the market closes. Take you cameras but don’t miss to ask if it is ok to take people pictures if you do close ups. A nod, a smile and they will give you the ok, except if it concerns priests or nuns. In this case we do not take pictures.

 

 

 

Questions you would like to ask but you don’t want to sound like a tourist

Of course, the above is just the tip of the iceberg.
We know that culturally intelligent travelers often have lots of questions –
questions they hesitate to ask because they don’t want to sound like tourists. We’ll spare you the agony:

 

What are those small shrines by the road?

Small, roadside churches or shrines represent memorial sites for people who have had a car accident. They are a way for survivors to express their thankfulness for being saved, or for relatives to pray for the deceased’s soul.

If you open the small door, you’ll find an icon, a photo of the deceased, an oil lamp and some matches. You are welcome to light a candle in memory.

Interestingly enough, those miniature churches (iconostasi) serve a dual function: in addition to religious tradition, they are also warning signs for drivers – slow down and be careful when passing by this specific spot…

Why are all these dogs at the Acropolis?

Greeks have big hearts (and plenty of rescue organizations) for stray animals. The dogs you see at the Acropolis are taken care of by local organizations; after they’ve been spay/neutered and vaccinated, they’re allowed to mingle. They’re friendly to visitors and at night, they help guard our heritage sites from possible intruders.

How do I drink Greek coffee?

Greek coffee is almost identical to Turkish coffee, in that they are both ground, Arabic coffee. You may order your coffee plain (sketos), with medium sugar (metrios) or sweet (glikos); do not stir after it is served! (The sugar is added during the preparation, so it is already well incorporated.)

We Greeks consider our coffee foam an art form – the thicker, the better! Once the foam is gone and the coffee drunk, you’ll find coffee grounds on the bottom of your cup. You’re not expected to drink them. You can, however, go Greek and turn your cup upside-down! Wait a bit, and an experienced “coffee reader” will read your fortune.

How do I eat dried bread?

Paximadi, or dried bread, is a Greek delicacy. Pair it with feta cheese, olives and tomatoes. And don’t be afraid to soak it in water before eating, as paximadi can be hard on the teeth!

What is a “name day”?

In Greece, a Name Day, or Saint’s Day, is as important as a birthday. Stemming from religious belief (but now more of a Greek custom), your Name Day is held on the day of your namesake saint’s feast day.

How long are “10 Greek minutes”?

Short story: Greeks are not strict about punctuality. If someone promises to meet you at 11 a.m., plan on 11:15. If a waiter promises to bring dessert “now,” you’ll likely be waiting for 5 minutes. Don’t be offended; this is simply the Greek way. (Insider tip: The only exception to the Greek punctuality rule? Travel companies! We act on professional time (e.g. 11 a.m. sharp!), not Greek time.)

Does it ever snow in Greece?

Surprisingly, yes! We have snow-capped mountains every winter and in some places, including Athens, we see snow about once every five years.

Can Greek Orthodox priests get married?

Yes, priests in the Greek Orthodox Church can get married and have children. However, the marriage should take place before being ordained as priests. Interesting fact: priests in Greece are active members of the community and wear their religious outfit at all times, not only when performing the liturgy.

What are those solar panels on top of houses?

In Greece we have over 300 days of sunshine, therefore we try to take advantage of it! Solar panels capture the rays of the sun and turn them to electricity. For over two decades we have this solar panel devices on the roof of buildings that can provide the household with hot water. Each one of them corresponds to a different condominium and the hot water provided is used to do the dishes, take a shower etc. Sunlight is free therefore the use of solar panels is cost saving. Plus this kind of electricity is green and does not release harmful substances to the environment.

 

What are those blue beads we see everywhere?

Although Greeks are very religious, they are also superstitious! If someone has sudden strong headaches, weakness or nausea but cannot find a reasonable explanation for this weird and uncomfortable state – then it is highly likely that he has been “evil eyed” or “matiasmenos” in Greek! In order to prevent from the evil eye’s effects and protect ourselves, we wear blue beads in the form of jewelry or we place a larger version of them in cars, stores, door handles, on a coffee table as well as in the cradle of a baby –as children are considered to be more vulnerable than adults. If all those do not work and still someone gets “evil eyed”, then the remedy would be “xematiagma”- a spell that can exorcize bad energy. Usually grandparents know how to execute this ritual by using a bowl of water and olive oil.

 

(Interesting fact: Even the Greek church recognizes officially this superstition as “vaskania” and has a special prayer for the occasion)