The best way to get to the heart of Greek culture is to interact with local people. Whether you’re ordering an Aperol Spritz at a rooftop bar in Santorini or asking someone where to find the best coffee in Crete, you’re sure to be greeted by a friendly smile if you’re using your best Greek.
Even if you only know a few words and phrases, you’ll be able to strike up at least the start of a conversation. And the friendly nod you receive for saying ‘thank you’ using your Greek vocab will serve as a lasting memory of the people you met on your trip.
Before you board for Greece, here are the essential phrases you’ll need to make friends across the Med.
Hello in Greek is yassou (ya-su), but there are other ways to greet people too. When you first step out on deck and the sun is shining bright, all you need to say is kalimera (ka-lee-mare-ah) to be greeted with a beaming smile. It means good morning or good day, so you can use it in the afternoon too. And when the sun sets and your day’s adventures take you to a cosy taverna, say kalispera (ka-lee-spare-ah) to wish people a good evening.
If your evening has gone past mezze at sunset and turned into ouzo under the stars, you can say kalinychta (ka-lin-ick-ta) for good night.
Ordering your drink with ease
Parakalo (pa-ra-ka-lo) means please, and is a handy word whenever you’re in a bar, taverna or restaurant. Simply say the drink you want followed by parakalo – like beer parakalo, if you’re yearning for the amber nectar.
Once it arrives, just say efharisto (eff-hah-ree-sto) for thank you. You’ll be thanked in return with a nod and a smile. You can then celebrate your successful order with yiamas (yah-mass)! This means cheers – so you may need this one a lot on your Aegean adventures.
Asking for directions
Part of the fun of adventures is following streets wherever they lead. But when you need to get somewhere for dinner reservations or you want to spend your afternoon in a different part of town, it helps if you can quickly get directions.
The first place to start is kathika (ka-thee-ka), which means I am lost. You can then say pou eínai (puy ee-neh) to ask where is, and then say the name of where you are trying to reach, like this: pou eínai the Acropolis. Hopefully you’ll be there before you know it.
The Greeks have always been wordsmiths. After all, ancient Greeks created the myths we still enjoy today. True to form, the Greeks came up with lots of sayings, many of which you may already know. For example, “one swallow does not a summer make” and “life in short, the art long”. Another well-known phrase is “wine and children speak the truth”, which is a lovely one to say while you enjoy a glass or two with friends.