Yes, you could use Google to learn many things about Greece. Or read a text book or tourist guidebook. But there is much more to this country than meets the (evil) eye. Here are 15 wacky facts about Greece that you won’t learn in school or in a guidebook.
1. Greeks are superstitious Very superstitious
One superstition shared by all Greeks is the evil eye, or “Mati.” The belief is that someone can cast the evil eye onto another person out of envy and jealousy. Once you have the evil eye, you must find someone to perform a ceremony to destroy the evil energy!
2. Spitting is a good thing in Greece
An interesting fact about Greece is that you will see old yiayia’s (grandmothers) spitting on their grandchildren all the time! Since time immemorial, Greeks have believed that spitting on someone is a way of combatting any form of evil energy or presence. It’s actually more like a ceremonial “FTOO, FTOO, FTOO”; just be aware!
3. Greeks steal plants from one another and admit to it
You probably won’t find in your Fodor’s guidebook the fun fact that in Greece many people believe that plants and flowers will only root if they are stolen! They will actually tell you to come back later to steal from them if you would like some cuttings from their plants (which are also from stolen cuttings).
4. Waving hello = BAD!
The common “palm facing out” gesture, known as the “moutza” in Greece, is a normal form of greeting for most people worldwide… but if you see Greeks doing this, they’re not waving hello, they are basically flipping you the bird! Greeks wave either with their palms to the side or facing them.
To be on the safe side, just greet people the good old-fashioned way in Greece — with a kiss on each cheek.
5. Greece is the world’s largest producer of sea sponges
When you think of Greece, you think of Feta cheese, ouzo, and many other typical items associated with the country and culture. But did you know that Greece is the world’s largest producer of sea sponges? The island of Kalymnos is famous for their beautiful natural sponges that people dive for and then sell. Next time you are using a natural sponge, think Greece!
6. Easter time in Greece is magical
Easter is the biggest holiday celebrated in the country. However, Greeks believe in some pretty weird things in regard to Easter (Pascha). One of the weirdest is that salt, eggs and bread are forbidden to leave your home after sundown, under penalty of bringing bad luck to the house! So, if someone comes knocking at your door after sundown asking for salt, eggs or bread you shouldn’t give these things to them.
If someone wants an egg, invite them in and cook it for them; never give it to them to take out of your house. Also, in an even stranger twist on this belief, if you want to give a guest a doggie bag that has bread of any kind in it and you know that they will be leaving your house after dark, you must leave the bag with the bread outside of the front door before the sun goes down. Only then may they take it with them.
7. All Greeks over the age of 18 are required to vote by law
There is no opt-out option when it comes to voting, yet a lot of Greeks don’t vote. Ponder that for a while…
8. Greeks are touchy about their coffee
If you ask a Greek for some Turkish coffee, odds are they will give you the evil eye! Truly, do not ever make this request – not in a Greek person’s home nor in a cafeteria. First of all, it is Greek coffee and you will be told its entire story back story (so be sure to get comfy first!). Secondly, you’re in Greece, so again, it’s Greek coffee!
9. A tradition of wearing black after the death of a spouse or loved one
Some people will wear it for the entire year following the death of someone close to them such as a parent, while widows often will wear a black dress every day for the rest of their entire lives!
10. “Nameday” as important as your birthday
Most Greek names have saints associated with them, and your nameday is celebrated on the annual feast day of that saint. Every Greek person will have at least one name day to celebrate within the calendar year.