25 THINGS THAT ONLY GREEKS WILL UNDERSTAND – AND FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T GREEK, LET ME EXPLAIN….

  1. WE ARE CONSTANTLY BEING SPAT ON!

‘FTISEEEEEEE!!’ (Spit!) You hear it constantly!

Spitting for the Greek culture is a way of detracting any form of evil presence, taking the jinx off something and basically not tempting fate.

‘Mum, my new job is going really well!’ Mum: ‘Ftise!’

Mum to me: ‘You look so beautiful in that dress!’ Me: Ftiseeeeee Maaaaaa!!!!!

My sister in front of the whole family: “We are so blessed to have such a beautiful, good little child like Lexi.’’ The entire family turns around and ‘ftoo ftoo ftoo’s’ my poor little niece!

The utterly hilarious thing is that now, Lexi also joins in on the spits!

Spitting feels like second nature to us. When we have instinct to spit, to ‘protect’ someone and we don’t spit, it doesn’t feel right. Oh, and its always three spits. FTOO. FTOO. FTOO.

  1. EVERYONE IS A MALAKA.

Have you heard Greek friends address each other? Or how about angry taxi drivers in Greece? Or even when a Greek is supporting his/her favourite sports team, and the team is losing?! Basically, they are all ‘MALAKES.’ Singular form being, ‘malaka!’ Nope it is not everyone’s name.

Malaka actually means, ‘W*NKER!’ However, it’s not always used aggressively, insultingly or angrily, but essentially, endearingly. Go figure! I often call my sister on the phone and say: Ela (Hi) malaka!’ I’m not calling my sister a w*nker, but rather, in some twisted affectionate way, ‘sister.’ It’s a way of addressing someone by not saying their name. It can also be used to emphasize enthusiasm or excitement in something that’s happened. For instance, Stammy Whatsapp’s me from Vegas and says… ‘Malaka, guess what?!’ ….

  1. TA MATIA SOU DEKATESSERA! – (YOUR EYES 14!)

Our parents’ and grandparents’ favourite phrase to say to the offspring when they are going on a night out, going on holiday, going for a walk, looking after a younger sibling, going on a date, crossing the road, chilling with your friends at their house, going to the cinema, being at school, being on the bus or driving anywhere!

Direct translations of our language always makes me laugh and in the instance of ‘your eyes fourteen’ the elders are pre-warning us to be careful and basically be so careful so as to have the equivalent of fourteen eyes. Yes, fourteen eyes around your head.

  1. LEG SLAPS!

In particular, my Gran’s favourite move! The thigh slap. The action normally follows the words of some form of disbelief. ‘Den to pisteuw!’ (I don’t believe it!) !SLAP! ‘Axouuuu!’ (A worried tone of really or no way?!) !SLAP! ‘Kai meta tou eipa… kai xeris ti mou eipai?!…. (And then I told him… and do you know what he told me?) !SLAP!

We all leg slap. It’s just what we do.

  1. THE HAND GESTURES

Nothing says passion like the hand gestures of a Greek person. As I write this, I’m laughing, because I know just how much we use our hands to express our words. Let me try and put this into words. Make your four fingers into a half Pac Man and press them against your thumb. Turn it around so your hand faces you rather than doing a snakehead facing forward. Then you sort of move it away from and back towards your chest. This hand movement is used when it comes to situations where you are explaining yourself to someone, placing emphasis on a point you want to get across and or even when you want to end the conversation.

  1. FOOTBALL/EUROVISION/OR ANY OTHER COMPETITION THAT A GREEK IS INVOLVED IN.

When a particular player or team is doing well, especially when it comes to football, they are our best friends and our gods. Heroes! We act as if we know them personally. ‘Bravo Karagounaki mou! Bravo file! Bravo agapi mou!’ (Well done ‘my’ Karagounis! Well-done mate! Well done my love!) Or ‘Omadaraaaaaaa mou!!!!!’ (My team!) Way and behold we reach the final of something or come close! Whoever lives in London, will know that in particular North London went mental last year when Greece won against the Ivory Coast with a penalty during injury time during the World Cup! People had filled the streets by foot and by car, shouting, singing, hooting, waving flags, acting like we had actually won the cup!!!

When it comes to Eurovision too, even if the song is terrible, and we make the final cut, we will always back the singer up and say that the song is the best song since last years song. But Lord help the poor singer if they don’t make the final cut: ‘Ti sahlamara!’ (What rubbish!) ‘Pou tin vrikan afti?’ (Where did they find her!) ‘Po po po, ti haliiiiii!’ (Wow, wow, wow, what an embarrassment!)

And when we’re losing in football. Well, lets put it this way, the poor players are crucified, sworn at, insulted, called every name under the sun and on top of that the Greek men, the men of our families, don’t talk to the rest of the family for a good few hours after.

  1. THE FACE CONVERSATION

Did you know you could have a whole conversation with another Greek, just by using your facial expressions?

THE TILT HEAD DOWN SLIGHTLY TO THE LEFT AND OPEN/CLOSE EYES SLOWLY:

This means yes.

THE TILT HEAD UPWARDS, THE EYEBROW LIFT, AND THE MOUTH PULL DOWN:

This means no.

THE CENTRE FACE, MOUTH PULL DOWN, NECK STRETCH FORWARD:

This means I don’t know.

I bet you did it whilst you were reading? Ha!

  1. YOUR YIAYIA HAS WORN BLACK FOR 15 YEARS

This normally means her husband has died and she has never worn colour again out of respect for him.

NO. COLOUR. EVER. AGAIN. *straightface

  1. OUR AGE IS NOT ACTUALLY OUR AGE

I have these arguments with my Dad every year, ‘No, this is my actual age Baba!’ In the Greek culture, for some reason, unbeknownst to me, an extra year is added to your age. ‘Ekleises kai bikes.’ (Closed and entered)

If you’ve just turned, in English terms, 35, the Greeks will say you’re 36. They will say you’ve just closed the 36th year of your life.

Just let me live! Please!

  1. YOUR FUTURE LIES IN A COFFEE CUP

How many times has your Yiayia told you your fortune by looking at the coffee stains of her ‘Eliniko café?’ (Greek coffee)

Some Greeks believe in the fortune telling of a coffee stain on a small cup so much, they will base their lives on that morning cuppa!

It makes me giggle. But honestly speaking, superstition put aside, the coffee stains do really create images. I’ve seen hills, animals, love, money, people.

Sounds strange when I actually think about it. But its what we do.

  1. NAME DAY PAYOUTS!

Most Greek names have Saints associated to them, which means that almost every Greek person will have a name day to celebrate within the calendar year.

My name day is on the 15th August.

Greeks consider name days to be of more importance than that of birthdays and tend to celebrate in a huge way. Normally with a lamb on the spit and money. And by money, I mean money sneakily given to you by your Yiayia as if the best drug deal was about to go down.

  1. EVERYTHING IS EVERYONES BUSINESS

Ever told your Mama something and told her not to tell the rest of the family. For instance how you may have met a new man? You would come home after work (Yes home to your Mum at age 42 because we never leave home) and your three Thies (aunts) are there and your Gran too and the first thing they ask is, “Who is the new man? Is he going to marry you? Oh FINALLY you can get off the shelf!’ FINALLY someone wants you!’

Nothing remains a secret with Greek families or Greek people. Everyone knows everyone elses’ business and make it their business to know everything!

  1. YOU WILL ALWAYS GET FED!

We love feeding people. Yes, we are feeders. We will make you eat. You will always be offered food.

Never reject food. We take it personal.

  1. MOMS ALWAYS OPEN YOUR MAIL

You will come home and be given your post by your Mum with the line, ‘Sorry I thought it was for me!’ Or ‘I wasn’t wearing my glasses!’

This is the biggest lie ever told. Greek Mums always open your post to make sure that the ‘paidi’ (the child) is ok and not in ‘TRUPPLE!’ (trouble said with heavy accent!)

  1. TO PAIDI

If you are the youngest of the family, regardless of your age, you will always and forever be called ‘to paidi.’ (the child)

My Yiayia still calls my youngest uncle ‘to paidi’ and I am still referred to as ‘the paidi’ or ‘the mikri’ (the little girl) in my family.

You could be 72, 43 or 21 and you will always be called, the child.

  1. EVERYONE HAS AT LEAST ONE MARIA

How do you solve a problem like Maria? Well, in my case, just feed me! ( Refer to point 13!)

As tradition, we take the names of our grandparents and so therefore the names duplicate. As a matter of fact, there will always be at least a few Maria’s in every Greek family.

FACT.

  1. WHEN WE TRAVEL WE BRING BACK EVERY SINGLE SPICE

Customs? What’s that? Every Greek person has that one family member, normally a Yiayia, who travels back from wherever they’ve been with a suitcase filled to the point of explosion with spices.

If she’s been to the xorio (the village) you’ll find chamomile, oregano, basil, sage, thyme, cinnamon etc. and probably some spinach thrown in; and a stem of a plant they came across and ripped out the ground to plant in their garden at home.

  1. WE CREATED EVERYTHING

The amount of times I have wound my Gran up by telling her that the Greeks didn’t create the English language, or Western Civilisation or that the Olympics were invented by another country. She bites every time!

*in a heavy Greek accent but spoken in English; ‘THEE GRIKS CREATED EVERYYYTHING!’ she says.

But no seriously, we created A LOT! Including civilisation, the English language and the Olympics.

Oh and before you say anything about the current economic state of Greece, well don’t say anything, because if we didn’t create the English language you wouldn’t be able to say it!

HA!

  1. NO ONE IS BETTER THAN THE GREEKS

We genuinely believe this.

  1. EVERY GREEK WANTS TO GO ON HOLIDAY, IN GREECE

Greeks living in Greece love Greece so much that they even want to holiday in Greece!

PERIOD.

  1. WE HAVE AT LEAST 25 COUSINS EACH

 Okay, twenty-five is a little excessive but no seriously, we come as tribes. Our families are huge. Our Great Grandparents and Grandparents didn’t have iPhones, or iPads or even TV’s back then so you know… they had time. I suppose?!

Oh and that person that lives 300 miles away in a village who doesn’t even share your family name is your auntie. We have many relatives who aren’t actually relatives but everyone is ‘Thia’ and ‘Thio’. (aunt and uncle)

  1. WE BELIEVE THAT EVERYONE WANTS TO BE GREEK

 There are two types of people in this World. Greeks, and everyone else who wants to be Greek.

  1. MUSIC – WE FEEL IT BEYOND OUR SOULS

 NOTHING gets us like our music. We feel every single word with passion, with an ache. Unless you’re Greek, you wouldn’t understand.

Greek songs are almost always about undying passion, or passionate pain, or passionate love. We don’t do passion by half measures, and especially not in feeling and expressing the love for our music.

 *currently just listening to Remos and doing strofes! Clapping. Ok throw in a Zebekiko.

  1. ‘A NICE NNGREEK BOI’

 Families, especially meddling mothers and granny’s try and set up the girls with ‘a nice nnGreek boi’ since the beginning of womb time!

Even if Stavro over there has a natural coat of back hair, sideburns which touch his shoulders and breath like a dried tongue stuck on a cactus in Nevada, if he is Greek, he is a nice Greek boy.

To be fair to my roots, times have moved on from the likes of Stavros and we are now in the period of Kostas Martakis. Have you seen this Greek God? Google him please. If you know him, tell him I exist please.

 

  1. THE MATI

 The evil eye. We believe in the power of the evil eye categorically. We believe that if someone is envious (in a good or bad way) of you, the evil eye will be cast by him/her, onto you. If someone is jealous, doesn’t like you or even likes you, they can cast the evil eye.

When you are dizzy or have a headache and yawn a lot, we believe that you are ‘matiasmeni’ (the evil eye has been cast upon you).

You can have the ‘spell’ taken off by someone who knows how to do the ritual. Both my parents know how to do it and so they are my go-tos whenever I need.

It’s a ritual done with oil, water and prayers.

Sound strange? It’s not, really. Even the Bible talks about it. Look it up.

~~~

PS – HAVE I MENTIONED THAT I LOVE BEING GREEK?

 

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27 Comments Add yours

  1. olgacreator says:

    A very nice piece, Maria! I always take great pleasure in reading you! It seems that Russians have a few things to share with Greeks, especially when it comes to all these superstitions and evil spirits. I admire how you’re able to embrace different cultures and stay true to your roots. Well done and keep it up! Olga

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds familiar Mar;ia we doin it because we care Maybe we fight together but we can’t live apart .Mazi den kanoyme kai xoria den mporoyme Bravo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Like

  3. AnnaMaria says:

    We share a name day! Its so hard to explain all this to my American friends that even though I was born in America I was raised GREEK! I miss the whole family! Come visit us in austin tx!

    AnnaMaria

    Like

  4. A good laugh, especially the bringing home the spices and herbs! Thank you for the explanation and reminders,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mariann says:

    I am proud to be GREEK!!! Thank you for the beautiful article. It is true to our customs!
    I am a first generation born in the U.S.A. of Greek parents and very proud of my heritage.

    Like

  6. Fouad Issa says:

    Welcome to Lebanon! haha Mediterranean genes I guess 😛

    Like

  7. Liz says:

    Oh my, I googled Kostas Martakis, he’s delicious!!! A nice Greek boy for sure!! 💗💗💗

    Like

  8. Konstantinos says:

    Maria, I must say that I laughed at how accurate you portrayed all these unique Greek traits. I enjoyed these statements so much that I had to congratulate you even though I don’t know you. Bravo, na zisis!!!

    Like

  9. Maria Crawford says:

    We share August 15th as a name date. We also shate just about all these customs, rituals and sayings. My family is 100% represented by this list lol. I miss every one of them that I don’t get to see regularly because I am “στην ξενιτια”

    Like

  10. Gwynnie says:

    Thank you Maria! Enjoyed the education. 😀

    Like

  11. someone special says:

    Φυτού, να μην σε ματιάσουν …

    Like

  12. Judy Scott says:

    Malisto!

    Like

  13. Ellie says:

    PS. Greeks are EVERYWHERE. You find someone Greek anywhere you go. And that’s a fact !!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Tilly says:

    Well this was an eye-opener for me – I had no idea about most of these ‘typically Greek’ practices (and soooo much superstition – which these days I guess is tradition rather than believed?! 🙂 And ewwww re the spitting! Thanks for enlightening me and with such an entertaining writing style.

    Like

  15. Nancy Belz says:

    Thank you for making me laugh, with this excellent article.

    Like

  16. Most accurate article on Hellenism ever!
    I would have loved to see more about the complexity of our language as it doesn’t only relate to the multiple uses and meanings of the word ‘malaka’ (i.e. it applies to a great variety of Hellenic words).
    Na’sai kala!
    Nick Sigma -stronghealthyandfree.com

    Like

  17. Nick Foleros says:

    There more greek living outside Greece than in Greece at the moment.By the way the best Greek food can be found in Melbourne,Australia I ‘ve been told.Giasas ,Nikos.

    Like

  18. I had a good laugh. I too am named Maria. When I introduced by French born, Russian decent husband to my gang of relatives it was a a side splitter. One set was my cousin Nick and Kaliroy for first born, The other side was Maria and Panayitis. Oh! By the way, I have sons. Are you married. I’m looking for a “good Greek girl”. LOL! LOL!

    Like

  19. Steve Parscale says:

    Poli kala, I am stavros. American, but was blessed to live in Greece from 1974 to 1977.
    Opa

    Like

  20. George C Kyros says:

    I am a freelance writer. In one of my books, LIVING MY DREAM, my biography, you will find additional material of Greek culture and tradition.

    Like

  21. Maria Bolkas says:

    I really enjoyed this, and yes, I found myself following your instructions to face gestures. Lol
    You did, however, leave out the famous moutza and saying “parta”. I’m sure you will have as much fun with that as I will have reading all about it!

    Like

  22. Christos katrinis says:

    Πολύ καλό άρθρο , Μαρία . Για το ‘ Μαλάκας’ θα ήθελα να προσθέσω ότι εδώ στην Ελλάδα χρησιμοποιείται πιο πολύ από εφήβους και λαϊκούς ανθρώπους. Το λες σε κάποιον μόνο όταν είσαι πολύ στενός φίλος με αυτόν ή εξαγριωμένος με κάποιον άγνωστο.
    Έχει μάλιστα και αρχαιοελληνική ρίζα. Μαθαίναμε στο σχολείο το εξής από τον επιτάφιο του Περικλή: “Φιλοκαλλούμε μετ’ ευτελείας και φιλοσοφούμεν άνευ μαλακίας ” δηλαδή ( όχι τόσο γλωσσολογικά ακριβής η αγγλική μετάφραση ) : “We cultivate refinement without extravagance and knowledge without effeminacy “

    Like

  23. Tomas says:

    Two shepherds split up to search for their lost flock. Kosta climbs up a mountain to get a better view. He spots Yianni on top another mountain across the valley.

    Kosta (shouting): Ella malaka! Eides ta apvia?

    Yianni: (raising chin while shutting eyes): “tch”

    (filed under 2 and 7)

    Like

  24. Bridget says:

    Fantastic Maria,Thankyou …and all points so true!
    I’m English but have lived in Greece for the last 32 yrs and love this beautiful country and its warm,hospitable people.
    I’ve just returned from watching Big Fat Greek Wedding No. 2 and many of your points were part of the film…we were in stitches as it is so true to Greek life and people in some parts.
    Viva ELLADA and wonderful ELLINES Kai ELLINIDES,of course! ❤️😀🌻💐🌞🌹🐬💃🏿☀️❤️

    Like

  25. Irini Sideri says:

    Great article Maria! Living in Norway I needed this reminder of my heritage! At last, in 24 days I’ll be going home again and bringing my Norwegian family, they will love Greece! Everyone loves Greece!

    Like

  26. Janet says:

    Lol. Reading this sounds so funny. I can relate to a lot of it, and don’t think of it at the time.well done explaining how us Greeks are. All my son’s have Greek names. And they were born in Britain. I did think of it at the time. I just liked my Paul’s name. So my eldest (o megalos) was named after him. Kostandino, middle son is Lukas. Just because I liked that name. (O micros) the youngest inherited his grandfather’s name savvas. We don’t think. But we carry out our Greek culture. Once a Greek, always a Greek.

    Like

  27. We will never lose our heritage, culture and spirit. Thank you,I loved thee time presentation,

    Like

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