Behaving in Greece

Following the sentencing of two British tourists for beating up a shopkeeper in central Athens last week and lewd behavior causing outrage on the island of Corfu, good manners seem to have gone astray in Greece this summer. While such cases of foul behavior are rare, of course, foreigners living or traveling in Greece do wonder about what is acceptable locally in the manners department. Answers to such questions are available in «Watch Your Manners in Greece» (Fereniki Publications, 137 pages, 6 euros) a condensed, English version of «Savoir Vivre,» published earlier this year in Greek. Its author is Christos Zampounis, journalist and founder of Fereniki Publications, with a competent translation by Christianna Lambrou. Selected from the Greek edition, the texts were adapted for English-speaking readers and the book is currently available at foreign press points, major bookstores Eleftheroudakis and Papasotiriou as well as Eleftherios Venizelos Airport newsstands. «Many foreigners coming to Greece are not aware of how to hail a cab, for instance,» said Lambrou to Kathimerini English Edition, adding that contrary to the original reference-book qualities of «Savoir Vivre», «we wanted this edition to be easy to read, on the humorous side; to be amusing.» At the same time, the publishers are testing the waters for next year’s Olympic Games, when they expect the book to become widely available. Savoir vivre goes back in time: in Ancient Greece, according to Solon, for instance, the ideal age for a man to get married was somewhere between 27 and 34. For women, on the other hand, adolescence seemed more appropriate (from 12 to 16). As for daily life, ancient Greeks ate twice during the day: there was a light meal, known as «ariston» and dinner «deipnon,» considered the main meal. For ancient Greeks, dining was of primary importance, an opportunity for discussion and companionship. It was unheard of to eat alone; it meant that the person was completely friendless. The book becomes a useful manual for decoding local customs in chapters concerned with religious ceremonies, such as weddings and christenings. For all those wondering about the use of wreaths at weddings, for instance, the answer is that they symbolize the Church’s glory, while serving as a metaphor of the newlyweds becoming king and queen in their new household. In some areas of Crete, on the other hand, there is a tradition of firing guns at wedding receptions – though a number of accidental deaths or injuries have rendered this custom particularly dangerous, not to mention illegal. Other traditions appear to be challenged as well. While it is customary for the firstborn male to be named after his paternal grandfather (a way for the name to be carried on), young parents are increasingly opting for more original names. Readers are also informed of popular Greek gestures, displays of affection, mobile phone etiquette, the rituals of coffee drinking, taverna dining, dinner table seating arrangements and Greek (un)punctuality. Sections are also dedicated to nightlife and bouzoukia outings (where belly dancing is reserved for the ladies and heavy zeibekiko for the men), as well as soccer – where advice includes always supporting a Greek team when they are playing against a foreign one. According to the author, given Greece’s earthquakes, it is advisable to always have something on, even at home, in case of an evacuation, while useful summer tips include a definition of kamaki – a certain local way of flirting – as well as how to be the perfect guest on a yacht.

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