The best and most important practices and etiquette to consider when dealing with business contacts are verbal and non-verbal communication. Adhering to common business practices when communicating contributes to understanding the Greek culture; this in turn avoids miscommunication and creates a positive image.
Greece has a very high-context oriented culture, which means that the Greeks are able to express hidden and explicit messages that are internalized. Usually they rely less on verbal communication and more on non-verbal communication and are more aware of their surroundings. In a sense, their interactions do not need explanation because they ‘just know’ what is being conveyed to them. As a result, it is actually quite common that the Greeks interrupt those they are interacting with because they are quickly able to find out what is being said to them. While this can seem impolite to many, it is just a common aspect of the Greek way of communication (Greek business).
The Greeks prefer face-to-face communication, as strong personal relationships are highly valued. Physical contact and maintaining eye contact is important; and has been measured as the strongest in Europe (Business culture). It can be interpreted as very rude when one lets their eyes gaze away during conversation. This is because oculesics (eye behaviour and gazes) conveys trust and other emotions that the Greeks strongly value. Additionally, haptic communication such as touching and standing close is very common as personal between speakers and friends are much smaller in Greece than in many other countries. Although proxemics vary for many people and can cause discomfort, moving away from a person standing too close to you can often be viewed as unfriendly. Keeping in mind this etiquette of non-verbal communication is extremely important since these little factors can influence business relationships with the Greeks. Some other important nonverbal communication tactics to keep in mind are highlighted below:
Raising the eyebrow with a slight upward nod of the head means ‘no’, while tilting the head to either side means ‘yes’;
Winking at someone is often simply a friendly gesture;
Avoid an open palm directed at someone’s face, as this is an insult;
Touching is common and is seen as a friendly gesture, so don’t feel offended;
Using the “thumbs up” is an obscene sexual gesture in some parts of Greece;
Men and women shake hands when meeting one another and maintain direct eye contact;
A relatively firm handshake is a must;
Avoid the OK sign since it is considered obscene.
The Greeks truly value building a strong, long-lasting relationship when it comes to business. It is essential to plant the seed of trust, loyalty and strong bonds during initial contacts to ensure business success. During the first impressions, it is advised to show interest in the Greek lifestyle and join their social activities to ascertain commitment not only to the business relationship but also to the personal relationship. Being a family-oriented culture, the Greek business community is characterized by small, family-owned companies. Business structures are traditional and generally hierarchical (Business culture).
Since the Greeks like to establish relationships before doing business, it is important to take note that negotiations are usually conducted at a slower pace than they would be in North America. The key is to be prepared before a negotiation because the Greek are known for testing ones’ knowledge and experience on a particular product or topic. The initial meeting is usually only for introductions and negotiations don't start until later meetings. The negotiations tend to be led by the person who is the most senior; as a result knowing the hierarchy of the company is crucial (Business culture).
Greek is the official language that is spoken by nearly 11 million inhabitants in Greece.