Greek body language

How nice it is when a dear Greek, having accepted your gift, tilts his head slightly to the left and puts his right hand to his heart. This is more than “eucharisto poly” (“thank you very much”): it means that the gift touched him to the core.

Hellenes are emotional people, so sometimes their gestures are almost eloquent than words. It is important for tourists to understand their meaning so as not to get into an awkward situation.

If you are accustomed to signifying your “no” by turning head from side to side, then the Greek, disagreeing, raises it and eyebrows up, while clicking tongue; and they express their agreement with a traditional nod, lowering head down, occasionally three times (apparently for someone slow-witted).

A usual raised hand greeting with spread fingers can be perceived by the Greeks as an insult! Never wave like that to someone you know across the street. Don’t stop a taxi with this gesture or when breaking up. For a Greek, it’s like seeing the raised middle fingeor.

In a similar way, the Greeks express extreme contempt: they extend their hand forward with spread fingers. The closer it is to the offender’s face, the stronger the insult. This gesture is called “muza” (μούτζα). One version of its origin is associated with punishment for minor offenses in Byzantine times: the judge put his hand in the ashes and smeared it over the face of the person being punished.

We hope none of our readers will have to deal with such a gesture.