Brilliant Business - Greece
GETTING INTO THE GREEK GROOVE
10 Tips for getting into the Greek Groove
As someone who is half Greek, I can confirm (and am allowed to say) that Greek social stereotypes tend to be accurate. Those of you with Cypriot or Greek friends, or who have escaped to one of the breathtakingly beautiful islands with their traditional blue-doored and white-walled villages, will know that Greek people are usually the life and soul of the taverna: enjoying ‘ouzo’ until the early hours of the morning, smashing plates and dancing on tables…
When travelling to Greece on business, it becomes all too easy to adopt the same, relaxed persona. In the professional sphere, however, be wary that underneath the sunny, Mediterranean exterior is a savvy and very swift negotiator.
Top tip #1: When choosing which employee to send on this exotic business trip, be sure to select someone who is comfortable in their own skin (and projects this image), is able to think on their feet and who can discuss matters eloquently.
Top tip #2: Show respect to senior members, whether in age, business rank, or both. For example, if you are invited to a business dinner you will be expected to address senior members formally and ensure that they are served first. This is a sign of cultural respect and will always be appreciated.
Top tip #3: Accept second and third helpings during said business dinners. It is a sign of flattery to the host which, much like the food, will go down very well!
Top tip #4: Be mentally prepared to exchange a handshake, or kiss on each cheek with your Greek colleague at the beginning and end of every meeting. Of course this advice must be taken with a pinch of salt: if you are getting negative vibes then a kiss is probably ill-advised…
Top tip #5: Impress your Greek counterparts linguistically and culturally by printing your business cards in both English and Greek. Presenting the card Greek-side up ensures this effort won’t go amiss.
Top tip #6: Always strive for punctuality when attending meetings. However, fully expect your Greek counterparts to adhere to a more Mediterranean style of time-keeping.
Top tip #7: Additionally, anticipate flexible meeting hours: just because your meeting is booked between 9am and 10am, does not mean that it will be limited to said timeframe (as a rule of thumb, expect it to go on for longer).
Top tip #8: Expect lively negotiations in the boardroom filled with foot-tapping, gesturing, and often fidgeting with the Greek ‘worry beads’ (‘kombologion’). Be careful not to mistake these for an indication of nerves - they are simply cultural quirks.
Top tip #9: No matter how dry the small talk may get, steer clear of sensitive political discussions (particularly about Greece’s conflict with Turkey and Macedonia, or anything to do with financial crises).
Top tip #10: When the meeting is drawing to a close, expect final decisions to be reached based solely on the specifics of the meeting. Remember that what is universally accepted is usually second to what is Greek-accepted.
You’ll be pleased to hear that coffee is copious during meetings, and the Greeks enjoy long, leisurely lunch breaks. Plenty of time to escape to a local taverna and enjoy some delicious ‘tiropitakia’ (cheese pies), ‘keftedakia’ (tasty, little Greek meatballs) and ‘htapodi’ (octopus) – name drop if you want to impress during a business lunch!
The best advice I can give you though is, when you’re not in business meetings, go out and embrace Greece’s unique culture. The Greeks are fiercely proud of their rich and colourful heritage and if you can communicate this to them, you may well find your business blossoms as beautifully as the tiny, purple flowers you will find all around.