Greece for Beginners

See our Greece at a Glance page for basic information on Currency, Language, Health Requirements, Weather and so on.

And read our Quick Guide to Greece for advice on which destination might be right for you when choosing where to go.

Photo by Donna Dailey

The Greeks have a word for it, and the word is ‘xenos’. It means both stranger and guest. Not one or the other, but both at the same time – so a stranger is automatically a guest. 

As a teenager I made my first visit to Greece (writes Mike Gerrard) on a group camping holiday: 14 strangers in a van driving down through Europe. Half a mile over the Greek border, the van broke down. We were towed into a village where we had a meal while the only mechanic worked overtime to fix the problem. A friendly young man joined the table. Hearing the problem, he immediately offered to put us all up – all 14 of us – in his apartment for the night. In our sleeping bags we filled his floor, men in one room women in another. 

True Greek Kindness

In the morning he cooked us breakfast and waved us all on our way. That was the true Greek spirit, a kindness to strangers, and it still exists. Even in busy tourist areas you will find a bar or restaurant that, when they’re busy but you want to leave, will tell you to come back and pay the bill in the morning. Get out into the countryside and you might find yourself given some fruit from a tree. On one of our visits to Crete we bought some wooden spoons from an old man who sits outside his house carving them to sell to passing tourists. As we left he told us to wait, and gave us a bag of fresh figs from a tree in his garden.

Pleasures are Simple

In Greece pleasures tend to be simple, but it is this simplicity that keeps many people returning year after year. There’s nothing to beat sitting outdoors in a taverna by the sea as the sun goes down, tucking into a grilled fish that was caught that day. 

'No Problem'

The Greek motto is ‘no problem’. If the taverna is full when you arrive: ‘no problem’. A table will be brought out from behind the scenes. In some places this will happen again and again, the tables spreading down the street or across the sand till they’re in danger of disappearing over the horizon.

Greeks have a healthy disregard for rules. They are all free spirits, like Zorba the Greek. One taverna owner I know was told by inspectors that his tables must all be numbered. He bought a set of numbers from a restaurant that was closing down and put them out on his tables each morning… but totally at random, different every day. This did confuse his elderly father, though, who helped out as a waiter when the place was busy. He would appear in his shorts and string vest, carrying a plate of chips, wandering round till he discovered where Table 24 was tonight.

Greece is crazy, sometimes maddening, but beautiful, relaxing, entertaining and addictive. Since that first visit I have been back to visit Greece almost every year, and sometimes several times a year. Go there yourself and you could be embarking on a similar love affair. You have been warned.

You might like these other general information pages...

  • Life as a Waiter on Zakynthos

    Life as a waiter on Zakynthos tells what it was like for travel writer Mike Gerrard to work in a Greek restaurant, the Mantalena in Alykanas.

  • Tipping in Greece

    The Greece Travel Secrets guide to tipping in Greece from two Greece travel experts, including when to tip, what to tip and when not to tip.

  • Travelling Around Greece

    Practical information on travelling around Greece by plane, by ferry, by bus, by train and by driving, including car rental, parking and other driving advice.

  • Ten Biggest Cities in Greece

    The ten biggest cities in Greece start with Athens and Thessaloniki, followed by Patras and several suburbs of Athens which are Greek cities in their own right.

  • Six of the Best Beaches in Greece

    Greece Travel Secrets chooses six of the best beaches in Greece including beaches on Corfu, Santorini, Crete, Lefkas, Kefalonia and on the Peloponnese.

  • Top Ten Things to Do in Greece

    Top Ten Things to Do in Greece include seeing the Acropolis and Parthenon, visiting the National Archaeological Museum and ancient sites like Knossos on Crete.

  • Which Greek Island?

    How to choose which Greek island from six of the most popular, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, Kos, Kefalonia and Zakynthos.

  • Weddings in Greece

    Weddings in Greece and the Greek islands can be luxury or cheap, are easy to arrange from the UK or USA in Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes.

  • Top Ten Biggest Greek Islands

    The Top Ten Biggest Greek Islands, the largest in size, are listed by Greece Travel Secrets and include Crete, Evia, Lesbos and Rhodes.

  • The Nomads of Greece

    The nomads of Greece are the Vlachs, nomadic shepherds whose capital is Metsovo in the Pindus Mountains, and the Sarakatsani, shepherds in Macedonia and Thrace.

  • The Greek Gods

    The home of the Greek Gods was the top of Mount Olympus, and among the better-known Gods and Goddesses in the Greek pantheon were Zeus, Poseidon and Aphrodite.

  • Sailing in the Greek Islands

    Greece Travel Secrets lists four of the best destinations if you want to go sailing in the Greek islands.

  • Quick Guide to Greece: How to Choose the Best Destination for You

    This quick guide to Greece gives advice on choosing the best Greek destination for your holiday, whether in the Greek islands or the mainland.

  • Luxury Weddings in Greece

    Luxury Weddings in Greece, including venues such as a boutique hotel with deluxe spa on Santorini, can be booked through Ionian Weddings.

  • Greek Music

    Greek music is the sound of the bouzouki and tunes like Zorba the Greek and Never on Sunday are heard everywhere, while rembetika is called the blues of Greece.

  • Greek Ferry Guide

    Greece Travel Secrets Greek Ferry Guide page uses an extract from the Aferry Greece website with advice on island-hopping, buying tickets online and timetables.

  • Greek Architecture

    This beginner's guide to Greek architecture explains how to tell your Ionic from your Doric columns, and what to look for in temples and Byzantine churches.

  • Greece At A Glance: Currency, Weather and Other Useful Information

    Greece at a glance is a potted guide to the Greek currency, language, weather, health requirements and other information to help you plan a trip to Greece.

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