Archive for 'Culture'

How to be polite in Greek

Posted on 09. Sep, 2014 by in Culture, Grammar

Rob Boudon (under a CC license on Flickr)

Rob Boudon (under a CC license on Flickr)

One of the first topics Greek students have to learn is the use of the polite form. It is a relatively “new” element, as it did not exist in ancient Greek, and has its origins in French. It is formed by the second plural person. E.g.  «Τι κάνετε κύριε Δήμου;» (Tee kanete  keerie Demou?) How are you Mr. Demou?



When do we use it?
Native speakers use formal language when addressing older people or people they don’t know well. Some people also use it when they want to keep a distance with their interlocutor.

How to ask to be addressed by our first name?
Sometimes, we are not sure whether we should use the polite form the first time we are introduced to someone. If our interlocutor uses the polite form, we use it too. However, if we want to be on first-name terms with them we can say:
«Να μιλάμε καλύτερα στον ενικό;» (Na milame kaleetera ston eneeko)  which means “shall we better talk on a first-name basis?” (Στον ενικό means in singular).
We can also ask them directly to address us by our first name:
- Πού μένετε κυρία Δημητρίου; (Pou menete keeria Demetriou?)  Where do you live Mrs. Demetriou?
Λέγε με Έλλη…(Lege me Ellie). Call me Ellie.


How do we form it?
The polite form is formed by a verb on the second plural person. Honorifics must be put in the vocative case (κλητική, kleeteekee). If we address a person that we know well, our teacher or an elderly neighbor for instance, we can address them with an honorific followed by their first name:
«Καλημέρα κύριε Πέτρο!» (Kaleemera keerie Petro). Good morning Mr. Petro!
«Καλό σαββατοκύριακο κυρία Αθηνά!» (Kalo savatokeerieeko keeria Atheena). Have a nice weekend Mrs. Athena!


Some extra tips

  • We never address people by their last name without using an honorific, unless we know them very well.
    «Καλησπέρα κύριε Αντωνόπουλε, τι κάνετε;» (Kaleespera keerie Antonopoule ti kanete?) Good evening Mr. Antonopoule, how are you? NOT: «Καλησπέρα Αντώνόπουλε, τι κάνετε;» Good evening Antonopoule, how are you?
    «Έλα ρε Αντωνόπουλε, τι έγινες;» (Ela re Antonopoule, ti egines?) “Hey Antonopoule, where have you been?”( Note that this language is informal).
  • Words like doctor(γιατρέ, giatre) or professor (καθηγητά, katheegeeta) are not followed by a surname:
    «Καλό βράδυ, γιατρέ!» (Kalo vradee giatre). Have a nice evening doctor or «Καλό βράδυ, κύριε Γεωργίου!» (Kalo vradee keerie Georgiou) and NOT «Καλό βράδυ, γιατρέ Γεωργίου!» Have a nice evening doctor Georgiou.

When is it ok not to use it?
If you visit a remote village with few elderly residents it’s acceptable to talk to them using informal language. In fact, the use of the polite form will make them feel rather uncomfortable.
The Greeks are not so strict about the use of the polite form. During conversation they can easily switch to a more casual way of speaking, as it is a way of breaking the ice and of making the communication easier.


TijsB (under a CC license on Flickr)

TijsB (under a CC license on Flickr)

What can vegans eat in Greece? A list of vegan summer foods

Posted on 21. Jul, 2014 by in Culture, Travelling, Vocabulary

by stu_spivack under a CC license on Flickr

by stu_spivack under a CC license on Flickr

Most foreigners have connected Greek food to seafood, fish, cheese and meat. It’s true that the most typical dishes, such as souvlaki (σουβλάκι), moussaka (μουσακάς) and Greek salad (χωριάτικη σαλάτα) are animal-based products and cannot be consumed by vegans.
Traditional Greek cuisine is based on the fasting periods during which people were not allowed to consume animal products, so the list of “animal free” dishes is really long. The ingredients and cooking method may vary, however there’s always one rule to follow: to use seasonal fruits and vegetables.  I’m not a nutritionist, so there will be no lecture about the value of fresh products. I can only assure you that if you are vegan you won’t be disappointed by the Greek cuisine. If superfoods are part of your daily diet mind that you can find them only in urban areas or in touristy islands. If you want to taste something different though you can do so anywhere.
This is a list of the most popular vegan dishes.  They are related to summertime and  one cannot leave Greece without tasting at least one of them!
1. Χωριάτικη σαλάτα χωρίς φέτα (horeeateekee salata horees feta) Greek salad without feta cheese.

It’s probably one of the most famous Greek dishes. Some people have it as a main dish. It contains tomatoes (ντομάτες, domates), cucumber (αγγούρι, agouree), onion (κρεμμύδι, kremeedee), pepper (πιπεριά, peepereea), olives (ελιές, elies), olive oil (ελαιόλαδο, eleolado)and oregano (ρίγανη, reeganee).
Don’t use a lemon-based seasoning.

2. Κολοκυθοκορφάδες (kolokeethokorfades) Zucchini blossoms.

A true summer food! A vegan can eat them γιαχνί (yahnee, cooked in tomato sauce) or stuffed but they have to make sure that there’s no cheese or meat in the filling.


3. Φασόλια γίγαντες (fasoleea geegantes) Giant beans

A typical Greek dish. Usually, the beans are baked in tomato sauce but they can be cooked in other ways as well. It’s better not to consume them late because they are hard to digest.


by Nickchick under a CC license on Flickr

4. Φασολάκια (fasolakia) Green beans

There are many ways to cook them. Their less complicated version is a salad made of green beans, fresh olive oil, vinegar (ξύδι, xeedee), and one melted garlic clove (μία σκελίδα σκόρδου λιωμένη, meea skeleeda skordou leeomenee).  More ingredients can be added. The most popular version of φασολάκια is φασολάκια λαδερά (fasolakeea ladera) which is made of green beans, potatoes (πατάτες, patates), onions, parsley (μαϊντανός, maeedanos) and spices (μπαχαρικά, bahareeka) cooked in tomato sauce.

5. Μπριάμ (briam)

It’s a mixture of zucchini, potatoes and sometimes egg plants (μελιτζάνες, meleetzanes), parsley and aromatic herbs (μυρωδικά, meerodika) , cooked in tomato sauce. It should be served in room temperature.

6. Γεμιστά (gemeesta) Stuffed tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and zucchini.

They are stuffed with rice, spices, herbs and sometimes raisins. Make sure that they don’t contain ground meat. A similar dish can be ντολμαδάκια γιαλαντζί (dolmathakia yalantzee): grape leaves (αμπελόφυλλα, abelofila) stuffed with rice and aromatic herbs. Again, make sure that they don’t contain ground meat and that they are not served with egg and lemon sauce (αβγολέμονο, abgolemono).

7. Μπάμιες (bamies) Okra

My personal favorite.  Non-vegeterians eat it with chicken; however chicken can be omitted and okra can be baked with onions and aromatic herbs in tomato sauce.

8. Ιμάμ μπαϊλντί (eemam baeeldee)

A food of Turkish origin. Ιμάμ μπαϊλντί means “the imam fainted”.  It’s made of eggplants stuffed with tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Although it’s very tasty, it can give a heavy feeling in the stomach because the eggplants are fried.

9. Μαρμελάδα με ταχίνι (marlmelada me taheenee) Jam and sesame paste

This is a breakfast dish. Ταχίνι contains sesame seeds and olive oil so it is suitable for vegans. If mixed with jam and spread onto a slice of homemade bread can make a breakfast dish rich in calories yet nutritious.

10. Γλυκό του κουταλιού (gleeko tou koutaleeou) Spoon sweet

If you’re up to a sweet desert a good option would be a spoon sweet. It looks like jam but it’s thicker. A homemade spoon sweet contains only natural ingredients such as fruits, sugar, water and maybe lemon or orange juice and  nuts. No sweeteners, glucose syrup or artificial colors are added. In the summer spoon sweets are made of strawberries, cherries, sour cherries, grapes, apricots, water melon ,and figs.

Καλή όρεξη!

by Agnee under a CC license on Flickr

by Agnee under a CC license on Flickr

A touch of Greek Easter

Posted on 15. Apr, 2014 by in Culture, Customs, Videos, Vocabulary



The  countdown to Easter (Πάσχα, Pasha) , the most important Greek holiday, has already started.  The Easter traditions have been preserved  and are still followed by most Greeks, religious or not.  Some people, relate Easter to a big open air celebration with music, dance, and of course a meal that is composed of lamb and wine.  It is an opportunity to meet friends and relatives, to be joyful and careless and to enjoy the spring. Some others, relate it to the church service during the Holly Week and the devout Byzantine hymns of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. It is a period of love and forgiveness and the right moment to connect spiritually and emotionally with the others.


  • Some Easter Customs

Every Greek region has its own way and customs of celebrating Easter but some traditions are common.
Μεγάλη Πέμπτη (megali Pempti Holy Thursday) is a day full of colors and smells. People prepare  κουλούρια (koulouriα, Greek cookies) and τσουρέκι (tsoureki, Easter bread) and they dye and decorate  eggs, in a festive ambiance.  The tradition of decorated eggs is common in the Balkan countries.

If you want to go Greek this Easter, watch these recipes and make your own tsoureki and koulouria!

YouTube Preview Image

YouTube Preview Image
Μεγάλη Παρασκευή (Megali Paraskevi, Good Friday) is a day of mourning. The Bier of Christ (Επιτάφιος, Epitafios)  which has been decorated with flowers, is transported in the streets and is followed by the believers.
Μεγάλο Σάββατο (Megalo Savato, Holy Saturday) people celebrate the Resurrection.  They go to church and at midnight they get  the Holy Light (Άγιο Φως, agio fos) by the priest, and they exchange greetings. They have decorated candles (λαμπάδα, lambada) and carry the light home.  It is the end of the forty days Lent.
Κυριακή του Πάσχα (Kiriaki tou Pasha, Easter Sunday) is a day of joy and happiness. Traditionally, people spend Easter with their family, they eat lamb, crack boiled red eggs,  and take a break from their everyday life.


  • Easter greetings and expressions

Καλό Πάσχα (Kalo Pasha, have a nice Easter)
Καλή Ανάσταση (Kali Anastasi, Anastasi= Resurrection)
Χρόνια Πολλά (Hronia polla)
Χριστός Aνέστη, Αληθώς (Hristos Anesti, Alithos Anesti): When the priest announces the resurrection of Christ, people spread the word by saying  “Χριστός Ανέστη” (Hristos Anesti) which means “Christ has risen”. The other person must respond by “Αληθώς” (Alithos) which could be translated as “indeed”.