Greek Culture Reference Guide
The most popular form of greeting in Greece is a handshake. It is also common to see friends greeting each other with a kiss on the cheek and a hug. In Cyprus, the traditional greeting includes a handshake and a smile. It is commonly expected that men should first extend their hand to women. A kiss on the cheek and a hug are common between women, and women and men. Men usually pat each other on the arm or back.
In Greece, the traditional verbal salutation in Yassas or Yiasoo, informally, both meaning “hello”. In Cyprus, however, Yiasoo is the most common verbal greeting among Greek Cypriots, while Salam or Merhaba are common among Turkish Cypriots. English greetings are popular all over the country as well. Typically, farewells are prolonged in Cyprus, making it harder for conversations to end.
Greeks are usually indirect communicators. They will try to convey their messages in a sensitive and tactful way in order to prevent conflict and confrontation. Giving a straight ‘no’ as an answer may prove to be difficult for a Greek. Therefore, they may provide more ambiguous answers to prevent the other from taking offense. Cypriots, however, are regarded as direct communicators. They speak plainly and openly. To avoid offense and remain respectful, criticism is delivered sensibly. Cypriots like to talk, so be ready to have long conversations that last.
Personal Space and Touching
Greeks are not very protective over their personal space, and you will notice that people usually stand quite close to each other. Cypriots, however, would prefer it if you do not disrupt their personal space, and would rather keep an arm’s length distance from each other. When it comes to touching, Greeks are usually tactile people, and it is common to see people kissing and hugging. The same is not true among Cypriots. Even though they will hug or kiss when greeting, they are not generally very tactile people.
Eye Contact and Gestures
Direct eye contact is expected by Greeks and Cypriots alike, as it displays honesty. In both Greece and Cyprus, the ‘okay’ gesture (forming a loop with the forefinger and thumb) does not bear the same meaning we are familiar with. Instead, it is an obscenity. Holding your open palm to someone’s face (moútza) is considered disrespectful, and if you do so with both hands it is twice the offence.
Greek Population in the United States
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Before we get to the Greek dialects spoken today, we must first take a walk on the historic path that led to the current version of the language. The Hellenic language is one of the oldest Indo-European languages, one of the first lingua-francas and one that brought us such admirable literary wonders. It has evolved significantly throughout the centuries and due to cultural and linguist phenomena. From Mycenaen Greek, to Ancient Greek, to Koine and eventually to Modern Greek, that developed from the former.
These are the main Greek dialects (spoken today) you should know about:
Demotic Greek is the spoken language, commonly known as the “language of the people”, and most of Greece’s 11 million inhabitants speak this language daily. Many Demotic words are of Ancient Greek origin. One example of this is the Demotic word filé, which means “I kiss”, and in Ancient Greek the same word meant “love”. This dialect is very similar to Standard Modern Greek.
The official language of Greece since 1976. It is a mix of Demotic Greek and Katharevousa, an ancient variety that was previously the official language, and it derives from Koine. One of the influences of Katharevousa is the change of i to y, for example, jimnásyo (high school) in Demotic, becomes jimnásio. Standard Modern is the dialect taught in schools and used in the media.
This dialect is spoken only in Pontus, a region of Turkey, although it had been a Greek territory before and most of its inhabitants today are Greek. Pontic letters preserve ancient Greek pronunciations, instead of newer ones that are found in contemporary Greek dialects.
Greek spoken in Cyprus. Greek, along with Turkish, are the official languages of Cyprus. And as one would expect, the Greek spoken in Cyprus is a little different from the Greek spoken in Greece. It can be compared to the differences between British and American English. Both are understandable, with some particular characteristics. For example, Cypriot Greek retains the ancient final -n (láin instead of ládhi in Standard Modern Greek, means oil). This dialect is perhaps the most similar to Ancient Greek.
This dialect is spoken by the Griko people in Salento and Calabria, in the South of Italy. Standard Modern Greek and Griko are somewhat mutually intelligible. Like most variants of Modern Greek, this dialect has developed from Koine Greek.
This is a local dialect, original to a set of mountain villages in eastern Pollonese.5 Tsakonian is considered by some linguists as a language and, unfortunately, it is critically endangered. It is different from the other dialects because it has ancient Doric dialect descent.
Countries Where Greek is the Official Language
13 million people speak Greek worldwide. The language is spoken mainly in Greek, where it is the official language (by little under 11 million people) and in Cyprus, where Greek is one of the official languages, along with Turkish. There are significant Greek speaking communities around the world, namely in the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, Albania, and Australia.
The first significant wave of Greek immigrants travelling to the U. S. happened in the 1880’s, caused by poor economic conditions in the country. Most people came to United States in search of a better, more prosperous life, and settled around urban areas. As of 2013, over 1 million Americans reported having Greek descent and there were around 300,000 Greek speakers in the United States, according to the U. S. Census Bureau.
Leading states with the highest Greek American population: