Don’t speak Greek? No need to freak.
Getting by in Greece is no problem for non-native speakers: roughly half the population speaks English, and anyone under about 45 years of age should be conversational (as English education became standard for school-aged children back in the ’80s).
That said, it’s always wise, culturally and respectful — not to mention super fun — to learn a handful of useful phrases (such as those broken down into travel-appropriate categories below) before you go, to better immerse yourself in the language and culture when you travel to Greece.
Make new friends
There's a variety of ways to greet friends and strangers in Greece, some more casual than others. Here's a good start:
Giásas / Giásou / Geia
Yah! / Yah-soos!
“Hi! / Hi y’all!"
“Nice to meet you”
Na se kala
Kaliméra / Kalispéra / Kaliníhta
“Good morning”/“Good afternoon/evening”/“Goodnight”
“Do you speak English?”
Support local businesses
Whether a souviner, a Greek coffee, or booking a local tour, sometimes you just need to know:
Póso kostízei aftó? Póso?
“How much does this cost? How much?”
Ena kafe, parakalo
“One coffee, please”
Use good manners
Parakalo can mean many things, such as please, and ‘you’re welcome’ — when in doubt, it's good for tagging on to any kind of request.
Sas efcharistó (para poli)
“Thank you (very much)”
“Pardon me...Excuse me”
“No, thank you”
*[IMPORTANT! Note that “yes” (neh, or nai) and “no” (ohi or ochi, which can sound a bit like ‘okie’) are super easy to mix up!] *
Traffic signs, signposts, maps, and navigational tools are almost always in both Greek and English, so getting around shouldn’t be completely foreign. However, it never hurts to be able to say:
Pós boró na vro…
“Excuse me, how do I get to…?”
Pou eínai to bánio?
“Where’s the bathroom?”
Pou eínai to...?
“Where is the…?”
The Greeks are infinitely proud of their culture and appreciate it when visitors make an effort to learn their language. So by memorizing a few key pleasantries, you’ll be nurturing goodwill between cultures, improving your travel experience — and best of all, keeping a little Greek in your heart when you leave. Until then:
Accountant-turned-travel planner, I share all things travel here!