Traveling internationally, you see people, nature, and time in a whole new way. Sometimes so dramatically that when surrounded by familiar things again, the world seems different somehow. What you may not realize, is the world is still the same, but you are changed. It is the experiences we walk away with that can cause that, and when you know the customs and etiquette of that country, your experiences will be even better. If traveling to Africa, or Greece, here are some customs and etiquette to keep in mind. If ever unsure about how you should behave, ask.
Shaking hands: This a common form of greeting. A soft handshake for an acquaintance and a firm, prolonged hand shake if you are established friends. After the greeting, ask about their family, health, and business if you are there on business. Do not skip this. It would be very bad manners.
Flowers: no color restriction
Gift giving: If you are invited to a home, bring a gift that they can use. Unless you know the host would enjoy a fine wine or liquor, do not bring it.
In the house: take off your shoes before entering the house
Dining: this depends as some have more formal dining habits than others. You are expected to come to the table with your hands washed. Even if you are an honored guest and will be served first, do not eat until the eldest male has received his food and begins to eat. Women are always served last. Be sure to take small amounts as second servings are often urged and you would not want to insult your host by turning it down. It is considered polite to finish all of your food on your plate.
Shaking hands: This is a common form of greeting with direct eye contact, and should include children if they are present
Flowers: there is no color restriction
Gift giving: give a simple, inexpensive gift. If you are given one, you are expected to open it immediately. When invited to a meal, bring a small thank you gift such as wine, or something edible
In the house: nothing particular. You should say something nice, and comment on the house
Dining: be prepared to eat a lot. It is generally good form to arrive after the party has begun. You will often be told where to sit. Don’t begin eating until the host does. Be sure to compliment the cooking by asking for another helping. People will share what is on their plate, so don’t be surprised if that happens, and you should follow suit.
Greeks are very warm, and you may find people dancing. Give it a try!
In researching the customs and etiquette of these different countries, I found it really interesting that each country, no matter how far apart they are, has very similar values and yet remain unique. Family, honor, respect, and status are so very important. It defines an individual in that society, and it is easy to see how an uninformed western traveler can easily disrupt that harmony, causing dishonor and not even realize they had until a personal or business relationship has dissolved.
We can all learn something from the movie Avatar, “I see you.”
Remember, as you prepare for your international flights, don’t just see the people, discover them, and you will have found a part of yourself.