Meal Etiquette

Find out about the typical eating habits you can expect to find in Greece...

Meals are communal and are seen as important opportunities to talk and be with family and friends. Greeks eat out a lot, especially in the evening and usually with friends or family. At lunch it is common for each person to have their own dish, but at evening meals all dishes go into the middle of the table for everyone to take what they want.

  • Everything is shared
  • Eating with hands is common in less-expensive restaurants (not using the hands may be considered strange)
  • Salads are an accompaniment in Greece, they are never eaten as a main course
  • It is not considered impolite to put food onto other people's plates without them asking, nor to refill their wine glass
  • A diner will be expected to make conversation and be social, this is part of the meal
  • Plates are not smashed (a modern custom resulting from the film Never on Sunday)
  • Bread is always broken and shared at Greek meals
  • In homes there will also often be a block of feta cheese on the table

Greek meal times

Greek eating times are similar to those in other hot countries.

Breakfast: Light. Often a cup of coffee and perhaps a small pastry.
Lunch: Often eaten later than in northern Europe, perhaps around 14:00. Lunch is often a light meal. Many Greeks, especially those working in the private sector, skip lunch altogether.
Evening meal: This is the main meal of the day, eaten around 21:00 or later when the air temperature has cooled. It is a social occasion, often eaten at a small local restaurant with family and/or friends.

In a home

It is polite to offer a guest something to eat and some hosts can be quite persistent. If food is produced, despite a polite refusal, it is polite to eat something. Not eating food when offered can be insulting to the host.

Eating out

There are various kinds of restaurants in Greece, including:

  • International cuisine: Greece has many Italian and Chinese restaurants and takeaways. There has been an increase in recent years in the number of Indian/Pakistani restaurants and sushi houses. Athens has restaurants serving, among other cuisines, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Lebanese, Mexican and German dishes
  • Mezedes: small dishes intended to be eaten with wine or ouzo
  • Ouzeri: specialise in ouzo and small mezedes dishes
  • Psarotaverna: seafood restaurant
  • Psistaria: grill house, serving grilled beef, pork and chicken in various ways and with accompaniments
  • Souvlatzidiko: grilled meat (souvlaki / Σουβλατζιδικο)
  • Taverna: traditional, often meat dishes, with little variety between establishments
  • Estiatorio: restaurant - the word can cover many different types of establishment (Εστιατοριο)
  • Lunch restaurants or Estiatorio: simple Greek dishes often at low prices

Dessert

Cheaper restaurants usually do not serve coffee or deserts. However, some restaurants will bring customers either some fruit or a small desert free of charge at the end of the meal.

Special dietary needs

Greek restaurants do not cater to people with special dietary restrictions such as a gluten allergy. Likewise, restaurants tend not to cater specifically to vegetarians, although there are some vegetarian restaurants in Athens. However, the choice of vegetables and fruit in Greece is excellent and often of very high quality.