Greece-flag-160Greek business culture

Did you know about business culture in Greece? Watch this video animation to find out some interesting facts:

Business culture in Greece is characterized by: business communication, business etiquette, business meeting etiquette, internship and student placements, cost of living, work-life-balance and social media guide.

Greece is a Mediterranean country in Southern Europe, bordering with Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Albania. It is bordered to the west by the Ionian Sea, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea and to the east by the Aegean Sea. Greece is one of the most mountainous countries of Europe. Greece consists of a large mainland; the Peloponnese, a peninsula which is connected to the southern tip of the mainland by the Isthmus of Corinth; and many islands. The “Kallikratis” reform, which entered into effect on the 1st of January 2011, introduced seven decentralized administrations as separate regional entities with elected governors and regional councils. Apart from these, there are 13 regions and 325 municipalities. The country has a population of about 11 million inhabitants according to the 2011 census. Athens is the capital city and Thessaloniki is the second largest city.

Greek is the official language and Christian the primary religion, with 97% of the population following the Greek Orthodox Church and the remaining 3% divided amongst the Catholic, Jewish and Muslim faiths. The population is approximately 95% of Greek origin, 4% Albanian and 1% other.

Greece has a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and cool mild winters. There can be snowfall in some parts of Greece during the winter months but this is mostly limited to the mountainous regions of the mainland.

Greece is in the Eastern European Time Zone and adheres to EET (UTC +2) during the winter and EEST (UTC +3) for daylight saving time during the summer months.

The ancient Classical and Hellenistic eras of Greece have left behind many ideas, concepts and art to provide the foundation of what we call “western civilization”. The greatest philosophers and mathematicians lived during these eras.

The history of Greece is a succession of invasions and dominations: the Macedonian Empire, the Roman and the Byzantine Empire, which ended with the invasion of the Turks. The new independent Greek State was declared in 1830 at the end of the Independence War.

In 1974, following a seven-year dictatorship, the country’s system of government changed from a Constitutional Monarchy to a Presidential Parliamentary Democracy. In 1981, the country became a member of the European Union and in January 2001 entered the Eurozone, replacing the Greek Drachma with the Euro as currency.

Greece is a developed country with an open economy that has a heavy reliance on the service sector at 85%.  The remaining national economic output comes from the industry sector the second (12.0%) and the agricultural sector (3.0%). Although Greece is a significant agricultural and fisheries producer within the European Union, the tourist industry forms the basis of the economy. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Greece ranks as the 7th most visited country in the EU country and the 16th in the world. Also, merchant shipping represents 16.2% of the world’s total capacity.

The Greek economy has been in recession since the global financial crisis of 2008.  The current state of the economy is mainly the result of the European sovereign debt crisis and only through implementing severe austerity measures and benefiting from two multi-billion Euro rescue packages has the economy begun to stabilize.

Xenophobia: being a foreigner in Greece

The Greek word philoxenia means hospitality and is defined literally as “love of strangers”, which is something they are extremely proud of.  Greece being a popular tourist destination, welcomes foreigners with warmth. The Greek people are known for their friendliness and openness to meeting new people and doing business with them.

International business in Greece

This part examines the general business environment of Greece. The first section will focus on the attitudes and values of the Greek people. The second section will concentrate on the education, training and placements in Greece, with particular emphasis on business-related matters.

General education

The Greek Educational System is under state supervision. It is divided into three levels which include pre-school and primary education, secondary education (Cycle 1 and Cycle 2) and tertiary education.

Pre-school education is provided in nursery schools as a preparatory stage, which contributes to the integration of children in the primary school system.

Compulsory education in Greece lasts ten years beginning from nursery school until Gymnasio (middle or junior high school). Attendance is compulsory for one year in nursery school, primary school which lasts six years, up to the age of 12 and for three more years in a Gymnasio until the age of 15. Graduates of Gymnasio get a certificate which allows them to move on to the optional higher-level secondary education (Lyceum) in the form of an Integrated Lyceum or a Technical Vocational School.

Tertiary education is provided by Universities and Polytechnics, Technological Educational Institutes (T.E.I) and Academies (for the military and the clergy). Most undergraduate courses last for 4 years, except for the polytechnics and some technical and art schools where courses last 5 years and medical schools where they last 6 years. Postgraduate courses last from 1 to 2 years while doctorates normally take 3 to 6 years.

All schools and HEIs in Greece are overseen by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. There is a minimum requirement of four years of study at university level in order to get a Bachelor’s Degree, which is a prerequisite for entrance to Master’s and Doctorate Degree programmes.

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Other issues such as transport infrastructure

Public transportation has improved, especially with the introduction of the Athens Metro, which is one of the most modern and complex transportation projects in Europe. It provides access to the Piraeus Port, historical sites, the centre and the airport. It is fast, comfortable and very reliable. Tickets can be bought through automatic ticket machines, which are installed at all metro stations and ticket offices.

The train and tram networks are also efficient and reliable public transportation systems. A large network of buses is also available and taxis are used quite frequently, as they are affordable with a minimum charge.

In Thessaloniki, the metro system is currently under construction and causing substantial disruption to local traffic. Also, travelling to certain islands, mountainous regions and villages may be difficult during the winter months.

In the last few years, transportation has become much more reliable in large cities and buses are usually on schedule. However, delays cannot be avoided at certain times, due to traffic conditions and other circumstances.

Buses and Trains

The intercity buses (KTEL) are very popular for domestic travel. They are a reliable, efficient and inexpensive means of transportation throughout the country and can be used both for long and short distances.

The national railway system (OSE) had been neglected, but is undergoing renovation and increasing numbers of people are using it as an alternative way of travelling within the country. The intercity fast train between Athens and Thessaloniki is recommended as the best way of travelling between the two cities.

Air Travel

Greece’s main airport is Eleftherios Venizelos, which is situated on the outskirts Athens, the country’s capital. It is a new and modern airport with the most advanced security equipment that provides direct connections to most countries of the world and is served by most major airline carriers. Macedonia International Airport in Thessaloniki serves the region of Central Macedonia and is the second most important airport in the country. Airports are situated in many smaller cities and islands like Rhodes, Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Paros, Ioannina and Kavala.

In the last fifteen years, significant infrastructure has been developed in Greece with the construction of major highways and motorways connecting major cities (Egnatia motorway, PATHE etc). These roads have reduced the driving time while making driving much safer.

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Cultural taboos

Greeks are very proud of their culture and history. They are open to discussions and enjoy having conversations on cultural and historical topics, but tend to have strong beliefs on issues pertaining to religion and politics; therefore it would be a good idea to not bring up these topics.  Subjects concerning Cyprus and Turkey should be avoided, since both are topics that Greeks find difficult to change their views on and may get very emotional about. Also, avoid criticizing Greece or the Greek people. Although they often like criticizing aspects of their own society and daily life, they don’t accept criticism from outsiders.

In addition , there are certain hand gestures that could be misinterpreted by Greek people, therefore it is recommended to avoid: the American ‘OK’ sign, which is usually considered as an obscene gesture and the ‘moutza’, which is an open hand facing outward gesture, (often used to mean stop in western cultures), which is considered offensive and insulting.

It is essential to understand and respect these issues when communicating with Greek people. It will definitely contribute to building and sustaining personal and business relationships.

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