This blog post was updated on July 23, 2021.
Greece is a small country about the size of the state of Alabama and is positioned where Europe, Asia, and Africa meet at the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula. The position of the country gives it the feel of four different regions, European, Balkan, Mediterranean, and Near Eastern. Beautiful beaches and rich heritage are reasons that many travelers choose Greece as their travel destination.
As you prepare to travel to Greece, learning the language might be a step you overlook, but it is one you might want to consider. You probably will not have enough time to become fluent in the Greek language, however, you should have enough time to learn a few key words and phrases.
Γειά σου (YAH-soo)
When you greet someone with a hello, you can utter, ‘Yassas,’ most simply.
The word that sounds like “parakaló” translates as “please” in English. It is not just in used in a polite setting. You will also hear Greeks answer the phone with a ‘parakaló’.
You can’t walk past the hotel desk in the morning without hearing a “kalimera”, meaning good morning.
When you go out for the evening or arrive somewhere for dinner, you might be greeted with what sounds like, ‘Kalispera,’ meaning good evening.
You shouldn’t pack your bags for Greece without knowing how to say thank you, efharisto.
Perhaps one of the most confusing Greek words for a traveler is that of “neh”. While you would think nai means no, it actually means yes in Greek.
Just as yes in Greek sounds more negative, no in Greek sounds a bit more like ok than no. If you want to object, say, ‘ohi‘.
If you think you just offended someone or need to apologize, say, ‘Signómi.’
If you are looking for an open sign, watch out for the word ‘anikto’, more commonly spelled with the Greek alphabet as ‘anoixto’.
Before you walk into shops that are in fact closed, look out for the word ‘kleistó’, meaning closed.
You may also like: European Politeness! How to Say “Please” All Over Europe
When it’s time to leave, in Greece you say, ‘Antio,’ for goodbye.
Μιλάτε αγγλικά (mi-la-te a-gli-ka)
When traveling in a foreign country it’s helpful to know how much language barrier you face. The first phrase many travelers should learn in Greek is one that sounds like “melatte aglica” (“Do you speak English?”) as many Greeks do have fluent knowledge of the English language.
Πού είναι η τουαλέτα (Poh-EE-nay ee tua-LEH-tah)
Honestly, one of the most important things you will need to know to say Greek is “poenauy ey toelata”, “Where is the bathroom?” It’s better to familiarize yourself with this phrase than to be struggling with the question at the crucial moment of nature’s call.
Στην υγειά μας! (STIN-eh YAH-mas) and Ασπρο πάτο! (AHS-pro PAH-toh)
When traveling to Greece, you’ll likely visit restaurants and perhaps a bar to enjoy the nightlife. In these instances, phrases that sound like “stiny yahmess!” (Cheers”) or “Ahspro Patoe” (“Bottoms up!”) might be helpful to you.
Πόσο κάνει αυτό? (POH-soh KAH-nee af-TOH)
Unless you intend to stay in your room for your entire trip, the phrase that many hear as “Poso caknee aftoe?” (which means “How much is it?”) will be useful to you. That will be handy whether shopping, eating out, or journeying through the country via public transportation.
Χαίρω Πολύ (heh-ro po-li)
It’s inevitable: you will meet new people while traveling in a foreign land. When you are introduced to someone new, it’s polite to say what sounds as “herow pohlee” to say “Nice to meet you” to a person.
Hopefully, you will have a pleasant, peaceful journey without incident. If an emergency situation arises, exclaiming a phrase that seems like “voeytheya” to you will mean “Help!” to others. It’s a good word to have in your arsenal of Greek words.
Everyone makes a mistake occasionally. It even happens when you travel abroad. In Greece, you can express a minor slip-up with the word “oppa!”
Με συγχωρείτε (me see-ho-ree-te)
If you need to exit a conversation or room, a polite way to do that is to pronounce “me seahorety” to say “Excuse me”. This is also a polite way to get someone’s attention should you need to ask them a question or report an issue.
Θα μπορούσα να έχω…?(tha mpo-ru-sa na e-ho…?)
Booking cheap one way flights to your destination is just one half of the work: you won’t get far if ignore how to politely ask for the things you need once you arrive at your destination! Whether you’re ordering food or requesting specific items be brought to you in your hotel room, you can politely say something that sounds like “tha maporesa nayho e-ho…? to say “May I please have…?” as you make your request known.