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Greek Work Culture: Everything You Need to Know About Working in Greece

March 20, 2023

Greece is one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations, with its many islands and rich history attracting thousands of visitors each year. 

Now, the hopes and dreams of location-independent entrepreneurs have finally been realized with the recent introduction of the Greek digital nomad visa — transforming the jewel of the Aegean into one of the most attractive European countries to live and work in.

Whether you want to base your digital nomad life in Crete or Corfu or find employees, business partners, or clients in the buzzing cities of Athens or Thessaloniki, it’s essential to understand the business practices and norms of the Greek workplace, as they may be different from those in your country. 

This article will walk you through some of the most important things to keep in mind when hiring Greek talent or doing business in Greece.

1. Greeks aspire to a healthier work-life balance.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance has become a challenge for Greek employees after years of austerity measures and the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to Greece becoming the country with the longest working hours in the European Union, averaging 42.3 hours per week.

According to Eurofound, the problems the Greek economy has faced in recent decades have led to higher levels of work intensity and longer working hours, negatively impacting people’s work-life balance. 

“In my experience, it is hard to be relatively well paid and have work hours that allow you to have work-life balance,” says Vicky Skoula, a humanitarian deployment manager based in Athens.

Chryssoula Vafeiadaki, a freelance journalist and researcher on peace journalism and crisis management, agrees. “[Work-life balance] is only achievable for those working in a well regulated environment like the public sector or some companies. In the private sector, there is a lot of unemployment, clandestine work, unpaid work, and people who have two or three jobs to meet their needs,” she says. 

This problem disproportionately affects working women — since traditional gender roles still prevail in Greece, they’re expected to perform more of the household chores. As a result, 71% of Greek women report being “too tired from work to do some of the household jobs which need to be done” at least several times a month, according to Eurofound. 

The Greek government recently approved a law to create a more lenient employment environment that supports flexible work hours, loosens overtime rules, and allows remote workers to disconnect.

Therefore, if you’re looking to hire employees in Greece, offering options that help them reconcile their work and personal lives will make your business a competitive employer — helping you attract and retain top Greek talent.

2. Greek employees have a strong work ethic.

Greek culture, tradition, and history shape the Greek work ethic. Greek society is rooted in tradition and community ties, responsibility, and respect for authority, and these values carry over into the workplace.

Therefore, Greek people tend to be hard-working, loyal employees who take pride in their work and are good team players. 

3. There’s a hierarchical structure.

Business etiquette in Greece still follows a hierarchical structure, with a clear distinction between managers and subordinates. Although Greeks respect their colleagues, decisions are often reached in the C-suite and handed down to subordinates to implement. 

In Greece, seniority and respect for authority are highly valued, and business relationships should remain formal (for example, using titles and surnames) until a personal relationship forms — which it will, thanks to the Greeks’ naturally warm and friendly nature. 

Greek employees generally assume that their managers have been selected because they have more experience and knowledge than their subordinates, so they may not expect you to ask for their opinions before making decisions. 

However, there appears to be a generational shift toward less hierarchical structures. “In some more old school places, the style can be very hierarchical indeed, however with the handover of businesses to younger generations, this is changing a bit,” Skoula says.

4. Collective bargaining is the norm.

Having said that, Greece is the birthplace of democracy, and democratic principles permeate Greek society — including the workplace. So although your Greek employees may not expect you to ask them to participate in decision-making as individuals, they might take part in collective action.

Unions are prevalent in Greece, and collective bargaining is a common practice — around 25% of workers in Greece are union members, so negotiations around wages, working conditions, and benefits take place often.

Regarding negotiations, one cultural quirk that can be helpful to know is that many Greeks will not sign contracts or hold important meetings on Tuesdays, as this is the day the Byzantine Empire fell.

5. Networking is essential in Greece.

Personal relationships are extremely important in Greek life — again, this is rooted in traditional Greek values like community and cooperation. Therefore, succeeding in the Greek business world depends on developing and nurturing personal relationships and networks.

To make a good first impression with a Greek employee or business partner, it’s essential to smile, shake hands, and make eye contact. It’s also important to note that Greeks form bonds in social settings, such as the traditional kafeneio, or coffee shop. Although these spaces were traditionally reserved for men, there are now many kafeneia that welcome women

Learning at least a few words of the Greek language will go a long way in helping you build your network in Greece. Phrases such as kalimera (good morning) and efcharistó (thank you) are essentials that will show your contacts that you respect and appreciate their culture. Additionally, although many Greeks speak good English, they will appreciate it if you translate documents and business cards into Greek.

6. Greek time is flexible.

While punctuality is valued in business meetings and appointments, it is not always a top priority in the day-to-day. Late arrivals are often tolerated and seen as a part of the slow and relaxed Greek lifestyle. 

This laid-back way of doing things also extends to how Greeks approach other rules around time. For example, deadlines, meeting times, and agendas are often seen as suggestions rather than set in stone. Patience and flexibility are, therefore, key to successfully doing business in Greece. 

7. Direct communication is preferable.

The Greek communication style is honest, open, and direct — but also respectful. There’s no need to hide behind euphemisms or make allusions when talking to your Greek colleagues, but make sure that if you disagree with someone, you do so in a gentle and respectful manner. Addressing them in a way that seems confrontational or causes them embarrassment is likely to damage your relationship with them. 

Although remote and asynchronous communication has become more normalized since the COVID-19 pandemic, in general, Greeks prefer the personal touch that face-to-face interactions offer. 

8. Greeks dress to impress.

In traditional Greek business settings, formal business attire — such as a suit for men and a formal dress or a skirt or trouser suit for women — is expected. However, this is also changing with the transition from one generation to the next.

“Except legal, diplomatic, and multinational work environments, in the vast majority of workplaces, casual dress code is acceptable. Senior managers tend to be dressed more sophisticatedly,” says Vafeiadaki.

In the tech industry and other startup environments, the dress code may be more casual, but if you want to make a good first impression, it’s best to err on the side of formal wear until you’ve established a good relationship with your Greek colleagues.

Take the hassle out of hiring in Greece.

Getting familiar with the ins and outs of Greek business etiquette will help you navigate your professional relationships — but it’s just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to hiring talent in Greece. 

According to Vafeiadaki, global employers that want to attract Greek talent should offer “a good package of salary and insurance benefits, an environment where one can work with dignity, guidance and support, [and] possibilities for self-development. There are a lot of talented and overqualified people in Greece who thrive when working abroad, while unemployment, corruption, and a lack of meritocracy in their country oppress them.”

Like every country, Greece has specific rules, regulations, and laws that regulate employment contracts — from working hours and salaries to payroll and benefits. Hiring Greek team members or employees based in Greece will require ensuring compliance with all of them.

Don’t have the internal capacity to handle the extra administrative burden? No problem. Many global companies are now turning to employer of record (EOR) organizations like Remofirst to help them hire and manage global talent. With a legal presence in Greece and over 150 other countries, we take the hassle out of hiring remote teams. 

Check out our Greece country guide to learn more about hiring Greek talent.