Wishing Well

Greetings are one of the endearing features of daily life in Greece. Whether it stems from superstition or an excess of good will, Greeks seem to have a wish for every occasion. They won't just wish you kali orexi (bon a petit), but also kali honepsi (good digestion) and kali xekourasi (good rest) or kali diaskedasi (good entertainment). On the first day of the week it's kali evdomada (good week), each month kalo mina (a good month), while the start of summer brings kalo kalokeri (good summer) and the end of the holidays kalo himona (good winter). When you purchase something it's kaloriziko (good luck) and a new business is greeted with kales doulies (good work) or challenges with kali dynami (good strength) and every possible kalo permutation.

Andreas Stalkos'novel Les Liaisons Culitiaires is a mouthwatering erotic account of an Athens love triangle that culminates In saucy food-Inspired seduction (completewith recipes).

of Athenian yuppies in designer clothes, clutching the newest mobile phones and driving the latest-model cars or four-wheel drives will attest. Greek children are now the fattest in the EU and many teenagers are addicted to internet games. While there are still huge disparities in the overall standard of living and a stark rural-city divide, Greeks enjoy a good quality of life.

Greece is one of Europe's friendliest, safest and most relaxed countries.

Greeks have a work-to-live attitude to life and pride themselves on their capacity to enjoy life. They are social animals and enjoy a rich communal life, eating out regularly and filling the country's myriad caf├ęs and bars. They travel and socialise in packs, with family or their parea (company of friends). In the evenings, especially in summer, you will see people of all ages out on their volta (evening walk), walking along seafront promenades or through town centres, dressed up and refreshed from their afternoon siesta. Theatres, cinemas, live-music venues and dance clubs seem to thrive and the lively street life in Athens and most major towns is something that strikes most visitors. Another is that children are out late at night.

Summer holidays are the highlight of the year, with most people taking off for the islands, beaches or their ancestral villages. The country virtually shuts down during mid-August, when one of the peculiarly Greek social talking points is how many swims you've had. Greeks are now travelling abroad, reflecting newfound wealth, interest beyond their shores and the high cost of domestic tourism.

High levels of home ownership, generational wealth and family support structures go some way to explaining a lifestyle that is out of sync with average incomes - Greek wages remain among the lowest in the EU. Another factor must be the huge small-business, black-market economy - estimated at up to 30 per cent of the country's GDP.

Households have been feeling the financial pinch since the arrival of the euro, however. The use of credit cards, loans and dosis (instalment schemes) has skyrocketed, as have housing prices, while the younger generation are highly dependent on family. Eating out and holidays have been curtailed, and they are always complaining about it, but Greeks still spend a higher percentage of their income on restaurants and holidays than their EU counterparts.

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