Specificity is not an everyday Greek practice. Sure, we Greeks are very specific about what we believe in, the football team we support, the way we want our frappe prepared or how far the beshamel on the pastitsio should be broiled to achieve the ideal shade of golden brown. Time, though, should be approached with a very relaxed sense of understanding in mind.
When your Greek friend tells you, you will be meeting around 5, it is perfectly acceptable for him/her to be there around 5:30, 6:00, 6:30 or even 8:00 if it is understood that you’ll be waiting at your place anyway so you won’t be getting out of your way. The academic quarter, meaning the first fifteen minutes, is always added to the quoted time that anything is said to begin. It would be considered rude to arrive at a party at exactly 9:00 o’ clock for a 9:00 o’clock invitation. You need to allow for the academic quarter, fifteen minutes for the hostess to touch up her make up, another 15 minutes for you or your girlfriend to touch up her make up and so on.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a matter of un-realiability or disregard for others. On the contrary, when a Greek person says he/she is your friend it means a lot more than you perceive it to mean. Friends drop by each other’s houses just to say hi and bring cake, call at 4 AM cause they can’t sleep and go out to the infamous “bouzoukia” all night after a bad break-up workday or no workday. And the boss doesn’t really care if it’s 9:30 and he/she’s asleep at work cause it’s understood he’ll make up for it with the devotion and productivity he is ever so proud of. Even if the job consists of collecting trash around central Athens or selling melons in the neighborhood Laiki market.