30 Things Only True Greeks Will Know

A very Greek thing to do is playing komboloi. Get yours at Doromu.com

 By Lauren Perry* – I’m ¼ Greek and a baptized Greek Orthodox. Now, ¼ might not seem like a lot, but let me tell you, whatever my grandfather’s lineage was, it was overcome by the Greekness of my grandmother’s family. My father might as well be a full-blooded Greek. Being Greek is like harboring a very powerful virus. Once you get it, it’s yours forever and it inhabits all you do. When my family first saw “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” when it came out in theaters, no one laughed. Every so often, in the dark of the theater, my grandmother would reach across the back of the seats and smack my father before he had the chance to laugh at whatever was happening on-screen. It was funny, but not uproariously so because it’s mostly all true. If you’re Greek, you know that it’s all that matters. And you also know the following.

1. You’re skinny. At least you are when Yiayia hasn’t seen you in approx. 7 days. Forty minutes into being at her house, once you’ve eaten homemade bread, spanakopita, cookies, ice cream, potatoes, etc., maybe you’re not so skinny since the last time she saw you.

2. You’re fat. Much more of a certainty than number one. “You look like you’ve put on a little weight… have you put on weight? Are you still doing the exercise? Oh popo…” or if you’re lucky, “Your father looks like he’s gained weight. Don’t you think he’s gained some weight? Tsk tsk. He needs to quit eating so much.”

3. If you’re not married, you might as well be dead. This seems harsh, but I actually feel like I am being pretty gentle. The disappointment in my grandmother’s face every time she remembers/knows/inquires as to the fact that I am 26 years old and not married, well, it never lessens. She is very good at looking like she feels a new hurt all over.

4. Your Yiayia/Papou is already dead, even if they’re alive. “Yiayia, I love your dress,” is a grave mistake. It’s answered, without a beat, with “Oh, you can have it when I die!”

5. Your significant other is dead to your family if they don’t go to church. First question, right off the bat every time I have ever started dating anyone is “Does he go to church? Does his family go to church?” Don’t even bother saying no.

6. If YOU don’t go to church, oh my god. See #4. “I pray for you every day, koukla. Who’s going to pray for you when I die??”

7. If you don’t want to have children, see #4. There is no excuse that will satisfy Yiayia. Oh, you just got a full professorship? You’re a doctor? Don’t care. Make the babies!

8. You need to know how to cook. The entire Greek arsenal cookbook. And cook it well. Men need to know how to cook the meat, and women need to know how to cook essentially everything else. How will you survive if you don’t?

9. You need to know all (and I mean ALL) of your Greek relatives. Including your third cousins who still live in Greece. Go see them! Before they die!

10. Your name only counts if it’s a saint’s name. My first name is Lauren, but not to anyone on my Greek side of the family. My great-grandmother refused to even pronounce the name Lauren. She pretending the sounds didn’t actually exist together. My name, in all holy rights, is Elizabeth. My sister is Maria. My father is John (Yianni), my grandmother is Katherine (Katarina), on and on. If Jesus wouldn’t call you it, it’s not your name!

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11. Real Easter is not everyone else’s ‘Easter.’ Greek Easter is almost always on a different Sunday than normal Easter, and God help us if these American schools don’t recognize it. My brother once got a test postponed for his entire science class because the professor asked if anyone was Orthodox, making a joke. My brother is Orthodox. Test postponed.

12. Easter eggs only get dyed red. Because Jesus said so!

13. If you get the quarter in the Vasilopita, you’re golden. But chances are, you won’t. My dad gets it every year. I have gotten it ONCE in all my 26 years, and I still carry that Seran-wrapped quarter around in my wallet.

14. If you don’t say ‘Christos Anesti’ first thing as your head pops up off the pillow on Greek Easter morning, you’re in deep shit.

15. You don’t revere the actual Greeks who live in Greece right now. As Yiayia will readily yell at you, “What have the Greeks done in 2000 years?!”

16. Italians and Jewish people are your kindred spirits. Who else can yell so loud, eat so much, and scold so fiercely? No one. But don’t tell Yiayia. She thinks we are special.

17. You grew up thinking everyone toasted at holidays saying “Skinnyasses.”

18. People who don’t like feta are too weird for words.

19. No matter what Yiayia is lecturing you about, she is 100% right and you are 100% wrong.

20. There is no set measuring system in Greek cooking. It’s a handful of this and a dash of that. But it better come out perfectly or you are shaming your Greek ancestors!

21. You will eat a huge breakfast at 10:30 AM and better be ready for the holiday meal at 12:30pm. Koukla, you need to eat. Eat!

22. You don’t want any dessert? Here, have some baklava.

23. There is no pleasing Yiayia. There’s an old joke about a Greek son whose mother gets him two ties for Christmas. He comes down dressed for Christmas mass wearing one of the ties, and the Greek mother says “What’s the matter, you didn’t like the other tie?” (The original joke is actually about a Jewish mother, but don’t tell Yiayia.)

24. You are never hungry. Even if you want to be.

25. You are never alone. Even if you want to be.

26. You are never without guilt. You think Catholic guilt is a thing? That is some pansy stuff compared to Greek guilt.

27. Catholics think Orthodox are Catholics, too. Orthodox don’t think Catholics are Catholic.

28. As you age, you get Greeker and Greeker. For better or worse. Before you know it, you’ll be that Yiayia.

29. When you set out on a road trip, you say “ella christe kai panayia mou” even if you don’t know what it means.

30. You see people make the sign of the cross and in your head, you hear yourself saying, “You’re doing it wrong!” Those damn Greeks.

*Lauren Perry writes from under the big beautiful skies of Wyoming. She has a Master of Arts in English and writes mostly about films, comics, and pop culture. She is a huge believer in happiness and loves her dog, Artemis Freki. Follow Lauren’s blog here.


  1. Dear Lauren Perry …
    If it wasn t for the economical crysis here in Greece i would advise you to come and live in Athens for a while …you d realise that here in Greece we live in 2014 and all these sterotypes you describe are way more smoothenened…lesser and some have extinct …. we are not as adorably irritating as you describe in most cases :) …I understand though and i know from first hand that every “pappou” and “yaya” like yours ,that left Greece at 50ies-60ies , wherever they went…Australia/USA/Germany …they kept raising their families strictly attached to those Greek ethics/ customs/behaviors of 50ies…:) I’ts normal coz they ve lost the contact with todays Greece .. and they live with those memories of Greece in 50ies i guess…

    I agree with you though that no matter how many centuries will pass…We Greeks won t stop bragging how special , unique and blah blah blah we are :P :D And yea we speak loud …swear badly … we are bad tempered but super friendly and open too…. depends the mood ! :P I could say more but anyway i just wanna congratulate u for your article… I loved it !

    • Maybe in the big cities Gioxx but if you go the small xoria… off the beaten track villages people still are set in their ways.

      • I live in the big city…and with me another 5000.000 Greeks…And if we count the rest big cities we talk about the 3/4 of greek population habitting Greece.So i can speak safely for the big cities but ofcourse in the countryside theya re more traditional but not as much as u think….plus as i said… all those stereotypes are smoothened and not all of them are extinct …:) truth is somewhere in the middle…not superextreme concervative and pecculiar as described…neither super modern but way less patronised than they used to be… count in all that , the individual charaters others taking lightly the annoying behaviours not bothering much and others taking those more seriously feeling that they get choked… and u can understand why there are contradictory comments in here….

        I repeat i didn t claim that we suddenly became the supercool modern not patronising neo Greeks. but surely we are not that concervative and tied to traditions as the greek -living abroad- are ( the older ones atleast )

    • Are you sure you live in Greece? I have lived in both Athens and Sparta for years and numbers 1-4 apply, even in 2014. If I gained a few pounds, my relatives in Greece always seemed to notice and speak disrespectfully to me about it (regardless of the fact that they themselves would weigh more), yet at the same time, they kept wanting to give me more food. Go figure! Further, my family in Athens and Sparta think something is wrong with me and think of me as disgraceful because I’m single in my mid-30s. I moved back to the United States because it got to be so unbearable being around them in Greece. And whenever I complimented my 90-something year old grandmother, living in Sparta, she would always tell me that I can have it when she died.

  2. In the most respectful of ways, your article references remnants of a Greek era and ethos that is long gone for Greeks, and somehow remains preserved in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states by Americans with Greek influences . You are, probably for good reasons, far removed from what a Greek is. I moved to NY from Athens in 1996 and can vouch for your irrelevance to us.

  3. My wife is Greek and she was in hysterics watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding. So were all her girlfriends. And it wasn’t just the Greek ones – one of our close friends is Cuban from Miami and her comment was “swap Spanish for Greek and that was my life too”

    • ARMENIANS are the same ,,,,so proude of their culture full of love and love of food and sharing ,,,the sence of familly ….BUT JUST THE SAME THEY ARE FULL OF LIFE AND HAPPINESS ,NOT DRY TOAST LIKE SOME WESTERN CULTURES WE FEEL SORRY FOR !!!YASAS OUZO ???

  4. Greeks don’t go to Christmas “mass”. That’s what Catholics do. Greeks go to Liturgy.

  5. Diasporic communities, Greek or otherwise, are (by definition) different from their original homelands, often embodying a sometimes historically distant set of ideologies or sense of “Greekness”. That is part of the immigrant experience. For example, that is part of the reason that Orthodoxy is so important to people of Greek heritage who were born or raised outside of Greece. In the U.S., at least, the church serves as the center of the Greek community, in a way that it doesn’t particularly need to in Greece.

    Ms. Perry’s piece was fun, and truly does encapsulate the experience that many of us Greek-Americans, or Greek-Canadians, or Greek-Australians have had. I’m not sure that any of the criticisms put forth in these comments are warranted, other than perhaps a title change to reflect the hyphenation.

  6. Armenians are more your kindred spirits than anyone else. If for no other reason than both our peoples were the victims of genocide by Ottoman Turks. But we also share many of the same foods and cultural attitudes.

  7. To all you Greeks living in Greece , chill out ! This piece is meant as satire . All the Greeks in the thiaspora are just very proud of their Greek heritage and try to celebrate it. Yes the Church is our center because in these foriegn lands thats all we have to connect with each other. Just like Greeks proudly held on to their language , religion, food and customs during 500 years of Turkish occupation ( you dont speak turkish or go to the Mosque do you? ) with the same pride and stuborness we Greeks of the diaspora held on to them. Dont mock us or demean us for that which we are proud, our parents left Greece in the 50’s 60’s 70′ with only these things and we are proud to pass them to our children who are bo barded with another culture.

    • Stated perfectly! 100% Greek, born in 1964 in Ohio, and this article was right on! Loved it and shared it with all my Big Greek Family on Facebook.

  8. Lady who is jesus? do you even know what it stands for? its a fake name invented by the Jews a couple hundred years ago to deceive people to the dark side. Fake=lie=darkness=hell. Truth=light=heaven. Our savior is Iesous Christos.

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