Often referred to as one of the most beautiful countries in the world, Greece is a land of cultural contrasts. To successfully train Greek nationals, you will need to appreciate certain complexities. These range from positive connotations of ancient Greece’s contributions to modern civilization, its holiday beach destinations, its lively character, temperament, and hospitality of the people and their culture, to its negative associations including disorganization, inefficiency of infrastructures, defiance of norms, its current debt crisis, and combined economic and structural deficits within the country. Balancing sociocultural complexities and contrasts will enable you to deliver effective training programs, and your Greek participants will appreciate your responsiveness to their values.
- Recognize that respect for hierarchy is critical. Avoid high-risk experiential exercises for a group with mixed levels of authority. It is important for Greeks to not lose face. Therefore, be mindful to avoid embarrassing a Greek, especially among subordinates or in public.
- Understand that relationships, friendships, and intergroup identities are important in business. For this reason, group training programs will yield higher learning outcomes with people who know each other, are at the same professional level, or have established an intrinsic working relationship. For Greeks, where there is trust, there is a higher level of cooperation and collaboration.
- Build competition into your training. In general, Greeks exhibit high levels of competitiveness, resourcefulness, and “doing what it takes to succeed.” You can capitalize on this cultural underpinning by designing training programs around team interactions, simulations, and role-plays.
- Show your humanity. Greeks are not pretentious in general, and they appreciate that in others. In personal interactions, they like to establish eye contact, which is considered a sign of honesty. Be warm and open, but remember to use titles when addressing senior-level managers.
- Leverage work with play. Just as relationships are important, socializing is a critical element of doing business, and gaining trust. Kefiis the art of enjoying food and beverages along with animated conversation. Allowing a generous time for lunch during your training will enable your participants to relax and unwind from a rigorous learning session, and they will return to the training room feeling energized and engaged for the rest of the day’s program.
- Recognize that Greek communication style, called kouvenda, is open, expressive, and loud. People often engage in loud and excited dialogues that confuse an outsider, and may be mistaken for aggression; this is merely the impassioned way Greeks like to express themselves. Greeks can be boisterous, and the substance of the conversations is less important than the style. In battles of personal opinion, called palevoume, the goal is neither to reach the truth nor a conclusion. Its goal is the sheer enjoyment of vigorous speech.
That said, Greeks love to sit and discuss things with each other. Kouvenda is the important mode of verbal interaction that builds personal relationships within social and business environments, and allows Greeks to assert their personality into conversation in order to establish pride and maintain self-esteem. Design your training programs with the proper balance of challenge and support so that the kouvenda promotes your learning goals for the group.
Valli Murphy was raised and educated in Greece and Italy by her Greek parents and experienced a globally mobile life at a young age. Having spent most of her life involved in the international arena, Murphy is an intercultural trainer, global leadership coach, and team facilitator in her independent consultancy, Cultural Intersections, and a senior associate with Global Dynamics Inc. She provides global consulting services to multicultural teams, corporate executives, cultural exchange organizations, and educational institutions. Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.