During your stay in Greece, while sipping coffee in front of the sea, you will hear the phrase, “siga siga” all around you. But what does it mean? Is it an exotic island like Bora Bora, or the scientific name of an animal like Vulpes Vulpes? Why would all the Greeks keep talking about this mysterious place or animal? How can something be so important that all Greeks need to remind each other about it all the time?
Meaning of Siga Siga
One thing is sure. “Σιγά-σιγά” is very important to the Greeks. However, it is not an animal, nor an exotic island. Siga siga is not an actual physical thing, it is a way of life. It is one of the simplest but most identifying phrases the Greeks use.
If you search on Wiktionary you will find the following three explanations of siga-siga. Gradually, carefully, and very slowly. But I will add one more. Relaxingly! Because, although siga means slowly, siga-siga does not simply mean doing things twice as slow. It is a mindset rather than a speed limit.
Example no.1: Relax
Imagine you are in line to buy a ticket for a concert of your favorite band. It is crowded and people start getting impatient. They start pushing and trying to skip the line. At that point, you hear someone shouting ” Σιγά-σιγά ρε παιδιά. Φτάνουν για όλους”. Relax children! There is enough for everyone.
Example no.2: Careful
For our next example, imagine you are on an expedition. Indiana Jones-style, in the wild, with your best friend. In front of you, is a flimsy wooden suspension bridge. After a quick discussion, you decide that you will be the one going over the bridge first. Your friend will say to you “Σιγά-σιγά φίλε μου. Η γέφυρα δεν είναι σταθερή”. Careful my friend. The bridge is not stable.
Example no.3: Slow down
Or you are sitting in an amazing ταβέρνα, a tavern, next to a beach with golden sand and clear blue water. But you are hungry and eating way too fast. Your partner will say “Σιγά-σιγά παιδάκι μου, δεν θα σου κλέψουν το φαγητό”. Slow down my boy, no one will steal your food.
Example no.4: Gradually
Lastly, you are thinking about the next big business idea and you are getting anxious about what comes next in life. Your friend says “Σιγά-σιγά και όλα θα γίνουν”. Gradually everything will be done.
Live as relaxed as possible
So, what we found out until now is that σιγά-σιγά is a versatile phrase that can be used in almost every situation, explaining a physical or a mental state. You can use it while eating, drinking, traveling, swimming, thinking, or just existing. And this last bit is what makes this phrase unique. Σιγά-σιγά is a way of life.
Life nowadays moves quickly, there is no time to think, and stress is everywhere. Have you ever heard about the Blue Zones? There are 5 areas around the world with the highest percentage of octogenarians in the world. What they all have in common is a stressless life. Not an easy life, just stressless. One of those 5 magical areas is the island of Ikaria in Greece. Life there is slow, someone could say life is passing “σιγά-σιγά”. And this is what most Greeks are trying to find in their hectic lives.
Striving for a more relaxed life is not a new thing and is even documented in our culture through poems and songs. One of Greece’s most influential poets Constanine P. Cavafys wrote the famous poem Ithaka. In it, he says “Αλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξείδι διόλου” meaning “But do not hurry the journey at all”. With it this poem he tries to remind us about the importance of the journey of life and changing our mindset.
Being reminded that you need to relax and slow down can do wonders. No human is a machine, our bodies and minds need the time to recover, think and process the millions of stimuli we live amongst.
Try to slow down because on this trip you will learn and enjoy everything that the world has to offer.
Remember to say σιγά-σιγά
So next time you are in Greece remember to say σιγά-σιγά when you are:
- Traveling: enjoy the magnificent view and the sun charging your inner battery.
- Eating a meal: food in Greece is not only about combating our hunger. Talk with your friends and family or make new friends from the table next to you.
- Drinking coffee: relax and enjoy every sip of your tasteful coffee or drink. No one is coming to get you.
- Waiting: is your friend a bit late or are you stuck in a queue. Just look around and σιγά-σιγά everything will be solved.
- Sleeping: yes I know it sounds stupid. But trust me, a lot of us are stressed even during our sleep.