Last night I overheard a conversation between a Dutch guy and a Greek girl. She was from Crete, inviting him to visit her hometown of Iraklion. He got excited, started planning his visit, and when the date was set he asked. What is “deal” in Greek?, turns out many Greeks don’t know.
The Greek girl started thinking about this question. Together with other Greeks and myself, we started discussing the translation of making a deal in her language. Without result though. There is no translation, they said. There is no way to say to someone “Great plan! Let’s promise each other right now that we will do this in the future!”.
Turns out there is a saying in Greek. Ekleise h symfonia, closing the agreement, and among friends usually shortened to just Ekleise, closed. But the fact that only 1 out of 5 Greeks living in a foreign country is able to remember this saying for deal, shows something about the amount of deals the Greek make with each other.
We will talk
When I am with my Greek friends today, making a program for what we’re going to do tomorrow, we will never end our plan by saying deal! to each other. Instead, we will end our conversation the same way we do all of them, with “tha leme“.
Tha leme is Greek for we will talk later, or we will see each other. Without specifying when this later will be. Maybe the Greeks will speak the next day and execute the plan they made today. However, more often than not, they will forget about the agreement, talk on a later day, or come up with a new idea for spending their time.
The Greeks will always talk and spend time with each other, but will not make a plan for doing this. And when you don’t make deals like this, why should you remember the word for it?
Nothing is planned
The lack of planning in Greece does not only occur when doing simple things, like hanging out or going to the beach. There is a lack of bigger plans as well.
When I fly to Greece and need someone to pick me up from the airport, the Greeks will still say “tha leme!“. They will not just put the date on their calendar and promise me to be there. Instead, I will have to remind them multiple times in the weeks before I go and tell them to get in their car when my plane is about to leave the Netherlands. And even then, they will still say “tha leme”.
The same happens with birthday parties. The Greeks will tell when their birthday is, how they want to celebrate, and around which weekend this celebration will happen. But when you say that you want to come, they will reply with “tha leme“. You will not know the actual date and time of this birthday party until it starts, if it starts.
The only exceptions are baptisms and weddings.
The only way to make a plan with the Greeks is to arrange something right now. Because for a plan in the present, they are much better at saying deal!. Pame, let’s go! The only way you can ensure that your proposal of spending time with the Greeks is actually about to happen is with this word.
The nice thing about this culture is that you will never have to cancel something, and you will never have to go somewhere if you don’t want to. Everything you do with friends and family is kind of whatever and whenever you want. And having no schedule gives you more room to listen to yourself and don’t rush through life.
Tips for planning with the Greeks
However, some things are slightly annoying when they are not planned, especially when you are not a part of the Greek culture. The good thing is that the Greeks really don’t plan anything. So when you make a plan, stick to it, and remind them in the morning, they will usually say pame!, since they won’t have other things planned for that day. Just get them excited again and your agreement will work out.
When it is about business though, I would say, don’t trust them too much until you sign a contract. My boyfriend, for example, says to start a new company with a friend about once a week. However, none of these companies ever even started. The Greeks get really excited talking about things related to business, but like the other plans, they see the conversation more as a way to spend their time than they see it as an actual agreement. Even when they sound super excited and into doing it. They probably won’t.
But if you really want to do business with a Greek, again repetition helps. Keep repeating the things you want to do, keep meeting them and have the same conversation. In the end they will help you. It just takes some time to make a deal, because in Greek it can only happen today.
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