Expats doing business in Greece will find themselves in a challenging economic environment. A complicated and inefficient bureaucracy and a lack of access to regulatory information make it quite difficult for both expats and locals to start a business in Greece.
While much of Greece's economic activity is focused around Athens, the rest of the country offers opportunities as well. Some of the most prominent industries in Greece include tourism, shipping, agriculture, textiles and mining.
Business hours in Greece are from Monday to Friday, either from 8am or 9am to 4pm or 5pm.
While many Greeks do speak English, having a working grasp of the Greek language or going into business with a first-language speaker is often paramount to running a successful business.
Appearances are important in Greece, and expats doing business there should dress neatly and conservatively.
Gifts are generally not part of business relationships and may be construed as bribery, given the country's reputation for corruption. However, if a gift is given to an expat, it should be reciprocated with a gift of similar value.
While women are equal under the law, many Greeks retain a somewhat traditional view of gender roles, and men still outnumber women both in the general workforce and in executive positions.
Shaking hands is the most common business greeting in Greece. Eye contact is important.
Business culture in Greece
Greek culture shapes acceptable business practices. Expats will find that understanding local customs and values goes a long way toward understanding business culture too.
An emphasis on family and personal relations means that many Greeks like dealing with people that they know and trust. This contributes to widespread nepotism in Greek business culture. Greeks also prefer face-to-face meetings to emails and telephone calls.
Greeks maintain traditional views of democracy and honour. Meetings often entail vigorous exchanges of ideas, but expats should take care when disagreeing with a colleague – this should be done respectfully. Additionally, a lot of importance is placed on experience, and employees are expected to respect more senior colleagues.
Dos and don’ts of business in Greece
Do greet by shaking hands, smiling and maintaining eye contact
Don't be put off by personal questions – Greeks are warm and often curious people
Do be prepared to network and spend a lot of time getting to know associates
Do make sure that official documents and business cards are in both English and Greek
Don't be late, even if Greek associates are