Doing Business with the Greeks
It is widely known that the history of Greece has influenced the rest of Europe to great extents. Ancient Greece laid the foundation for Western civilisation as we know it today, forming the basis for democracy, western philosophy, western literature, the Olympics and much more. The Greek people are very proud of their rich history, and some of their key cultural aspects are a result of this history, like their ability to reason and their preference for rational debate. The Greeks also have a very strong sense of freedom: their national motto, freely translated, comes down to “Freedom or death”.
Building a relationship
Their strong love of freedom leads to them to take their time for everything if necessary, and to strongly value personal relationships over business. Therefore, when establishing contact with Greek people for the first time, it is recommended to be introduced through personal contacts, as this will work much better than trying to start a relationship out of nothing. Present yourself as a warm and friendly person who shows interest in their personal life as well, as this will greatly benefit the potential relationship.
Once initial contact has been started, expect to invest a lot of time and energy in maintaining this relationship on a personal level. Never expect to get a deal done within a short time frame. A strong personal relationship is needed before they trust you enough to do business with you. You can impress them by showing knowledge of their rich history and by using their native language. During communication with the Greeks, expect a lot of physical contact, as touching is very common in Greece. This also means that the main way of communicating with them should mainly be by personal contact. E-mails, phone conversations, etc. all work well for small things, but they can only take you so far.
Like any other country or culture, there are specific do’s and don’ts when communicating. What you should never do when dealing with Greek people is talk about the decline of the international importance of Greece. Basically don’t ever mention anything negative about Greece’s history, including the recent financial issues. Politics is also a subject you definitely want to stay away from, and last but not least do your best not to appear too naïve. In contrast to some other cultures where people can sometimes be very open and honest about their history, with the Greeks you want to stick with the positive, and avoid the negative.
What you definitely should do is to try to use at least some of their language, to be open, warm and friendly, and at the same time to make strong eye contact. Be flexible with official details like terms or specific business deal aspects. Some flexibility is also needed when it comes to time management. You should expect them to be rather flexible, and therefore it will also be a good idea to adopt a flexible attitude regarding time yourself.
Putting it all together, you will have to invest a lot of time and energy in establishing and maintaining a successful business relationship with the Greek. You will want to avoid all negativity, and put all the focus on strengthening the personal relationship at all times. But never take the relationship for granted. You will want to keep visiting them on a regular basis in order to keep it going for a long time.