The Real Meaning of the Greeting "Yasou" in Greece

'Little Venice' in Mykonos, Greece
Marcel Germain / Getty Images

The residents of Greece often greet one another with a friendly and casual "yasou" (yasoo / yassou), a multi-purpose term meaning "your health" in Greek and meant to imply a well-wishing of good health. Sometimes, in informal settings like a casual bar, Greecians might also say "yasou" in the same way Americans say "cheers."

On the other hand, in a formal setting like a fancy restaurant, Greecians will often use the formal "yassas" when saying hello but might use "raki" or "ouzo" for toasting a drink in a traditional setting.

In other words, yasou is considered casual while yassas is considered to be a more respectful way to say "hello." Greecians will also often address younger countrypeople with yasou while reserving yassas for greeting older friends, acquaintances, and family members.

If you're planning on visiting Greece, you can expect that Greecians in the tourist industry will almost exclusively use yassas when addressing visitors. For those working in hospitality and restaurant services, tourists are considered honorable and honored guests.

Other Traditions of Greetings in Greece

Although you won't find much difficulty in meeting a Greecian who also speaks English, you'll still likely be greeted by "yassas" when you sit down at a restaurant or check-in to your hotel.

Unlike in France and some other European countries, cheek kissing as a sign of greeting is not the norm. In fact, depending on where you go in Greece, it's sometimes considered too forward to use this gesture.

In Crete, for instance, female friends might exchange kisses on the cheek, but it's considered rude for a man to greet another man this way unless they're related. In Athens, on the other hand, it is deemed to be rude to use this gesture on a total stranger.

Also, unlike in America, shaking hands is not a common form of greeting, and you should avoid doing so unless a Greecian extends their hand to you first.

More Ways to Say "Hello"

When it comes to preparing for your travels to Greece, you'll want to familiarize yourself with these customs and traditions, but you might also want to brush up on some common Greek words and phrases.

Greeks use kalimera for "good morning," kalispera for "good evening," efcharisto for "thank you," parakalo for "please" and sometimes even "thank you," and kathika for "I am lost." Although you'll find almost everyone in the tourist industry speaks at least a little English, you might surprise your host if you use one of these common phrases in conversation.

When it comes to understanding the language when you're in Greece, though, you'll also need to familiarize yourself with the Greek alphabet, which you'll likely see on road signs, billboards, restaurant menus, and pretty much everywhere writing appears in Greece.

Was this page helpful?