Along with kalimera, you've probably heard the residents of Greece saying "yassou" during your travels. Greeks often greet one another with the friendly and casual phrase. It is a multi-purpose term with a literal translation of "your health" in English and is used to wish good health upon a person. Sometimes, in informal settings like a casual bar, Greeks might also say "yassou" to make an informal toast in the same way Americans say "cheers."
On the other hand, in a formal setting like a fancy restaurant, Grecians will often use the formal "yassas" when greeting each other but might say "raki" or "ouzo" to toasting a drink in a traditional setting.
In other words, yassou is considered casual while yassas is considered to be a more respectful way to say "hello." You will often hear yassou used to address people younger than the speaker and yassas for greeting friends who are older than them, acquaintances, and family members.
If you're planning on visiting Greece, you can expect that Greeks 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.
You may also hear the word "ya" tossed around in casual settings which is an abbreviation of yassou/yassas. It is the Greek equivalent of saying hi or hey and shouldn't be used in formal settings.
Other Traditions of Greetings in Greece
Although you won't find it very hard to meet Greek people who also speak 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, you won't be expected to kiss each other's cheeks as a greeting. In fact, depending on where you're traveling in Greece, it is sometimes considered too forward to use this gesture.
In Crete, for instance, female friends might exchange kisses on the cheek when saying hello, but it's considered quite 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, regardless of gender.
Shaking hands is a standard form of greeting, but you should avoid doing so unless a Greek person extends their hand to you first. In that case, not returning the handshake would be rude.
More Ways to Say "Hello" and Helpful Terms to Know
When it comes to preparing for your travels to Greece, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the country's customs and traditions, but you might also want to brush up on some common Greek words and phrases.
Greeks use kalimera to say "good morning," kalispera to say "good evening," and antío for "goodbye." You may sometimes, though rarely, hear kalo mesimeri which means "good afternoon."
Other helpful terms including: efcharisto to say thank you, parakalo for please and sometimes even thank you, and kathika which means "I am lost." Ochi efcharisto means no thank you and nai means "yes" (even though it sounds like English for "no."
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.