When preparing for a trip to Greece, it's best to familiarize yourself with the local language and customs before you go. Knowing how to say thank you ("efkharistó") or goodnight in Greek ("kalinikta") can go a long way to making new friends during your vacation.
Greetings in Greek are time-sensitive, so whether you are saying hello or goodbye, you need to know the right phrase for the right time of day; fortunately, there are a few commonalities between greetings that make it easier to learn Greek quickly.
Whether it is morning, evening or nighttime, all of the greetings begin with "kali," which generally means "good." The time of day then dictates the suffix—"kalimera" for good morning, "kalomesimeri" for good afternoon, "kalispera" for good evening, and "kalinikta" for good night.
Another much more rare way to say "goodnight" in Greece, like one might in the United States, is to wish someone "kali oneiros" or "oneira glyka," which is intended to mean "sweet dreams."
Kalispera Versus Kalinikta: Ending the Night in Greece
When it comes to using friendly greetings appropriately during your trip to this Mediterranean country, it's important to keep in mind that while "good evening" and "good night" might be used interchangeably in the United States, "kalispera" and "kalinikta" are not.
Greecians almost exclusively use kalinikta to end a night—right before they're departing from the last bar of the night or heading off to bed when staying with friends and family.
On the other hand, Greecians will use "kalispera" when leaving one group of people at a restaurant to head out to drinks with another group. Essentially, kalispera is used in the same way as "good morning" and "good afternoon," suggesting a continuation of the day rather than a finality to the goodbye.
Other Ways to Say "Hello" in Greece
While learning to respond with the appropriate phrase for the time of day will likely impress Greecians you encounter on your travels, there are many other common greetings and phrases in the Greek language you're likely to encounter—especially if you start with "kalispera."
If you simply want to say "hello" to someone your age you meet at a bar or club, you can say "yasou," but if you want to show respect, you'll want to say "yassas" instead. Also, don't forget to ask for something nicely by saying "parakaló" ("please") and thanking the person in response by saying "efkharistó" ("thank you").
When it comes to departing from your newfound friends, there are several ways to say "goodbye," including simply wishing that person a "good afternoon." On the other hand, you could also say "antío sas," which roughly translates to "goodbye."
Although these phrases may help you break the ice, learning Greek fully can take a while. Fortunately, most Greecians also speak English, and many are willing to help you learn Greek—especially if you demonstrate your interest in their language by learning these phrases.