25 Fascinating Facts About Modern Greece

Modern Greece is blessed and at the same time “doomed” to be famous for its immense history, culture, contributions to the world, and the historical figures it has produced. This is why when the average person thinks of Greece their mind automatically goes either to its natural beauty or to contemplating its vibrant ancient history. On today’s list however, we focus on the wonder and beauty of modern Greece and won’t mention ancient Greece at all, which, trust us, wasn’t easy.

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If a Greek “Spits” On You It’s Usually a Good Thing


It is believed (mostly by older Greeks) that spitting chases the devil and misfortune away. That is why when someone transfers bad news such as a death or an accident, the people who hear it will usually spit three times. Also, when a Greek person compliments your looks he or she will “spit” on you so that you will be protected from the evil eye, which is called mati in Greek.

However, keep in mind that Greeks don’t literally spit on you but just make a puff of breath through pursed lips, as if spitting. So no, you don’t have to keep a handkerchief with you in case you visit Greece next summer.


Most Medals Per Capita at a Singles Olympics in History


Greece is widely known as the motherland of the ancient Olympic Games but also holds a very notable record at the modern Games that not many are aware of. During the first modern Summer Olympics, held in Athens in 1896, Greece won a total of forty-six medals with a total population of 2.4 million at the time. In other words, Greece won one medal for every 52,900 citizens, setting an incredible record for the most medals won per capita at any Olympics. Bermuda came close at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal winning a medal with a total population of 53,200 but didn’t break the record for a few hundred citizens.


A Greek Scientist Invented the Pap Smear


The Papanicolaou test, widely known as the pap smear, is a test that saves millions of lives and one that all women have to help detect potentially cancerous and cancer cells in their reproductive organs. The test was invented by and named after the legendary Greek doctor Georgios Papanikolaou, but the Nobel Committee denied him the prize for funny reasons, and Time magazine described this case as one of the greatest robberies and farces in the history of the awards.


The Original Santa Claus Was Greek


Those who have done detailed research probably know that the image of the overweight man with a white beard, blue eyes, and pale skin who lives in Northern Europe is nothing but the creation of pop culture mixed with Scandinavian and Germanic pagan stories. The original, historical version of Santa Claus was a Greek bishop who lived in Myra in the fourth century and is better known as Saint Nicholas. He was skinny, had brown eyes and olive skin, and a reputation for secret gift giving: he would put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him and help the poor and children. Because of his generosity he became the basis, though not physically, for the modern Santa Claus.


Greece Has the Lowest Suicide Rate in the European Union


Even though suicide rates have risen dramatically (for Greek standards, that is) in the past five years in the country due to the economic crisis, Greece remains the country with the lowest suicide rate in the European Union and second in the Western world behind Malta. Before the economic crisis, however, only three countries globally (Nepal, Grenada, and Saint Kitts and Nevis) had fewer suicides than Greece.

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