25 Fascinating Facts About Modern Greece

Posted by , Updated on March 21, 2024

Contemporary Greece is renowned, yet paradoxically burdened, by its rich history, cultural heritage, global contributions and the historical figures it has borne. Typically, when one thinks of Greece, they either marvel at its natural splendor or reflect upon its dynamic ancient history. In this list, though, we are shifting our focus to the charm and allure of present-day Greece, while deliberately not discussing its ancient history, which we assure you, was no simple task.


Greece Is the “Sunniest” Country In Europe


According to Greece: Enchantment of the World written by Ann Heinrichs, Greece enjoys on average more than 250 days of sunshine—or three thousand sunny hours—a year, which makes it one of the most sunny countries in the world and the most sunny in Europe.


A Greek Movie Included the First Nude Scene in European Cinema History


Greeks were always known, even in antiquity, for being comfortable with their sexuality and they made sure to express this in their cinema, too. In the very first Greek film shown abroad, Daphnis and Chloe (1931), the first nude scene in the history of European cinema was depicted.


Melbourne Is the City with the Largest Greek Population Outside Greece


According to the latest Australian census, Melbourne has the largest Greek population outside Greece with over 150,000 people being of Greek origin. That technically makes Melbourne the sixth biggest city in terms of Greek population.


Greek Women “Rule” The Country

Greek Women Rule

According to the 2011 census, Greece’s population is nearly 55% female and a little over 45% male. As a result, nearly 65% of all students in Greek universities are women. Also, women live longer in Greece: their life expectancy is 82.2 while for males it is an average of 77.


The Most Sexually Active Nation in the World


According to multiple official surveys conducted by Durex, the Greeks have won the title of the most sexually active nation for the past decade. According to last year’s Durex survey the results showed that Greeks have sex 164 times a year while Brazilians rank second with 145 times. For the record, Japanese ranked last with only 48 times per year.


Never Wave with the Palm of Your Hand Open in Greece


There’s a thing in Greece called moutza and it is one of the worst (if not the worst) insults in the country. Greeks are known for being loud, expressive people who don’t miss a chance to show their emotions or how they feel, and so by inventing the moutza they have managed to literally say it all with a simple move of their palms.


The Greek National Basketball Team Were the Last to Defeat the US “Dream Team”


The US Basketball team suffered multiple losses at the 2002 FIBA World Championships and the 2004 Olympics where they finished sixth and third, respectively, and they made sure to send their very best players to the 2006 FIBA World Championships. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, Kirk Hinrich, and Carmelo Anthony were smashing one team after another until they met the reigning European champions at the semifinals, Greece. In one of the best games in the history of the competition both teams showcased tremendous skill and talent with the Greek team shocking the world not just by winning but scoring over 100 points with the scoreboard reading Greece 101 – USA 95.


Greek Men Are the Eighth Tallest in the World

tall greeks

Despite the stereotypes that portray Greek men as usually short and hairy (this might be true, however, after all), according to a survey conducted by AskMen and thanks to the healthy Mediterranean diet and the mild weather, the country’s male population has an average height above 5’10”, which makes them the eighth tallest male population worldwide ahead of Ireland and the United States.


Greece Has Thousands of Islands


Even though Greece is only the ninety-seventh biggest country, with a total area of 131,957 km2 (50,949 square miles), it has more than three thousand islands and islets, of which only about 130 are inhabited, with a number of these being some of the most famous in the world. Among them Santorini has been named the most beautiful island in the world multiple times by various travel magazines, blogs, and TV channels including Lonely Planet, BBC, and CNN.


Greece Currently Has the Highest Unemployment Rate in the European Union

Unemployment Rate

Among the member states of the EU Greece holds the record for the highest unemployment rate with 26.4% while Spain follows with about 24.5%. While the average unemployment rate for the EU is 11.5%, Greece is one of the four countries (Italy, Spain, and Portugal being the others) that have suffered the most from the worst economic crisis the EU has ever faced.


There are More Than 4,000 Traditional Dances in Greece

DST postcard Cretan Dances2_T001053

Zorba the Greek, a film starring Anthony Quinn, made it known to the world how much the Greek people love to dance and break plates. Believe it or not Greeks love dancing so much that there are more than four thousand different traditional dances that come from all over Greece and this number accounts for only the officially recognized ones.


"Legally to Blame" for the Biggest Upset in Soccer History


Soccer is undoubtedly the most popular sport around the world and many great teams have experienced wild upsets throughout their histories. There have been a number of games that went against the favorites because of a particular set of circumstances but never again did such a dark horse team go on to win not just a game but also a major international tournament. Available at odds of up to 250–1 and having never won a game in any major tournament before, Greece managed to win the 2004 UEFA European Championship after eliminating a series of soccer’s superpowers one after the other including Spain, Russia, the reigning champions France, the Czech Republic, and host nation Portugal in the final.


Greece Is the Only Country in the World That Receives Double Its Population in Tourists


According to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises and World Travel and Tourism Council figures more than twenty-two million tourists from around the world visited Greece during 2014 and still counting. If one excludes the likes of Luxemburg, Cyprus, and Malta, each of which has a total population of less than a million citizens, Greece is the only country in the world whose tourists numbers are double its population (which stands at slightly less than eleven million). Tourism contributes about 20% to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), the highest rate statistically for any industrialized country worldwide.


Greek Is the Oldest Written Language Still in Existence


Even though the Chinese could easily challenge this honor, according to the archaeological finds we have at this point, Greek is considered the oldest written language still in existence with nearly five thousand years of continuous usage and is widely considered the richest and most influential worldwide since Latin, English, and Spanish (among other languages) were based, whether directly or indirectly, on the Greek language and alphabet.


Feta Cheese, Yogurt, Sea Sponges, Marble, and Olive Oil Are the Country’s “Superstars”


Feta cheese and Greek yogurt have risen in prominence the past few years, especially in the United States, while Greece has been traditionally one of the top producing nations of sea sponges, marble, and olive oil for years. It is estimated that nearly 9% of all the marble worldwide is produced in Greece alone.


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.


The Country with the Largest Maritime Fleet in the World, Statistically Speaking


With more than 3,100 merchant ships in service, Greece has the second-largest fleet in the world behind Japan and the largest statistically by far. Aristotle Onassis was one of the best known shipping businessmen in history and at his peak he was considered to be the richest man in the world.


Greeks Celebrate “Name Days” More Than Birthdays


In Greece one’s birthday traditionally isn’t the day each individual will have the biggest party. According to Greek tradition there’s a ‘’Name Day’’ for that. Each Orthodox Christian saint has a name day on which he or she is celebrated by the Church. People who share the same name also celebrate the day, often receive gifts from friends and family, and have huge parties that include lots of food, wine, dancing, and plate breaking.


Greece Has the Most Archaeological Museums in the World


Taking into account the country’s rich history and culture this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The most famous of all is the new Acropolis Museum that lies on a hill below the Parthenon. The museum has received several awards already and set a record in its first two months of operation: according to the museum’s website it was visited in its first sixty days by 523,540 people (an average of 9,200 a day) from 180 different countries.


Greece Isn’t Really the Country’s Name


The Greeks refer to their country as Hellas or Ellada and its official name is the Hellenic Republic. However, the vast majority of the world calls Greece, well . . . Greece. Why? The English word derives from the Latin Graecia, which was used by the Romans, and literally means “The land of the Greeks.”


Greece Was the First Country During WWII to Defeat an Axis Power 


The Greek army, though outnumbered three to one, was able to force the fascist Italians into retreating, with only seventy-seven aircraft, up against Italy’s 463 aircraft and 163 light tanks. Mussolini had to beg Hitler for help, which heavily taxed the Nazi forces. This was the first Allied victory against an Axis Power country which made British prime minister Winston Churchill say,

“Formerly we said that the Greeks fight like heroes. Now we shall say that heroes fight like Greeks.”

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