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Greece: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Greece

Most Greek companies close completely through August for their annual summer holidays. Punctuality is expected for meetings, although a Greek host may keep a business visitor waiting for a short time. French, German and English are often spoken as well as Greek. It is usual to shake hands to greet a business contact but embracing and kissing colleagues is not uncommon, although not upon first acquaintance. Business cards are exchanged after introductions have been made. Business attire is relatively formal; men and women are expected to wear suits and men should also wear ties. More casual wear is sometimes acceptable during the summer but local businesspeople tend to dress conservatively.

Hospitality is an important part of Greek culture and visiting businesspeople may well be taken to lunch. Greeks do not drink excessively but they will appreciate it if foreigners show enthusiasm to sample Greek wines and spirits. Almost everyone smokes, so visitors should not be surprised by endless offers of cigarettes. Gifts from abroad are well received but not expected, unless a visitor is invited to a colleague's home, in which case a gift of wine, sweets or flowers is usual.

In Athens, the working day is fairly flexible. In general, offices are open Monday to Friday 0830-1630, although shops and banks may have different hours (smaller organisations still close for a siesta in the afternoon during summer).

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0830-1700.

Economy

While agricultural accession to the EU brought new focus to the Greek economy, particularly industrial sectors, in 2009 the Greek economy went into recession, contracting by 2%. Although Greece's financial struggles can be explained in part by the conditions that have affected the rest of the world, there are other factors that have contributed which are particular to the country.

The failure to address a growing budget deficit, falling state revenues and increased government expenditure have meant that Greece required the biggest bailout in recent history from the EU and IMF. The financial assistance has come with conditions and the new austerity measures, including dramatic cuts in public spending and increased taxes which have seen protests in the streets of Athens and anger amongst the country’s unions. The ratings agency S&A has already downgraded Greek debt, meaning Greece is now a viewed as highly risky place to invest. Unemployment in stood at 17% in May 2011 and was expected to increase. Inflation stood at 2.4% in July 2011. Further austerity measures imposed in 2011 included a massive privatisation scheme and the talk of possible default should Greece fail to appease its creditors.

Regardless of Greece's current financial situation, since the 1980s tourism has played an increasingly important part in the economy and it now accounts for 16% the country's GDP.

Greece has many convention centres and hotels with conference facilities. It also has ships equipped for 'floating conferences', sailing between the islands. For further enquiries, contact the Greek National Tourism Organisation (see Important Addresses).

GDP

US$312 billion (2011).

Main exports

Food and beverages, manufactured goods, petroleum, chemicals and textiles.

Main imports

Machinery, transport equipment, fuels and chemicals.

Main trading partners

Germany, Italy, Cyprus, Bulgaria, UK, Russia, China and France.

Keeping in Touch in Greece

Telephone

The best way to call home is from a call centre or internet café – public telephones are scarce and those that exist tend be on noisy street corners.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone companies. Coverage is excellent on the mainland and islands, but occasionally disappears in more rural locations.

Internet

Wi-Fi is widely available in Greece and in most establishments it is free to customers. Internet cafes in the cities and on the main islands of Crete, Kos, Mykonos and Rhodes, also offer Internet access.

Media

A free press operates in Greece, although material deemed offensive to the president or religious beliefs can lead to the prosecution of editors and publishers. It was only in the late 1980s that the virtual monopoly of state-run broadcasters came to an end, with the introduction of new commercial TV services. Peak-time TV schedules are dominated by news, domestically made variety programmes, comedies and game shows.

The country hosts about 1,700 private radio and TV stations, many of which are unlicensed, since broadcasting in Greece is relatively unregulated by European standards. An attempt made in 2001 to regulate the FM dial in Athens resulted in a political row. There are numerous daily newspapers in Athens including Eleftherotypia, Kathimerini and Ta Nea; Athens News is published weekly in English. Foreign-language newspapers are available in all the main tourist destinations, though on the more remote islands they may be a day out of date.

Post

All letters, postcards, newspapers and periodicals will automatically be sent by airmail. Airmail to the rest of Europe takes five days; six to North America; seven to Australia.

Post Office hours

In Athens, the main post office on Syntagma Square is open Mon-Fri 0730-2000, Sat 0730-1400 and Sun 0900-1330. Most smaller offices work Mon-Fri 0730-1400 only.

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