“Kalimera” and “Koukla mou” – Greek greetings you’re sure to hear when you visit

Kalimera and Koukla mou - Greek greetings you're sure to hear when you visit the country- LifeBeyondBorders
Kalimera and Koukla mou - Greek greetings you're sure to hear when you visit the country- LifeBeyondBorders

We’ve looked at some odd Greek superstitions such as why Greeks might spit at you when you visit (truly! But don’t worry, it’s a compliment).  There are also some really helpful tips about Do’s and Don’t in Greece – Greek Customs and Etiquette that’ll help you when you plan your visit (what’s right in one culture isn’t necessarily so in another, right?) Now let’s take a look at some Greek phrases you’re sure to hear when you visit this beautiful country.  It’s always good to understand a little, right?

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Kalimera

Kalimera (pronounced as it is literally spelt: Kali mera) means Good morning and is heartily bestowed upon anybody who is walking past (obviously at the correct time of day).  Even in the centre of Athens, you can leave your flat and be Kalimera’d at least 3 or 4 times by strangers – so imagine how many times you have to repeat it as you walk past your neighbourhood bakery, hairdressers, man at the bottom of the street selling flowers, the people sitting outside the kafenion, etc.


Personally, I love this start to the day. It makes such a change from the unspoken no eye contact rule in bigger cities.  It doesn’t mean people will stop and have a full blown conversation with you, so if you’re not a morning person, don’t worry, you don’t have to avoid all human contact in Greece in the mornings, just know that people will smile and probably wish you a “kalimera”.

Visiting Athens and want to know some alternative places to visit beyond the tourist traps? Read my Insiders Guide to Visiting Athens to help you, my Greek Island all round packing list (also suitable for Athens) to help you decide what to pack for visiting any time of the year – and if you’re heading off to the islands and want some advice as to which ones to visit, my Insider’s Guide to the Greek Islands will help.

Koukla Mou

Another popular word you may hear bandied around is koukla mou, but what does koukla mou mean in Greek?
I find it a lovely phrase.  It literally means “my doll” and is said (usually) by old women to little children, or by old women to me as they grab my cheek and affectionately pull it – I don’t know why I seem to invite old women into my personal space to touch and prod me, but they do and actually, it’s kinda nice.
Sometimes, men use it when trying to let you know they think a lot of you.  It’s the mou at the end of the sentence that does it – it personalises it to my.  And even when men use it, it doesn’t sound sleazy or flirty, just really, really nice.  In Greek, the koukla mou meaning is a term of endearment.  And besides, despite the language differences, you can usually tell when someone’s using a sleazy tone and trying to pick you up.
An example of the use of koukla mou: As I exit a taxi ride, I pay my fair, thank the man in Greek  – Efaristou and I may receive a “Parakalo, koukla mou” (“You are welcome, my doll”).
Next time you’re visiting Greece, listen out for these phrases.
Other lovely phrases include:
  • Koritzi mou (My Sweetheart)
  • Kopela mou (My Girl)

What phrases have you heard when visiting a foreign country that stick in your mind? Anything memorable? Share in the comments.

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Kalimera and Koukla mou - Greek phrases you're sure to hear when you visit Greece
Kalimera and Koukla mou – Greek phrases you’re sure to hear when you visit  Image © Russell Yan from Pixabay

Header image © nonbirinonko from Pixabay

This post was originally written in April 2012 as part of a blogging challenge, and only 2 years into my time in the country. It has been revised and updated in May 2018 – a full 6 years after I came here!

5 COMMENTS

  1. There are plenty more lovely sayings/expressions where these came from – one day when you come, you’ll hear them all.
    Thanks for your comments and glad you’re liking the blog entries.

  2. I love the idea of frequent kalimera’s Bex. Awesome! What a change up from a big city like NYC; as noted it is an unspoken, no chat or eye contact rule, and creates the ridiculous feeling that among 11 million people you actually feel alone. Meanwhile here in New Zealand, I feel surrounded by humanity when 5 or 10 folks greet me and befriend me, or at least address me with a cordial “Hi”, any day I wander around.

    Ryan

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