The atmosphere of the Greek Islands is famously friendly and laid back, and the locals pride themselves on their 'no problem' attitude to tourists. However, there are a few rules of etiquette to be observed.
Nude bathing is illegal on some beaches and can be very offensive to more traditional Greeks, particularly if you are close to a church.
The 'mikro ipno', Greece's answer to the Spanish siesta, is widely observed, so excessive noise during the hours of 3 and 5pm is generally frowned upon.
Any sort of disrespect to the Greek state or the Orthodox Church will not be taken kindly. Verbal insults can be taken seriously and are punishable in the courts.
Family values are very strong throughout the islands and the family is the nucleus of the social structure. Elders are respected and children expect to take care of their parents and grandparents as they become older.
For security reasons, photography is forbidden near military installations. (Remember the case of the British plan spotters who ended up in a Greek jail in 2001!)
Service charges are included in most hotel, restaurant and taverna bills. However, a small additional tip is always appreciated as a reward for excellent service.
98% of Greeks are Greek Orthodox, with Muslim, Roman Catholic and Jewish minorities.
Evidence of life in the Greek Islands goes back to prehistoric times, but the glory days of pre-history were those of the Minoan civilization, which existed on Crete from 2100 to 1100 BC.
In the following centuries, several of the Greek Islands played major roles on the stage of history. St Paul visited Rhodes, which was also the headquarters of the famous crusading Knights of St John. In 1934 a disastrous earthquake almost totally annihilated the island of Kos. Zante has a rich historic and cultural legacy from Venetian occupation. And Kefalonia was famously occupied by the Italians during World War II, an event which inspired the best selling novel and hit movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin.
A strong testament to the islands' long and colourful histories, amazing heritage sites are scattered all over, including the awe inspiring acropolis at Lindos on Rhodes, the spectacularly set Chapel of Metamorfosis on Kos, the stunning Knossos Palace on Crete, and Zakynthos Town, known as the 'Venice of the East', not to mention natural wonders, such as the Melissani Cave on Kefalonia, where beautiful rock formations are enhanced by play of light on the cave walls.
The population of Greece and the Greek Islands is approximately 10.9 million, with 98% of the inhabitants being of Greek ethnic origin. The population density is around 83 people per square kilometre and the population growth rate is 0.19%.
The official language is Greek, but English is widely spoken in the major resorts and bigger towns. The Greek language has been spoken continuously for over 3500 years.
Eastern Orthodox Christianity is the official and dominant religion in Greece. Even during centuries of Ottoman rule, the Greek Orthodox Church preserved Greek language, values and national identity and was an important rallying force in the struggle for independence. Around 40,000 Greeks still use the ancient Greek language.
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