Why You'll Be Met With A Dirty Look After Waving 'Hello' To A Local In Greece

While waving at strangers may seem like a straightforward way to engage with others while traveling, members of some cultures find this off-putting or even offensive. You may encounter the latter response in Greece, depending on how you hold your hand as you complete the action. The "rock on" or metal horn hand sign, an innocuous gesture usually associated with going hard at a concert in the U.S., may earn you a similar response. If you flash that symbol in Greece, Spain, or Italy, you could signal to someone that they are being cheated on.


Men in these countries will likely find the metal horns hand sign particularly offensive. Franciso Almeida Leite, the political editor of a Portuguese daily paper, told Vice, "It's a great thing to do if you want to start a fight." It's hard to imagine that something as innocent as a hello or goodbye wave could be interpreted on a similar level. Yet, it's true in Greece and something you should be aware of if you plan to visit the mainland or spend a week exploring the Greek islands.

Waving resembles an offensive gesture in Greece

Although not the same as a standard wave, holding your palm out with your fingers extended can be super offensive in Greece. Locals use this symbol, known as the moutza, to show extreme displeasure or disapproval, so don't be surprised if you see it in road rage situations. Consider it similar to flipping someone the middle finger in the United States.


This tradition goes back to the Byzantine Empire when criminals were smeared with donkey poop. It's not surprising that signs mean so much in Greece since the culture is laden with gestures in language. The moutza issue also applies when trying to indicate the number five to someone, in which case you want to keep your palm facing inward rather than out. Otherwise, you've strayed into moutza territory once again.

To avoid this problem altogether, consider not waving during a trip to Greece. The last thing you want is a gesture of greeting or parting to incur someone's wrath. Stick with a simple "hello" instead when visiting a mesmerizing Greek island.