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10 useful things to know about Cretans for traveling to Crete

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If you’re planning a vacation to Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, it’s essential to grasp a bit of local culture to fully enjoy the experience.

Here are 10 useful things to know about Cretans before you go:

1) Boundless Hospitality and Honour

Cretans are renowned for their warm hospitality. Living here, I learned that there’s a word that describes the Cretan way of welcoming and wanting to make you feel at home: φιλοτιμο, “filotimo,”  which probably comes from τιμό τον φιλο, “timò ton filo” (I respect the friend). Whether you’re in a small mountain village or on a crowded beach, expect genuine smiles and an immediate sense of home.

2) Simple and delicious cuisine

Cretan cuisine is a true delight for the palate. From the famous Greek salad with tomatoes and feta to Dolmadakia (vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs), Gemistà, stuffed baked vegetables, and Moussaka (and there are many other examples), you can’t leave the island without tasting its traditional dishes prepared with fresh, local ingredients.

3) Language and Dialects

While Greek is the official language, many Cretans also speak the local Cretan dialect. Even if you don’t speak Greek, I have verified that learning some basic words can make a difference in your relationships with locals: they know their language is difficult, and they love it. If you make the effort to learn at least some words, they greatly appreciate it!

4) National and cultural pride

Cretans are extremely proud of their history and culture. Heroism during the Battle of Crete in World War II is a point of great pride for the islanders, as are struggles for independence from the Ottoman Empire.

5) Lively Traditions

Traditional music and dance are integral parts of Cretan culture. Don’t miss the opportunity to attend a live music evening or a village festival to fully immerse yourself in the vibrant local atmosphere. Also, don’t miss listening to Cretan music and discovering more about its beloved history and tradition. For me, it has been a step into a new world.

6) Healthy Gastronomy

The Cretan diet is known to be one of the healthiest in the world, characterised by an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, olive oil, and fish. Take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy delicious and nutritious dishes that will not only delight your palate but also contribute to your overall well-being.

7) Relaxed rhythms

Life in Crete moves at a slower pace, reflecting the relaxed attitude of its inhabitants. Take the time to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and immerse yourself in the island’s tranquil atmosphere. Probably, as it happened to me, one of the first expressions you will learn will be “sigà sigà” (slowly slowly): you will hear the locals invite you to take your time and enjoy your moments.

8) Local Hangouts and Music

Evenings in Crete are lively, especially during the summer. From traditional kafeneia to modern beach bars, there’s something for everyone. I recommend choosing traditional venues and visiting Kafenia to discover more about the Cretan lifestyle. 

9) Religious Festivals

Orthodox religion is deeply rooted in the daily life of Cretans, and religious festivals are celebrated with great devotion and joy. Participate in processions and local festivities to discover this unique aspect of Cretan culture.

10) Respect for Traditions

Although Crete has become a popular tourist destination, it’s important to respect local traditions and customs. Behaviours to avoid include being excessively noisy or inappropriate, especially in sacred places.

With these travel tips in mind, you’re ready to fully immerse yourself in the culture and hospitality of Cretans when travelling to Crete.

Happy travels!

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