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Greek cultural concept in a globalized world and relevant research questions


Things are changing fast. A plethora of factors such as mass-media communication advances, reduction in trade barriers, technological innovations, and increased international travel all seem to orchestrate the globalization phenomenon (e.g., Arnett, 2002). However, experiencing such a globalized dynamic state of things should not appear that surprising.


Given early quotation utterances by ancient philosophers, the world’s globalized regime appears easier to grasp from a conceptual standpoint. For instance, Socrates (496-399 B.C.) insisted that “I am not an Athenian or a Greek but a citizen of the world” therefore, highlighting the necessity of preserving a global rather than solely a national identity. The pre-Socratic “dark” philosopher Heraclitus (fl. c. 500 B.C.) argued that “One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition…” (e.g., see Kahn, 1981). More precisely, per this Cosmologist, the world is in a flux state and dynamically progresses upon the harmonious coexistence of opposites.


Within this modern dynamic context, both national culture, as the shared similarity of a society and values as a set of enduring beliefs situated in a culture’s hard core (e.g., see Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov, 2010), are of significance through a cross-cultural management prism. In fact, if we are to examine modern International Business dynamics then it is of utmost importance (a) that culture is thoroughly explored and (b) that this exploration rests upon proper theoretical paradigms. Such a paradigm appears to be that of the Yin Yang which exemplifies the dynamic rather than the static nature of a culture.


The present paper centers on investigating a South-European culture namely that of Greece from a Yin Yang theoretical perspective. Greece or Hellas[1] has been considered as the cradle of Western Civilization. In this circumstance, research questions are:


  • Are there certain value orientations adopted within the Greek cultural frame or do there exist opposing value forces which emerge dependent upon circumstantial factors?

  • How does the paradox inherent in the Hellenic culture contribute to successful business conduct in a globalized world?


In order to answer the aforementioned queries, the paper follows analogous research propositions set within the Yin Yang paradigm (e.g., Fang, 2012). More specifically, each of these propositions examines a culture’s paradoxical identity from a different angle. Therefore, after a brief notice on Ancient Greek philosophical streams relevant to the Yin Yang theory, a short review as to the Greek national culture is made (Proposition three). Moreover, prominent value orientations as well as trigger events demonstrated in a series of periods comprising the Hellenic history over the last 200 years are identified. Next, via the employment of Hellenic proverbial expressions, value fluctuations within the Greek culture are pinpointed (Proposition one). Following, alternative aspects as to the Greek negotiation profile are presented (Proposition two). Such aspects help in providing additional knowledge next to stereotypical assertions as those have been established in the literature (Gesteland, 2005). Finally, in order that the Hellenic culture’s unique value portfolio is highlighted, a case study approach is followed (Proposition four).


Greek national culture over time


Greece holds a prominent position from a historical and a cultural standpoint. Albeit, this paper basically follows the Greek culture over the last 200 years, a swift review of philosophical theories relevant to that of Yin Yang is of importance. More specifically, per the historical sources a first theory is that of Heraclitus (fl. c. 500 B.C.) on the harmonious coexistence of the opposites. According to the philosopher’s words: “All entities move and nothing remains still.” Moreover, apart from identifying the absolute dynamism of things Heraclitus asserted that such dynamism relies on the continuous transition from one thing to its opposite (e.g., day and night, sleep and awake, hot and cold). Thus, according to the philosopher there emerges a harmonious interconnection between opposites where each of these opposites would not be possible to exist without the other. Furthermore, this unity is exemplified in momentary states such as that of the archer and his bow. In particular, the archer’s arms and the parts of his instrument are stretched in opposite directions just before the arrow is released (Kahn, 1981). It is exactly this unity of opposites that permeates reality.


Of similar significance appears to be Plato’s (427-347 B.C.) Dialectics as an argumentation method in order to resolve disagreements resting upon oppositional arguments. In short, as a method dialectics involves contradiction (e.g., Audi, 1999) and relies on constant refutation so that the truth may be discovered. More than this argumentation method, there does also exist the Cyclical Argument posed by Socrates in order to argue for the immortality of man’s soul in Plato’s Phaedo. Ultimately, the cyclical argument by means of analogous examples shows that things that have opposites come to be from their opposites. One falls asleep after having been awake. And after being asleep, he awakens.


Moving from the ancient to the Modern Greek times, there appears that throughout the years, Greeks survived within very painful situations (e.g., Rawlins, 2004). In this case, history during the last two centuries is partitioned by mostly resting upon previous scientific endeavors (e.g., Clogg, 1992).


1. Ottoman rule and the emergence of the Greek state: 1770-1831


Brief review of events: Weakening of the Ottoman Empire, series of diplomatic maneuvers with the Great Powers (England, France and Russia) so that independency is gained, the Greek revolution of 1821 and the establishment of the Greek independent state in 1830.

Value orientations: Freedom & Independence

Trigger event: The Act of Submission sent in 1825 by Greek representatives to the foreign secretary of England George Canning (1770-1827). More specifically, according to this Act it was proposed that the Greek country became an English protectorate.


2. Nation building, the ‘Great Idea’ and national schism: 1831-1922


Brief review of events: From Otto’s monarchy (1832-1862) through the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 and the National Schism (1916) to the Asia Minor catastrophe (1922).

Value orientations: National Dominance and National Identity.

Trigger event: Election result of 1920 and further promotion of national schism.


3. Catastrophe and occupation and their consequences: 1923-1949


Brief review of events: From the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 and the population exchange (>1000000 refugees) to the Greek resistance during the German Occupation (1941-1944) and the Civil War 1946-1949.

Value orientations: Affection and Unity.

Trigger event: Idionym law in 1929 which criminalized subversive ideas and repressed trade union action. In addition, political manifestations named Dekembriana (i.e., facts occurring in December) in 1944 between communists and the political regime.


4. The legacy of civil war: 1950-1974


Brief review of events: From Karamanlis’ ascending to power in 1955, through the Junta (i.e., dictatorship) of the Colonels in 1967 and the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in 1973 to the fall of the Junta and Karamanlis’ return (political changeover / Metapolitefsi).

Value orientations: Reconstruction and Stability.

Trigger event: Gregorios Lambrakis (1912-1963), a deputy of the United Democratic Left party was assassinated by far right elements or the Parastate as it was to be known.


5. The consolidation of democracy and the populist decade: 1974-1990


Brief series of events includes: From political changeover and membership in EC in 1981 through the Allagi (change) concept of Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and to New Democracy party’s (i.e., the right-wing) governance.

Value orientations: Modernization and National Pride.

Trigger event: George Koskotas financial scandal in 1988 which showed that patronage /“rouspheti” (reciprocal exchange of favors) method was practiced in political cycles.


6. Balkan turmoil and political modernization: Greece in the 1990s


Brief review of events: From continuous emigration of foreign people (≈500000) through the Treaty of Maastricht (1992) and foreign relations mobility (e.g., Imia, earthquakes) to protestations due to a political decision about the non-inclusion of religion in the new IDs.

Value orientations: Consolidation and further Westernization.

Trigger event: Major protestation of Hellenes in 2000 over the controversial issue of non-inclusion of religious belief in the new identity cards.

“Yin Yang – A New Perspective on Culture”: is a research project where 40 researchers from 38 countries have been chosen to participate after a rigorous selection process. More specifically, those young research scholars will closely collaborate in exploring the dynamics of their respective national cultures by employing the Yin Yang philosophical paradigm as adopted by Professor Tony Fang. More thoroughly by grounding in a series of specific research propositions, the Yin Yang paradigm accepts that a dynamic “both/and” rather than static “either/or” approach is in need so as to properly demystify national cultures and investigate the multi-cultural state of the modern globalized world.


The first inaugural Yin Yang conference took place in Stockholm in June 2012.

"Exploring the Modern Greek Culture

with a Yin Yang compass."   

Ioannis G. Theodorakis


7. From the 2000s to the economic crisis: 2010 and forward


Brief review of events: From full membership in European Monetary Union in 2002 through the Olympic Games (2004) to the 2010-2012 bailouts and austerity measures.

Value orientations: A Sense of National Accomplishment and further Modernization. After 2010 the value of Security (both National and Family) emerges as the most prominent.

Trigger event: Wild protestations in 2008 due to the killing of a young student by a special police guard in Athens as well as the election result of May 6th of 2012 when bipartisanship was shaken for the first time since 1974 (Metapolitefsi).


Greek paradoxical proverbs


Proverbs as fixed utterances which denote well-known truths, moral themes and social norms (cf. Gibbs, 2001) stand for proper means so as for the decoding of the national culture riddle. By considering established bipolar indicators proverbs moving along both poles are set forward. Albeit, 16 proverbs [i.e., 2 (proverbs) X 4 (cultural indicators) X 2 (poles)] have been discovered only half will be presented due to obvious space constraints. Thus:


  1. Power Distance (large vs. small): “(Obey) The lord of your region (and) the Saint of your village” vs. “One dance it is we are dancing and one is the song we are singing”.

  2. Individualism vs. Collectivism: “The wolf has a thick neck because he does his businesses alone” vs. “One hand washes the other and both (may) wash the face”.

  3. Masculinity vs. Femininity: “Will worth more than gold” vs. “Do what is good (for others) and throw it in the sea” (e.g., Smirniotakis and Sifakis, 2008).

  4. Uncertainty avoidance (strong vs. weak): “It is better to have five in hand than wait for ten” vs. “No ship can sail in shallow waters”.


Greek paradoxical business behavior


This part aims at providing alternatives to established stereotypes concerning the Greek negotiation profile (e.g., Gesteland, 2005). Presently, an excerpt of this part is offered including few of the most significant findings:


  1. Initial contact / relationship building: Contacts But: Internet rise, Medium-Sized Enterprises modernization, crisis.

  2. Wining and Dining: Relationship oriented / frequent client visits But: Work oriented (longest working hours in Europe[2]), crisis’ impact to time management.

  3. Non-verbal behavior: (a) Small space bubble, (b) steady eye contact and (c) gestures and facial expressions But: (a) May grow bigger upon philotimia / philotimon (sense of honor) stimulation, (b) Gaze may induce Greeks’ argumentative nature (e.g., Kakava, 2002), (c) Church going and discrete behavior.

  4. Business protocol: (a) Formal greeting, (b) emotionally expressive and (c) women in business may confront difficulties But: (a) Greeks are considered among the most social and hospitable people, (b) “Whoever holds his tongue saves his head” plus Greece as the birthplace of Rhetoric: appeal to reason and (c) there is an increased presence of women in managerial positions as well as in entrepreneurship.

  5. Negotiation tips: Building bargaining room and conditional concession But: Faith may be placed upon Hellenic people’s philotimon.


Managing culture, business and leadership in organizations in globalization


As previously noted the dynamic state of the modern world makes it imperative that corresponding approaches will be employed so as for its investigation.


In order to verify the importance of those theories (e.g., Fang, 2012), a qualitative case study grounded in a series of semi-structured interview processes is to be applied. Unit of analysis is a Greek-owned firm named Coco-Mat S.A.. The specific firm produces all natural bedding, furniture and relevant products. It is philosophically inspired by Morpheus (shaper of dreams in Greek Mythology) and Hippocrates (5th B.C.) who is the father of Medicine.


Criteria upon which Coco-Mat S.A. was selected are that: (a) It is Greek-owned but has multicultural personnel (people from 28 different nationalities), (b) it has prominent international activity, (c) it shows fast development (it is included in Europe’s 500 fastest growing firms) (cf. Tzivilakis, 2012) and (d) it offers accessibility to necessary data.





[1] Greece is also known as Hellas and Greeks prefer calling themselves Hellenes. The term Hellenes comes from the name of an ancient tribe which settled in Thessaly (north-west part of Greece) in ancient times. On the other hand, the term Greek is derived from Graii and then Graeci as Hellenes of Cumae, (a colony established in the northeast of Naples in Italy in the 8th century B.C.) called themselves (e.g., Rawlins, 2004). Despite the important differences between the names Greek and Hellenic in terms of semantic and historical connotations, they will be used interchangeably for the purposes of the present summary.


[2] For further details see:


Clogg, R., 1992. A concise history of Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fang, T., 2012. Yin Yang: A new perspective on culture. Management and Organization Review, (Forthcoming).

Gesteland, R., 2005. Cross-cultural business behavior. Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press.

Gibbs, R.W. Jr., 2001. Proverbial themes we live by. Poetics, 29(3), pp. 167-88.

Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J. and Minkov, M., 2010. Cultures and organizations Software of the mind (3rd Ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Kahn, C.H., 1981. The art and thought of Heraclitus An edition of the fragments with translation and commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rawlins, C. L., 2004. Culture Shock! Greece A Guide to Customs and Etiquette. Singapore: Times Books International.

Smyrniotakis, Y. and Sifakis, Y., 2008. 17000 Greek proverbs thematically classified (in Greek). Athens: Smyrniotakis Editions.

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