Surviving bouzoukia in Greece


Bouzoukia, as an institution in the nightlife in Greece, are connected with a whole culture. Surviving bouzoukia in Greece is not difficult, but you might be little shocked at first, because in some cases bouzoukia are synonymous to vulgarity.

Here is a short Survival Guide for Bouzoukia in Greece.

Making Reservations for Bouzoukia Clubs

If you want to go to bouzoukia, especially where a famous artist sings, you should make a reservation well in advance. It is recommended to schedule it at least 2 weeks earlier. Nowadays, due to the economic crisis bouzoukia are not as packed as they used to be, so you can make a reservation even just a couple of days earlier, but if you want to be sure you will find a table, you should not wait on such a short notice.

Typically you make a reservation for a table for 2,4, 6 or as many as you want. The club managers prefer even numbers, so if you are 3 people, you might end up in a table for 6 with other 3 people you don’t know. That happens a lot, especially when the place is packed.

When you make a reservation you cannot reserve a particular table, unless you are rich, famous or a personal friend of the table manager. However, if you want to impress your friends, you can always go to the club earlier, tip the manager and ask for a better table, if you are not satisfied with the random selection.

What time to go to bouzoukia?

The program at bouzoukia clubs begins usually around 11 pm. However, you should expect the less known artists to open the program; the divas come out around midnight. However, lately, most bouzoukia clubs schedule an early show on Sundays that starts around 9 pm, since most people have an early wake up next morning for work.

Bouzoukia are known to be the place to stay all night long. In some cases you will not leave before 5am, and even later – or earlier in the morning, depends how you see it. Make sure that you have slept a little in the afternoon so that you can stand the night out!

Throwing flowers at the bouzoukia

As mentioned above, the throwing and smashing plates practice is rarely seen today. Plates have been replaced with throwing more harmless objects, such as flowers.

Within bouzoukia premises there is some special staff, usually women that go around the tables selling trays of carnations. Clients buy these trays of ten or twenty carnations, to shower with them their dancing friends or the singers. Quite often clients buy 10 or 20 trays of flowers and throw them along the trays to the performers on stage.

Throwing flowers massively is a way of showing of your social status. This is usually done by guests at the front tables, which are the most advantageous ones. The flowers thrown by a company at bouzoukia can exceed the cost of the drinks they have consumed or even the basic salary.

flowers at the bouzoukia in greece
The floor in front of the famous Greek singer Vassilis Karras is covered with flowers

Smoking at the bouzoukia

If you cannot stand cigarettes smoke, you should never go to bouzoukia. At these clubs there is no division into smoking and non smoking area… just because almost everyone smokes.

It is a fact that around 50% of the Greeks are smokers and bouzoukia-nightclubs must be the smokiest place you could go to. Some of the guests who’d like to show off may even light a cigar at bouzoukia. Being aware of that bad habit of Greeks, bouzoukia owners sale at the clubs “wardrobe” cigarettes packages.

However, the newest development regarding smoking at bouzoukia is that smoking is prohibited! Since September 1st 2010, smoking is prohibited in all closed public areas in Greece, including restaurants, bars and bouzoukia. The owners of large nightclubs are objecting, suggesting that no Greek can have a really good time and enjoy his drink without a cigarette.

singer at the bouzoukia in greece

Greek Bouzoukia Dress Code

Starting from the look of the clientèle of bouzoukia, we should notice that everyone is dressed up. Greeks  generally like to dress up to go out at night, and the more stylish the place the better they try to look.

At bouzoukia you will see men in suits and women in with glamorous make up, fine coiffures and their best outfit, which means short and revealing dresses and anything that is eye catching and can make a good impression. In some cases women might also compete a little, on who is wearing the sexiest or most attractive outfit.

Ordering at bouzoukia

When going to bouzoukia in Greece you should be well prepared before you order. Typically prices will be given to you in two ways: you can either order a bottle of scotch for 4 people, or a bottle of wine for 2.  There is always a minimum consumption rate for the table, which is approximately 15 – 20 euros per person.

You can choose to order any drink you want, but in the case you want to drink a little more, it’s better to order a bottle instead. The cost for bottles vary, ranging from 70-100 euros for a bottle of wine, and 160-200 euros for a bottle of scotch (or vodka for 4).

In any case, you should expect paying 40-50 euros per person for the drinks.  If you haven’t booked a table and you go to “the bar”, standing, you will pay the entrance fee, which is more or less 15 – 20 euros, and you will get the first drink free.  Usually, when you are at the bar you cannot order a bottle, but you get individual drinks.

In the older days you could even eat at bouzoukia; you could choose among fish or meat dishes, salads and appetizers, but many artists protested, saying that they cannot sing while someone is cutting a steak just in front of their face, so now, when you order drinks you get a selection of fruits or dry seeds, almonds, pistachios and the sort.

Dancing at the bouzoukia

tsifteteli dance at the bouzoukiaGreeks love dancing and they’ll do it anywhere anytime.

Bouzoukia is THE place for dancing and the customers adore it. After a couple of drinks and when the spirits are high and the guests start dancing.

To do this no dance floor is necessary. They either go on stage and dance by their favorite singer or the climb on the table and dance there.

Dancing on stage is what the majority of the guests prefers. Sometimes the stage becomes that crowded that the singer gets actually trapped within the happy dancing crowd!

Tsifteteli, which is some kind of belly dance, is the women’s favorite. The most beautiful and confident women dance to the rhythms of tsifteteli on the tables while they get showered with flowers by their friends.

Another unique phenomenon in Greece is the relationship between artists and their fans. Even the most popular singers can be easily approached by their fans, especially at bouzoukia.

While the singer is on stage, everyone is allowed, as mentioned above, to go on stage and dance next to the performer. Guests are fond of talking to them, hugging them and pose next to them for a special picture – and during all these the singers keep on performing.

Photographs at Bouzoukia Clubs

At all bouzoukia clubs there is a photographer, who will, for sure, take your picture, either you want so or not. These “paparazzi” do not work in the bouzoukia in order to create a photo album with the clientele of the club.

In minimum time possible the bouzoukia photographers would have developed the pictures, they’ll come to your table and offer them to you in the special wrapping.

You can always decline their offer, but usually bouzoukia customers buy their pictures as souvenir of the night. Some of them are really nice, so if you like the pictures you can buy them, or choose the one you prefer.

The rich and the famous at the bouzoukia

The front tables of bouzoukia, which are attached to the stage, are those who usually the rich and famous reserve. The bills at these tables are usually large and the singers know that and therefore would do everything to please these “good” (meaning spending) clients.

Most of the performers greet personally the customers, talk to them or even let them sing for a while .

Every Greek has been at the bouzoukia

In case you bump onto a Greek who claims he has never been to bouzoukia, do not believe him. Not everyone is fond of this kind of entertainment, but everyone has gone at least once, or been dragged by his friends.

Nonetheless it is a unique phenomenon you won’t find anywhere else. The singers, the music, the guests and the way the celebrate will surprise for sure any foreigner. Is this not tempting you to visit a bouzoukia nightclub when you’ll come to Greece?

1 thought on “Surviving bouzoukia in Greece”

  1. Hello,

    Your post about bouzoukia club is very good, I am french (armenian origin), but the mother of my grand mother was greek. I have a little family in Thessaloniki. W love greek culture, and I would like to know, if we will go in greece for holidays in July or August, where can I find bouzoukia nightclub in coastline and in cyclad Island and except Athens ?

    Thanks you for your reply

    Raffi

    Reply

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