Telephone Communication: Greek Directory Assistance

Here are some thoughts on using the telephone operator in Greece. If you are afraid of the language barrier don't be. You can usually get someone to speak your language especially if its a European language. English is easiest. Just ask the operator and be prepared to hold a bit which is rough if you are using a pay phone.

So far Greece isn't outsourcing its directory assistance to India but it may seem like it. Now press 2 to disagree, but the Indians I have met, all speak good English so that would definitely be an improvement. I know it would be better for the Greek economy too as O.T.E.,  a state held monopoly, has some of the highest paid public sector staff anywhere and a retirement plan you wouldn't believe. O.T.E. stands for, by the way the Organization Telecommunications Ellas. Notice its not O.T.H. (Hellas) but O.T.E (Ellas) proving something profound like they used to spell it Ellas! OTE has been around for quite sometime.

Even your average Greek, non-OTE employee, speaks or at least knows more English than they are willing to admit. As school children they are required to study English and many have 'proficiency certificates'. English language study is compulsory from 5th grade through high school. My English teaching friends say these certificate holders are the worst English speakers around. It could be the system of teaching though - rote memorization I believe its called? I cant say I remember my 6 years of enforced French with any fondness in American schools either! Zut!

Also being convention bound and conservative, many Greeks naturally don't want to appear at a linguistic disadvantage. Unless you are attractive, and they are on the make, at which point the complete opposite happens. But I digress. See the phonetic phrases page for dealing with those situations. Still the telephone operator may have one of these certificates and not have a clue. So start whining ...eventually you will get your idea across. Greeks are also inundated with English at every turn and seem to wallow in it. You don't hear them complaining like the French about the use of English in everyday conversation. Titles for Greek magazines, Greek television shows and many products are all in English. If its not in English its not cool. So don't be shy and call the operator! I did today. I was looking for the Federal Express number which was a mistake. Here its called Fed ex and it cost me .40 eu cents to call from my house. When I finally got thru I had to do the button dance to reach a number that didn't answer. Sigh!

Athens Area

  • Local Athens information or directory assistance dial: 11888

Making a local Athens Call

  • To an Athens number from within Athens just dial the prefix 210 first.
  • To call an Athens Greece number from outside of Athens
    dial the 210 prefix  and the 7 digit telephone number you wish to connect with.