“Kerasma” means “treat” or “to be treated” and it is one of Greeks’ favorite ways to show affection. They either like you – as an indirect form of flirting, they are fond of your company demonstrating friendship or they are extending their hospitality.
A kerasma is usually declared out loud: “Kernao ego” by the one doing it and don’t even think about turning down the offer. It’s not rare in Greece, at cafes, bars, restaurants, and tavernas to see groups of friends arguing over who will treat. The best thing to do is say thank you and reserve your turn for “kerasma” for next time. That way you make sure you’ll see your loved ones again soon!
►The Laws of Xenia: Greece’s Famous Hospitality
What do you do when you receive a “kerasma”?
Always accept, of course! You are being treated to food, drink, coffee and sweet by a friend. Be grateful and enjoy!
In the case the “kerasma” is sent over by someone keen on flirting, you can either accept or decline politely. On Crete, of course, this is often not recommended. Cretans are very persistent and take offence when being turned down.
When a “kerasma” is accepted, you raise your glass to the person who sent it over (you’ll be shown by the waiter) and simply nod and/or smile depending on how far you want to go. If you like the sender and wouldn’t mind coming a bit closer, you can also send a “kerasma” back in return after you finish yours… of course this means you’ve opened communication and wouldn’t mind if he or she comes over to your table (this applies to drinks mostly).
The etymology of the word “kerasma” leads us to the ancient Greek word “keras” which is a basically a horn that was used as a container in which wine was saved. The person who would then serve wine mixed with water from the “keras” to the guests’ cups was known as the “kerastis” – or antiquity’s bartender.