The meaning of Greek kamaki
Kamaki (in English: harpoon) is the special name of the Greek men who spend time in tourist-heavy places courting women. The “kamakia” (plural of kamaki) were the bohemian men who for decades built the myth of the Greek lover.
Greek men who practice “kamaki” are less active today than in the 70s, but the fact is that there are still men who want to have sex with as many foreign women as possible.
The Evolution of the Greek Kamaki
A term steeped in myth and social history, Greek kamaki refers to the young Greek men who pursued relationships with foreign tourists in the late 20th century. Epitomized by their quick-witted pick-up lines (“You are beautiful”, “I love you”, “Freulein”, “Miss”, “Mademoiselle”, “Senorita”, “Have time for a coffee?” …), these men were as much a symbol of the Greek summer as the sun-drenched beaches and vibrant nightlife.
Kamakia were not gigolos
These charmers, also known as kamakia or “harpooners,” emerged during the Greek tourism boom of the 1970s, when women from colder European climates were drawn to Greece’s picturesque landscapes and warm hospitality. But the kamakia were no mere gigolos. Often paying for their own expenses and those of their prospective partners, their ultimate goal was not just sex, but a dedicated pursuit of romance, ultimately inadvertently promoting Greek destinations.
The term “kamaki”
The term “kamaki” is claimed by many Greek regions, each with its own story of origin. Perhaps the most credible stories come from the beach of Kalamaki in Chania, where young locals used to hunt octopus with harpoons, hence the term ‘harpooners’. Another story comes from a cafe in Argos, where the term was coined during a brainstorming session in 1972.
The kamaki era
The beginning of the era can be traced back to the mid-1950s, starting in regions such as Rhodes, Crete, Corfu, Nafplio and Athens. As Greece’s tourism sector flourished, so did the kamaki culture. These men honed their skills of flirtation, invested in their appearance, mastered foreign languages, and used ingenious tactics to catch the eye of tourists.
Legends and Lowlifes: The Notable Kamakia
Over the years, several legendary figures emerged from the ranks of Greek lovers. These included Vangelis the Zivago, Mike the Hahamas, and Bruno, who met a tragic end in 2014. Their exploits blurred the lines between myth and reality, often boasting of conquests numbering in the thousands.
Not all Greek lovers were held in high esteem, however. Some, accused of impropriety and theft, cast a shadow over the kamaki tradition, but they were generally few and easily identified.
The cultural and economic footprint of kamaki
The cultural impact of kamaki was undeniable. Many followed their summer romances back to their home countries, some settling permanently and contributing to a form of cultural exchange. The kamaki phenomenon also had a measurable economic impact, driving tourism and stimulating local economies as tourists extended their stays or returned in subsequent summers.
Kamaki in the arts
The kamaki were also immortalized in art. Homer Efstratiadis’s 1981 film “The Harpoons” focused on a kamaki vacation in Nafplio, while Nikos Mistriotis’s 2010 documentary “Colossi of Love” highlighted the kamaki of the 1970s. Vassilis Vassilikos’ 1989 book delved into the background and methodology of these international lovers.
The decline of Greek kamaki
Despite its cultural importance, the tradition has declined significantly. The advent of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s had a profound impact, effectively curtailing the freewheeling kamaki culture. Most Greek lovers, notorious for not using protection, were left vulnerable.
Despite the challenges, the spirit persists in tourist areas such as Crete, Zakynthos and Corfu. While they may not bask in the glory of their predecessors, modern kamaki, with improved techniques and language skills, continue to add a unique charm to Greek tourism.
A short Greek kamaki scene
In this scene from the movie “Sirens of the Aegean”, two young Greek soldiers are enjoying their day off. As they walk, they notice a stunning woman passing by. Eager to woo her, they urge each other to strike up a conversation, teasing each other with phrases like “Come on, Malaka, talk to her”. In their attempts to communicate, they switch between different languages, perhaps hoping to find one that she will respond to, while making fun of each other’s language skills.
Their brief kamaki adventure is interrupted when a guard calls them in. He reveals that the woman is having an affair with another soldier. Upon learning this, the two soldiers express a sense of relief that they didn’t succeed in charming her, as this could have led to complications given her romantic involvement with their fellow soldier.
Advice for Greek Kamaki
If the idea of becoming a Kamaki is appealing to you, then here is some useful advice for any future Greek lover:
*This is an old funny text from 2005, posted in a forum
YOU WILL FIND HER: in Crete
YOU WILL RECOGNIZE HER: from her armpit hairs
YOU WILL APPROACH HER: by offering to spread sun-block lotion on her back so that her sensitive white skin doesn’t burn.
ADVICE: If you spend too much time talking her up, she will treat you like her older brother and ask you to introduce her to a friend of yours in order to get laid
YOU WILL FIND HER: on Rhodes
YOU WILL RECOGNIZE HER: from the hair on her legs which will hardly be visible because it’s blond.
YOU WILL APPROACH HER: With philosophical gibberish. Say whatever you feel like saying as long as you keep a sophisticated look. After all, they are blondes and will fall for it.
ADVICE: Show her your intentions from go. Otherwise, her vacation will end and she will leave the country without getting laid.
YOU WILL FIND HER: on Santorini
YOU WILL RECOGNIZE HER: From the designer label clothes and the CHRISTIAN DIOR bikini.
YOU WILL APPROACH HER: Definitely well-dressed and holding the “Le Monde”. Make a point of showing your preference of French products, by offering her a GAULOISES BLONDES cigarette.
ADVICE: Avoid showing her how much of a schmuck you are. Take her to an expensive Restaurant for dinner. You will enslave her!
YOU WILL FIND HER: on Corfu
YOU WILL RECOGNIZE HER: from the tons of beer she’ll have consumed at the Cavos pubs.
YOU WILL APPROACH HER: unshaven, with messy hair, a white t-shirt, jean and holding a beer.
ADVICE: don’t spend too much time chatting her up because you’ll end up going home wasted from all the beer consumption and you’ll have accomplished absolutely NOTHING.
YOU WILL FIND HER: EVERYWHERE!!!
YOU WILL RECOGNIZE HER: Sunbathing topless on the beach in order to attract attention (may tourists = a lot of competition).
YOU WILL APPROACH HER: With the best swollen item on you. Your wallet!!!
ADVICE: Make it understood that you prefer women “MADE IN GREECE”!!!
Greek Kamaki Songs:
“Greek Kamaki” – Dj Almaza – 2011
Imiscumbria – GREEK LOVER – 2004
A funny song about Greek lovers. The video is age restricted, so can’t be embedded in this page but you may watch it on YouTube: Greek Lover