Siga Siga: What’s the meaning of the Greek phrase and how to embrace it

“Don’t go so fast, Siga Siga,” my Yiayia would say when we’d make Koulourakia Greek cookies and I’d hurriedly twist — and often rip — the dough, ready to get to the eating part. Years later, I still repeat this phrase to myself when I make any lengthy recipe… or get overwhelmed in traffic. Siga Siga.

But wait, what is the meaning of Siga Siga?

Siga Siga, pronounced see-gah, see-gah, translates into “slowly slowly.” It’s a way to signal someone to slow down. Walk instead of run. Sip instead of chug. Linger instead of hurry. I heard it once in the Athens airport when I was frantically shuffling through my purse looking for my passport. (It was in my pocket, of course.) And again by a family friend when I was shoveling tiropita in my mouth barely chewing each bite before taking another.

But the phrase can be applied to any activity: reading, eating, writing, traveling, walking, cooking, breathing, the list goes on and on. However, I connect Siga Siga most to slowing down in an overall sense of being. Both physically and mentally.

Siga Siga as a life practice

I think of Siga Siga when I scroll through Instagram and get intimidated by the accomplishments and updates of others, often feeling behind in a race I don’t even want to be in — and yet continue to put myself in every time I open the app. I repeat the words when I’m (very) slowly working on a creative project that has no deadline or real purpose besides making me happy and fulfilled. And I write the words down on a page over and over when I need to pause anxious thoughts and replace them with calming, comforting ones.

Siga Siga has become my go-to reminder that there’s no need to fast-forward through life to get to where you want to be and that going slowly isn’t a sign of weakness; rather it can be a sign of joy in the journey.

A slow morning in Greece, Siga Siga style

While this all sounds fairly simple and perhaps even a bit cliche, I find the Greek perspective on slowing down to be quite revolutionary. Take a look at the definition of “slow” in Merriam Webster and you’ll see words like “dull” and “lacking in readiness.” Often “slow” is perceived to be a negative quality. That movie was too slow. I’m such a slow runner. Golf isn’t for me, it’s so slow. (Ok, I may be guilty of saying that last one!)

Of course, there are times when going slowly may not be a good thing. Like when completing something at work or trying to multitask as a busy parent. But I love how Siga Siga shifts moving slowly into the realm of doing something thoughtfully, intentionally and joyfully.

In so many ways, the slow moments are the best ones. They’re the times when you sit at a restaurant and can’t believe four hours went by because you were so enthralled in conversation. Perhaps it’s moments on a vacation when you skipped out on tourist attractions to lounge by the beach because the sound of the water and the feeling of sunshine was too lovely to step away from. Or even chapters of life when things felt boring or stagnant, but you now look back on with nostalgia.

All this is to say, I find Siga Siga to be a refreshing way to approach life, from the busy days where “slowing down” looks like taking three big breaths before a meeting to more peaceful days full of nothing but time.

How to embrace and practice Siga Siga

A sweet gata (cat) enjoying a slow afternoon in Greece

If this concept of slowing down connects with you, here are some simple ways I try to embrace and practice Siga Siga in my day-to-day that I hope resonate with you, too:

  • Don’t get the coffee to-go: Instead, drink it in a real mug or glass and sip it slowly in a cafe. People watch. Sit in silence. Just be.
  • Enjoy a long meal with a friend: Instead of rushing through a meal, try savoring each bite just as much as each moment of conversation.
  • Recognize when you glorify speed: The other day I complimented a barista for making my cappuccino really fast. But once I took a sip, I realized it wasn’t the drink I ordered. It was a perfect example of how sometimes the fast way isn’t necessarily the best way, reminding me to honor patience.
  • Be ok with waiting: Stuck in a long line? Stalled at a red light for what feels like hours? Lingering in silence for your niece to tell you what she wants for a snack? Take a breath, relax your shoulders, and wait it out. Siga siga. Easier said than done for sure, but it’s a practice!
  • Take the long way home: Whether you live on the busy streets of New York or in the countryside, consider taking a different route home every once in a while. I find when I notice something new about a place I’m so familiar with, it forces me to slow down and find newfound appreciation for my surroundings.
  • Look out the window: There’s so much to see right before our eyes that often goes unnoticed. Admire the different colors, the unique shapes and the way the light hits certain objects.
  • Be present: It’s so easy to break up our lives by goals we want to reach or things we want to do. But it’s oh-so-lovely to honor how much we’ve been through to get to where we are right now.

Do you have a phrase like “Siga Siga” that grounds you? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Read more: 9 Greece-Inspired Ways to Slow Down

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