I have attempted to recuse myself from answering this, being ethnic Greek myself. But Desmond James has importuned me to answer with my Australian hat on, and I do appreciate a challenge.
So I will meet this challenge with generalities, reflecting on the hellenophiles and/or philhellenes that I have encountered.
Hellenophile is not an established term, by the way, whereas philhellene is. But I can easily see a nuance between them. A philhellene has a romantic attachment to Greece, and is typically politically invested in Greece. Or at least, that’s how Greeks think of it. Hellenophile is a novel coinage, and it can be less emotionally loaded. It can just refer to someone who is a fan of Greek things.
I am also going to be biased towards interest in Modern rather than Ancient Greek things.
So how have I seen people become either?
- Marrying a Greek is always a good start. I’ve seen that be a factor, although sometimes it’s been a cause and sometimes it’s been an effect.
- Fascination with ancient Greek culture, often via the most kid friendly version of ancient Greek culture, which is sanitized mythology. Often enough, this leads to an interest in what happened next, and I know of several foreign experts in modern Greek who started out in Classics.
- A holiday in Greece, strategically timed for when you are open to new interests. Of course that will depend a hugely on where you choose to holiday. Going to the wilds of Southern Crete and hanging about with shepherds is likelier to have such an effect than a package holiday weekend throwing up in Malia.
- Malia. *shudder*
- Less often, a chance encounter with Modern Greek culture, music or literature.
- I haven’t seen this myself, but there is a stream of converts to Orthodox Christianity at least in the States. That may be another contributor, although Orthodoxy in the states is not as ethnically bound up as it is elsewhere.