Looking for a summer job in Greece?
Thousands go seaside every summer to escape the city for a little fun and sun, which means clubs, resorts and cafes in Greece are brimming with natives and tourists.
Based on the real-life experiences of people who did it successfully, here are a few tips to getting a summer job in Greece:
1. Start looking in March
Big clubs on the mainland move to the coastline in summer and take their staff with them, and additional staff are mined from previous years, connections or ads placed in March or before that. Clubs, cafes and hotels on islands reopen after being closed in winter with staff from previous years, but there are usually vacancies. By end of March or April, most positions are filled except for a few at smaller venues on popular islands, unpopular clubs/islands, or islands some distance from the mainland (i.e., Rhodes, Kos).
If you are a tourist with plans to be in Greece by June or July, it’s quite late — many say too late — but you might still find work if someone quits, the boss underestimates business and needs more staff or someone on staff wants to go on vacation. For example, my friend Alex worked on six different islands for 2-3 weeks at a time for various staff on holiday, had a holiday of sorts herself and made a good amount of cash because she is a young and beautiful Greek-Canadian citizen with no permit issues and could speak four languages fluently. Sometimes it’s about being the right person at the right place at the right time.
Getting work at a hotel or hostel in Greece is more difficult, since larger hotels tend to prefer candidates with degrees in hotel management and hospitality; and smaller hotels are usually family owned and therefore have family and friends running it with the same year-round staff. This is especially true since the economic crisis began in 2009, with many out of work and businesses shutting down or on the verge of bankruptcy. Hostels have casual work, but during high season (April-October) there are fewer or no vacancies.
Resorts and hotel chains start advertising in January, but these positions are primarily for multilingual Greeks and the ads are in Greek. Ads for casual summer work don’t appear until March or later, if at all.
See “Summer jobs in Greece FAQ” for more details.
2. Look the part
Employers want people who are attractive, clean and pleasant, the kind of presentable men and women who will entice customers to their establishment and keep them coming back to spend money. Sometimes the best looking staff members are asked to stand outside or occupy a high visibility position for this reason.
It’s not necessary to be anorexic, in fact a lot of Greek men like a little meat on their women, but men and women should have a certain look and attitude. Women have a better chance of finding bar work than men (except at places with a gay clientele) based solely on beauty, even without previous experience. It’s unfair, but that’s reality.
3. Be open minded
Maybe it’s not the biggest club or hotel on the island or it’s a cafe situated away from the beach, so what? You can still make good money and have the means to stay for the summer, go to the beach, meet people and party after work. Your spare time is your own. Some people are even offered free accommodation and food with the job. Enjoy it!
4. Don’t assume that speaking English is enough
Sometimes speaking English is enough in a predominantly tourist area; sometimes it’s not. Keep in mind that local Greeks frequent the seaside on the mainland and islands, so the employer may sometimes require you speak basic Greek or another language. It’s much easier to hire someone that can speak to everyone, than someone who can only speak to a few.
My island-hopping friend Alex speaks French, Arabic, English and Greek. Her employer may not have required all of those languages, but it certainly didn’t hurt and it gave her the power to choose the best jobs on the best islands at the last minute in June and make a lot of money. My friend Nikos speaks Greek, English and German and found work easily on Kos for three summers. I spoke English, Spanish and French, while working my first summer on Rhodes.
5. Have some emergency cash
It is always wise to keep a small stash of money for emergencies, whether it’s medical care, an unexpected trip back home, unsuccessful attempts to find work or the need to move on if your employer or the job turns bad. Don’t assume that people will help you, you must be able to help yourself.
Depleting funds before finding gainful employment is also risky because it may force you to accept less acceptable work out of desperation, and your employer may end up exploiting you. I know women on the island of Ios who are forced to live in the same house as their boss for a few months with “no $ex at first” because they have no money and nowhere else to go. See “One day on the island of Ios.”
6. Show up and interview on the spot
Job ads are not the only way to get a job, no one I know has ever gotten a job by posting in a forum, and few employers will hire you by phone or email anyway. Why? They want to see what you look like. There is also no such thing as summer jobs for Canadians or summer jobs for Americans, i.e. When was the last time you saw an ad in your homeland that advertised “summer jobs for Italians?” Summer jobs in Greece are for everyone regardless of nationality.
There are agencies in Athens that screen potential employees and send you to islands, but some agencies don’t disclose the whole truth about a job and you find out only when you get there.
It’s often best to go around town, speak directly to the boss/manager and inquire if there’s a job; other employees may see you as competition and lie about whether there’s a vacancy, so that may not always be the best approach. Even if the boss/employer does not have a vacancy himself, he might know someone who does and give you a lead.
Interviews often start from first glance, which is the reason you should be ready to “look the part” as I mentioned above and be polite but confident in your approach when inquiring about a job. By meeting the boss directly, you can get a sense if you’d like to work for him, and if he’d like to work with you. The process of interviewing is varied, anything from a few basic questions and a shot of whiskey to celebrate hiring you or no questions at all and a rundown of terms and payment. If the employer doesn’t lead, you should be prepared to introduce yourself, state your experience and ask questions yourself.
7. Be clear about your responsibilities and payment
Clarify what your responsibilities will be (i.e. bartender or server, dancer or escort, face control, dishwasher, part-time cafe worker/housekeeper, a combination), what hours you may work, if you’ll have a regular or fluctuating schedule. Normal things.
If you are a Greek citizen, EU/EEA/EFTA citizen or non-EU citizen with a valid Greek residence/work permit, then IKA (insurance) and a salary are the norm. If you’re working in a bar, you’ll be expected to get a license by submitting an application at the police station and proving you’re of age and have a clean background.
Sometimes jobs come with accommodation, food and two days off per week, sometimes none of those things. What you’re willing to accept is up to you, keeping in mind that decent employment is much better than no employment. If you want to trade days off, free accommodation and food for a higher salary, and your boss is willing to negotiate, it’s your choice.
If you are a tourist or temporary worker just looking for a summer job, then it is understood you’ll be working illegally and not likely have the power to negotiate because getting a work visa and work permit is a lengthy (several months) and expensive process to legalize a non-EU citizen for only casual work. Therefore, your boss may ask you to hide in the kitchen or pretend to be a customer should police come around because penalties are high and include jail time. It is much more difficult to find casual, illegal work now than it was 10 years ago because enforcement has become more common with the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) making weekly and daily checks in summer and the economic crisis has closed half of businesses in Greece. If you want to work legally, please read “How non-EU citizens can get a permit to live and work in Greece.”
No matter what citizenship you hold, inquire about essential terms.
— How much will you earn? Will you be paid a flat rate per day, a percentage of sales or a little of both? Most people I know negotiate a flat rate per day for work in a club or cafe and either keep individual tips or pool them with others and split them at the end of a shift. A flat rate is calculated according to the size of the establishment, whether business is good and your known capabilities. If you’re new, perhaps you can make a deal with your boss about step raises — i.e. this much at the start, an increase after 15-30 days when you prove your worth, etc.
— Will you be paid monthly, twice monthly, weekly or daily? Some people are OK with twice monthly, some need to be paid daily because they’re working illegally and may not have a way to recover money if unexpectedly fired because their boss is not trustworthy.
— What are my days off? Most people who work the summer in Greece have few if any days off and are expected to work straight through.
An Irish actor described his summer job in Greece: “In 2003 I spent the summer in Crete. I worked in a bar seven nights a week for very little money with about three nights off over the entire summer. It was exhausting; working in the bar, heading out with friends and still getting up to the beach each day.” — Herald.ie, January 15, 2010
8. Don’t hand over your passport
This may seem obvious, but I have seen people turn over their passport for reasons I can’t understand then experience difficulty in getting it back. If your boss wants a copy of your passport, it’s better to go to the local photo store, bookstore or printer and make one for him.
Also in relation to your passport, do not overstay your visa according to the period specific to your country. If you do overstay your visa, it will haunt your passport until it expires and you will be questioned upon every entry/exit by every country if you don’t pay a fine of up to 1200 euros. Until the fine is paid, you will be denied entry to the Schengen zone and a record of your overstay remains in the computer. See “Overstaying your visa in Greece.”
9. Don’t place an ad yourself
Some guidebooks recommend doing this, although I know absolutely no one who has secured work this way in my 14 years in Greece…or my lifetime, for that matter. Think about it.
— Legitimate employers place ads and let job candidates come to them.
— How desperate or cheap is someone to approach a stranger through an ad by phone or email? How good could the job be?
— Listing your number and/or email invites all types of people to contact you, not just potential employers. Do you want that kind of attention and is it worth the risk?
See “Job ads in Greece vs. other countries” for detailed information.
10. Be humble and have a good attitude!
No matter what happens, challenges make great stories and it’s important to focus on the experience and opportunity you have to work in Greece for the summer. The sun is shining, you’re at the beach every day, you’re young and free — it’s the best time of your life! What could be more beautiful than that?
Note to readers
Please do not leave your CV, phone number or request for a job. This article was written for your information, so you can help yourself when looking for a summer job in newspaper ads and websites in Greece.
Then start your job search with listings in the next column.