Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Common jobs for Americans & other foreigners in Greece: Myth vs. reality

jobs in Greece

Looking for a job in Greece?

If you are an expat or foreigner who has never worked in Greece before, it is essential to read this article to learn the difference between myth and reality about jobs in Greece.

All Americans, Canadians, Australians and other non-EU citizens should first read, “How Americans and other non-EU citizens can get a permit to live and work in Greece” and its ‘Comments.’ Why? Because there is little point looking for a job — even as a freelancer — if you can’t get a visa and residence/work permit to work in Greece, and it’s vital to understand how to get one. The only way around this is by having dual citizenship with an EU country. See “Acquiring EU citizenship through ancestry or naturalization.”

English-speaking persons should also take note that English is not in demand, as the majority of Greeks and EU citizens speak it as a second language. See, “The importance of speaking Greek in Greece.”

Greece has seen a mass exodus of its best and brightest since 2009 and has no reason to import workers, with unemployment at a record 27.8 percent — the highest in the EU — and 64.9 percent amongst people aged 15-24. There are plenty of English-speaking candidates available to work without an employer having to deal with burdensome bureaucracy and fees.

There is less work, as companies shut down or leave and educated professionals (and their income) go elsewhere.
— An Adecco survey found that 49 percent of Greeks of working age are actively seeking jobs abroad.
— Coca-Cola Hellenic and FAGE — Greece’s two biggest companies — are moving to Luxembourg and Switzerland; and multinational companies such as Citibank, Kimberly-Clark, Merck and Alcoa are withdrawing en masse from southern Europe due flat spending and continued recession (it’s not over).

Use the first-hand wisdom and experience offered in this article to prepare yourself for possible challenges by knowing what they are, rejoice that you somehow faced none in your successful quest for employment, or seriously consider other options.

*Article last updated January 2, 2015

How jobs in Greece are advertised

Advertising jobs in Greece for a specific nationality is against the law, much as it is in your homeland. Therefore, there is no such thing as jobs for Americans in Greece or jobs in Greece for foreigners, just as there is no such thing as jobs for Greeks in America or jobs for Canadians in Australia. A more appropriate search would be “jobs in Greece.”

Top 10

These are the ideas and suggestions of local Greeks and friends and family back home for English-speaking newcomers seeking a job in Greece, along with my findings based on current laws and first-hand experience of dozens of EU and non-EU citizens.

They haven’t changed much since I arrived 15 years ago, except that enforcement of the law is stricter and discrimination against non-Greeks is 10-fold since the crisis started.

1. Get a job at an embassy

Nearly everyone makes this suggestion, but no one has a clue about what it actually takes to work at an embassy. Being a citizen is not enough, and it is not easy. In short, these jobs are for the few and elite. See, “Getting a job at an American Embassy.”

Embassies in Greece and Greek consulates in the United States and most developed countries (Europe, Australia, Canada) do not have non-embassy/non-consular job listings. Amendments to law 2910 in 2005 transformed a few dozen Greek consulates and embassies into job centers, but these listings are primarily of the dirty, difficult and dangerous kind and advertised in eastern European and Balkan countries. See the article, “The jobs Greeks won’t take.

2. Work for an American or other non-EU/EU company in Greece

Most EU and American multinational companies operating in Greece are local, privately owned Greek franchises, not direct subsidiaries or branches operated and managed by the parent company, although the Greek website might be a mirror of the main site. The clientele is Greek, the work environment is Greek, labor laws are Greek, salaries follow the Greek standard, and your bosses will likely be Greek.

If you’re interested in finding a position with an American, EU or other corporation in Greece or anywhere abroad, it may be necessary to search the privately owned overseas franchise since the parent company will often not be affiliated.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not easier to get a job or an advantage to be American when looking for a job at an American company abroad because local companies want candidates who already have authorization to work in the EU, have command of the local language and knowledge of local working culture. Why? Because companies in Greece — American, British, French, Spanish or otherwise — are trying to capture the local Greek market. To see an example of a job listing by an American company in Athens, see “Procter & Gamble Recruitment in Greece.”

As a non-EU citizen, you compete with everyone else on the job market. There aren’t separate listings for Greeks and separate listings for everyone else, nor have I ever seen an ad for “Companies in Greece willing to sponsor a work permit.”

Also be aware that the Greek or overseas branch may not be named the same thing and are subject to closure or relocation to another country because of the economic crisis. For example, Alpha Copy S.A. is the Greek version of Nokia and shut down permanently at the end of 2012.

EU, American and other non-EU companies are not as prominent in Greece, in comparison to other EU countries, China or India. Even home-grown Greek companies, such as FAGE and Coca-Cola Hellenic, have moved to countries where there is less red tape, lower taxes, reduced corruption, cheaper labor, enforcement of fair business laws and a growing market. See, “Who really steals jobs from Greeks?” A great number of investors in Greece have also withdrawn since the recession and/or are moving to Romania and Bulgaria, where authorities are friendlier and the cost of doing business is cheaper. See, “Greece: Missing the investment train.”

TEFL Greece

3. Teach English

Many language schools advertise for qualified and experienced ELT/TEFL teachers, often classifying CVs with no certifications and/or experience as “a waste of time and paper.”

By law, non-Greek citizens must pass an exam proving they have proficiency in the Greek language and knowledge of Greek history to acquire an ELT certificate to teach English, although the EU may change this in the future. TEFL teachers do not. There are also quotas in place that state a frontistirio (language school) can only hire one foreigner for every five Greek citizens, and even stricter quotas for non-EU citizens such as Australians, Americans and Canadians.

If you have a master’s degree and some teaching experience, an employer may look past not having certification, though this is not guaranteed since there are lawful requirements that cannot be bypassed. See the ministry’s official page for “Granting certification for teaching foreign language.”

Recruitment for Fall starts as early as February. Ads that advertise for British accents or UK citizens indicate that the school is unwilling to sponsor a work visa and residence/work permit for non-EU citizens. There are schools that prefer American accents, though this is sometimes followed by “current authorization to work in Greece.”

Greece has a reputation amongst TEFL, TESOL and ELT professionals as being the toughest EU country for non-EU citizens to get a permit and work legally. So-called institutions that (supposedly) offer career placement after taking their courses know this but are happy to take your money and leave you to sort out a work permit and job on your own. The reality is there are many employers who would rather hire one of thousands of Greek citizens speaking mediocre English than a non-Greek who speaks perfect English. Don’t believe me? Read about an American who gave up her life in the United States and enrolled in a course in Greece, only to find out the hard way it’s not so easy “Teaching English in Greece.”

Those interested in teaching English remotely may have a difficult time finding students, since the majority of Greeks still prefer in-person tutoring. The majority distrust online transactions and less than half of households have regular Internet access, which is the third lowest rate of 28 EU member states.

4. Tutor businessmen or students of English

Popular books on the subject of tutoring English students recommend placing ads, but many of us know first-hand that this is a bad idea in Greece. Most people who answer are either men/boys trying to meet foreign girls/women, or students that aren’t serious about their studies, and you usually don’t find out until after all the units on your prepaid phone are gone.

There is also a different standard of courtesy, with prospective students often not showing up for appointments without first canceling, or canceling at the last moment without respect for your time or money. For example, a businessman may call five minutes before a lesson to cancel, which is too late because you already spent time and money on transport for which you won’t be reimbursed or have the opportunity to tutor someone else.

Many people who offer tutoring have been doing it for years and/or are teachers at an established school. This is a more solid way to make contacts and help you determine if you’d like to take students as clients based on experience and familiarity. Many families have also cut back on spending because they are affected by austerity or expect to be, so tutors who still have work must lower hourly rates and agree to demands they didn’t before.

Athenian Au Pair5. Work as an English-speaking nanny or au pair

If you love children and don’t mind cooking, cleaning and babysitting, this option may be for you.

Some positions ask that you live full-time in the family’s home, some don’t; some request that you be bilingual, while many say native English is just fine; some would like you to accompany them on holiday, but provide only spartan accommodations. Most ask that you work six days a week, and all ask for solid references.

Depending on the position and family, it may be possible to secure a residence/work permit, IKA and a decent salary. Others ask that you are already authorized to work in the EU, or declare yourself as self-employed/freelance at the DOY/eforia/Greek tax office, cut official receipts and pay your own OAEE/TEBE (insurance for independent workers).

Be aware that positions are fewer from 2010, as unemployment climbs higher and jobless family members are able to care for children themselves or cannot afford the extra expense.

6. Be an overseas representative for an American or other non-EU parent company back home

If you have been working for a company back home for a number of years, and have fluency in Greek and knowledge about the working culture of the country, you may prove to be the top candidate when a vacancy arises and then transferred. You would then enter the country with a work visa, which would then lead to a residence/work permit.

Having a local representative and paying local wages is more common than employing a traveling rep with salary reflective of those back home, since companies are keen to cut costs. It’s also good business sense. Your salary will be scaled to a local standard but at least you’ll be legally employed in Greece.

The other option that may not require knowledge of Greek or local working culture is to be stationed in a country nearby, such as Turkey or Italy, and be temporarily or permanently assigned to Greece. This option often requires you have authorization to work in an EU country.

Freelance writer Greece

7. Do freelance work or be a consultant

Being a legal freelance worker or consultant — translator, IT worker, Internet businessman, writer/reporter, photographer, DJ, animal care, health care provider, domestic worker, trainer, graphic designer, repairman, etc. — requires that you open a self-employed status or business. See, “How to start a new business in Greece.”

After that, you have the choice of paying an accountant to keep your books for a monthly fee or learn how to maintain your own tax register, issue receipts, pay VAT/FPA and file quarterly tax forms that are required even if you earn nothing.

Getting vendors and clients to pay has always been a challenge but is even harder during recession, sometimes requiring you to call or visit the office several times over many months. Sometimes you never get paid, and bringing a lawsuit is a lengthy (several years) and costly ordeal that most do not pursue, and vendors who don’t pay their bills and dare you to sue are aware of this.

Domestic workers, farm workers and nurses have the same independent status, but usually have IKA and salaries paid amongst several employers.

Note that a residence/work permit can still be revoked if it is determined that you are not qualified to perform this type of work, with authorities needing proof via translated documents, official recognition of university degrees and evidence of experience. In many cases, nothing less than the possession of ensima (social insurance in Greece) in your field is the only official and acceptable proof of work experience, and denial or revocation of your permit can happen at any time.

8. Start your own business, such as a store that sells American, Asian and/or other ethnic food and products

This option never used to be easy, but it’s less easy these days with the current legislation in place.

Non-EU citizens must have already been living in Greece with a residence/work permit for one year and draw up a formal business plan in Greek that explains how this business “contributes to the development of the Greek economy”; a deposit of 60,000 euros to 300,000 euros, as evidence of solvency and the ability to meet expenses and unexpected costs. If your plan is approved by the ministry, business can commence. See, “How to start a new business in Greece” for full details of start-up.

In speaking to non-EU entrepreneurs who started ethnic food or specialty food stores, there is a lot of red tape and a small profit margin. In “Record high red tape,” a well-known foreign investor’s Greek team reported that it needed 3,000 signatures and significant capital before it even opened. Greek and EU citizens are not subject to the new rules, and usually do much better.

Tour Bus Athens Greece

9. Tourism

Hotels, hostels and tour operators in Greece normally look for seasonal workers to compensate for the influx of tourists during high season. However, this is far less common since the crisis began, as a record number of businesses shut down and unemployment rose to 27.7 percent.

Larger hotels in big cities, such as Athens and Thessaloniki, keep a year-round staff so vacancies are rare, and well-known hotel chains almost always ask for a Bachelor’s in Tourism or Hotel Management and previous work experience. Hostels tend to have a revolving door of staff, and once had vacancies in off season (November – March) and demanded fewer qualifications, but competition was great in high season. Privately owned hotels are usually staffed by family members and friends of the family, which is true for both the islands and mainland. In today’s landscape with more than 30 percent of hotels set to close or on the brink of bankruptcy, employers are struggling to stay open.

If you’re wondering why a hotel or hostel in Greece states that it will not give work visas and residence/work permits to an American or other non-EU citizen, see “Summer jobs in Greece FAQ.”

Tour operators recruit both locals and nationals in the country of origin (e.g., a Swedish national was recruited in Stockholm to spend the season on Crete as a hospitality hostess/tour leader serving fellow Swedes visiting the island). The more unique your language skills and proficient your knowledge of certain areas of Greece, the better your chances of being successful. English is in low demand because many bilingual and trilingual Greeks can fill this void.

Job ads usually appear as early as March for the upcoming summer season and filled quickly, though there are a few unfilled (and usually undesirable and low-paid) positions as late as May or June.

Illegal workers Greece

10. Illegal work in Greece

Illegal work is a widespread reality, though less common than 10 years ago since laws have become more strict and fines were increased to discourage employers from hiring undocumented non-Greek workers. Enforcement has also been stepped up considerably, and police conduct sweeps on a daily basis. To get around this, employers now hire unemployed Greek workers off the books and the trend is fueled by record-high unemployment.

The EU border-monitoring agency Frontex opened its first European office in Greece in October 2010 and sent 200 highly trained border guards, as a show of commitment to fighting illegal immigration with local authorities. Greece also has a financial crimes squad (SDOE) as of 2010 and has been making significant headway in punishing employers who break the law.

You’ll never be able to find legal work with an employer if you are or become illegal.

*Note to those searching this site for “illegal work ads.” Employers do not advertise they are engaging in illegal activity unless they want to be fined and visited by police.

If you haven’t read it already, see “How Americans and other non-EU citizens can move, live and work in Greece” to get a general overview of how visas, residence/work permits and citizenship affect non-EU citizens seeking to live and work in Greece. That article is actually the starting point, not the one you’re reading now — this is the reason it’s #1 on the non-EU list.

Can I find a job in Greece?

Absolutely. I and several of my friends exercised many of the options above with some success, encountering different challenges along the way.

Depends. Greece has been in a recession since 2009 that many say is comparable to post-WWII conditions. Up to 900+ people lose their jobs every day, salaries have been cut 10-35 percent, experienced workers are being fired by companies fighting for survival, thousands of businesses have closed or left Greece, and everyday people are cutting back on food so drastically that supermarkets are in financial trouble.

The demand in Greece is for unskilled, uneducated workers who will accept low paying positions with no insurance and no chance of advancement. There are also employers in Greece who count on the desperation of non-EU citizens who can’t speak Greek and prey on them, which is the reason many job ads run continuously in English-language publications.

The few people I know who work at American or other non-EU (or even EU) companies speak more Greek and serve a predominantly Greek clientele, with little or no touch with the homeland. Why? Because as I stated previously, an EU, American or other non-EU company with a branch in Greece is trying to capture and manage the local Greek market.

To see some examples of real life people working in the capital, see “Examples of jobs and salaries in Athens.”

The importance of speaking Greek

A lot of native English speakers assume that speaking English is enough to secure a legal and professional job in a foreign country, and I would say this is true in some countries with a predominantly English-speaking population. Greece is not one of those countries.

See, “The importance of speaking Greek in Greece” for more details.

Additional tips for your job search

See “Job ads in Greece vs. other countries” to get started. To avoid confusion across nationalities, I don’t use the terms job classifieds or mikres aggelies (little notices), I just refer to them as ads.

There are also a number of links to job listings in the third column of this site. Click anything that interests you.

This article was written for informational purposes, both for you and your friends and family back home who may not understand that Greece operates differently in comparison to your homeland or even other EU countries.

The Author

Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author. To learn more, see “About Me.”

  • Livingingreece.gr was created in 2007 to present meticulously researched original articles that fill a gap left by traditional media, government portals and commercial websites/forums run by people without credentials.
  • @LivinginGreece is a Twitter feed curated from recognized Greek and international news agencies to provide breaking news about Greece, plus real-time updates and insider tips mined from 15 years experience.

Note: Please note my copyright policy and be aware that violations will be pursued.

Photos from imh.com.cy, justlanded.com, factoidz.com, sanfranciscotours.com, daylife.com blog counter

62 Comments

  Jack wrote @ July 4th, 2007 at 11:51

A lovely piece of info!

Kat Reply:

Jack – I believe you were one of my first commenters long ago when this site only had 30 hits a day. Thanks for sticking around.

  Anne Fyfe wrote @ September 1st, 2007 at 18:15

All thou I`m not an American and I live up in Thessaloniki with the rest of the Out of Towners….

Your site has so much useful info for everyone.

Thanks & I`ll keep reading…

Kat Reply:

Anne – Thank you. I offered a link to your site for 6 months but removed it since the favor was not returned. Best of everything.

  Molly wrote @ October 14th, 2007 at 02:55

I’m so glad i found this site. I am an American and would like to work in Athens at a youth hostel. I read on a website offering hostel jobs, that the hostel does not sponsor for visas. I know that Americans do not need a visa the first three months i think it was, and then they need the Schengen visa. How would i be able to work longer than three months if the hostel does not sponsor visas? I hope this question isn’t too confusing.

Kat Reply:

The question is not at all confusing, in fact it’s already been answered. Read, “How Americans can move, live and work in Greece.” A simple search on the front page would have given you these answers. It’s also the number 1 article for non-EU citizens, which is also on the front page.

  Jen wrote @ November 14th, 2007 at 22:09

I came across your site over the summer, I hope you remember me. I am coming back to Thessaloniki over the winter. I have been studying to learn greek like crazy and obtained my TEFL so hopefully things will be a bit more eye opening for me. thank you for your continued info and updating this site…thank you so much, you really are helping so many people.

Kat Reply:

Jen – I do remember you, and I apologize for not writing you. The wildfires happened after that, life got busy and never really stopped. I see you’ve chosen an area in which to concentrate and are working really hard at Greek, which will no doubt prepare you for the future. I feel positive about you, but I think I’ve already told you that twice. People like you make it worth investing time and energy for free; it’s the haters and plagiarizers who ruin it.

  leony wrote @ November 15th, 2007 at 00:47

Just wanna express my deep gratitude for this very informative and impressive site. In here, I found the many important things that I need to know… Again, a heartfelt thanks. You’re such a help! God bless and more power.

Kat Reply:

Leony – Why thank you!

  Kat wrote @ November 18th, 2007 at 23:45

🙂 smiles everyone!

  Dr Jack wrote @ October 15th, 2010 at 20:21

I admire the hard-nosed and honest way you have come at all these complicated questions—probably the most useful and accurate article on these subjects I’ve ever seen, which accomplishes the goal of treating the topics mostly left out of mainstream discussions.

Have lived in Crete for extended periods and been homesick ever since, so I’m trying to learn and work out a long term way to stay there via Brown U Ph.D. in English (so far I speak only simple Greek, can read little, ready to improve). Thus this work meant a lot and gave me stronger, more realistic avenues to pursue…THANKS! JD

Kat Reply:

Hi Dr. Jack,

I’m glad you see the purpose behind telling the truth. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule but in giving people a dose of reality and legalities, they can better prepare themselves and/or seek alternatives to living and working in Greece.

Too often, people self-edit in order to sell travel packages or advertising. I’m obligated only to my readers, and I hope this website continues to help you on your journey.

Thanks so much for leaving a comment and saying hello.

  gregorio wrote @ November 20th, 2010 at 19:20

Hi
I would like to go Greece and when i get there, do you think i’m qualified to work in any job as long i can get the job? i want to work in greece but i don’t have friends and family to help going there what do you think? i have enough money to travel there.

hoping you reply

Kat Reply:

It does not matter what I think, as I say in “Should I move to Greece?” The decision is yours, and I cannot predict the future.

As I say in the third sentence of the above article, you cannot just come to Greece and work. It does not matter if you have money to travel. You are a non-EU citizen and must find out if you can get a Greek work permit, which is why I suggest reading, “How non-EU citizens can get a permit to work in Greece.”

  Jennifer wrote @ January 5th, 2011 at 02:38

I have been living in Greece for nearly 5 years now and, for the most part, unemployed. I find your website very useful!! I married into a Greek family and obtained both a residence and work permit but looking for work has proven extremely difficult as my degree means little to nothing. You provided some great sources. Thanks so much!

Kat Reply:

True. Having a Greek residence/work permit is only half the battle as a foreign woman in Greece. There’s also age, wage and gender discrimination, and having a university degree guarantees nothing, even if it’s been officially recognized as I discuss in “Value of a university degree in Greece.”

I hope that something on this website can help you find a job or give you new ideas.

Thank you for saying hello and hope to see you again. All best.

  Philip wrote @ January 6th, 2011 at 02:49

I am looking for work in Thessaloniki, I was born in Greece and have an American passport. Any suggestions? I am currently in NY, and thinking of moving.

Kat Reply:

As I say in “Comments, Questions and Contacting Me,” I cannot provide personal consultation or job referrals. Unemployment in Greece is at an 11-year high and due to climb this year, Greeks are leaving the country to find jobs in Turkey, Cyprus and elsewhere; and I give good job leads to friends in Greece who character and qualifications I know well.

You can take advantage of more than 300 articles and thousands of resources on this website and/or the Twitter feed I provide for free. Consider starting with, “Should I move to Greece?

  Manoj wrote @ February 23rd, 2011 at 20:22

Kat I find your site a treasure trove of Info thanks for the many hours I assume you put into it to make it as such. keep up the good work. My wife and sons are Greek and not living in Greece at the moment. I keep referring to the site for info.

Kat Reply:

Hi Manoj,

Thank you for your kind words and for being a faithful reader. It is a lot of work for me, but people like you make it easy to forget that. All best, hope to see you again!

  Roxanna wrote @ July 8th, 2011 at 12:10

I am living in Athens, Greece and looking for a job as an English speaker. I am currently learning Greek but am only familiar with the greetings right now.

Do you have any suggestions?

Kat Reply:

The above article contains 3500 words of free advice, not to mention more than 300 articles in English on this website based on 14 years experience and research, also provided at no cost.

I do not have customized suggestions for you because: a) I do not know you or your qualifications; b) you compete with a plethora of Greek and multilingual workers who know English fluently; c) I do not provide free personal consultation; and d) more than 600 people in Greece lose their jobs every day and unemployment is at a record high.

Good luck.

  Mary wrote @ August 16th, 2011 at 06:01

Thank you for all of the information. I have been surfing the site for hours. I realize all the info can be found in your articles and posts, but was wondering if you could clarify something for me. I am planning a move to Athens next month to be with my fiance. I know you said there is no such thing as a fiancee visa. I am most concerned with obtaining a work permit, to help with finances. Is it true that marriage should make obtaining this permit much easier?

From what I have read on your site, I will also need to test (learn) for proficiency in the language. I am planning the TEFL route for a beginning. I know the risks involved as a non-EU citizen gaining employment. I was hoping, once we are married, that will be a little easier as well.

Thank you, again! This is the only site with such valuable information and links. Taking this on with no compensation is much appreciated. Thank you.

Kat Reply:

Since you know that there are no fiance(e) visas for Greece, it means you read “How American/non-EU citizens can get a permit to move, live and work in Greece,” where I also say that marrying a Greek/EU citizen is one possible way to get a permit. Easier? Easier than what? Easier than not being married to a Greek/EU citizen, yes, but I already say that as well. I believe you’re looking for affirmation, not clarification.

Greece is one of the hardest countries in which to go the TEFL route, not just because of laws that govern hiring but also because there are tons of multilingual Greek/EU citizens who have been doing it for years and are well established, plus the demand for lessons is down with the economic crisis forcing households to budget and private tutors cutting prices or meet other client demands.

Marrying a Greek does not necessarily make anything easier for reasons I detail in my comment on November 25, 2008 on “Should I move to Greece?

It’s good to be optimistic, but please realize that lots of Greeks and foreigners are leaving for a multitude of practical reasons having to do with lack of jobs, low salaries, rising cost of living and uncertainty.

Sorry, comments are closed at this time.