Living in Greece

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

Conversations from a day in my life, as a non-blonde lesbian, liar, thief, uneducated American that no speak good English


Everyday exchanges with everyday people with strong opinions and perceptions of foreigners in Greece.

Conversation with a Greek taxi driver

(Translated from Greek)

Taxi guy: Where are we going?

K: I’d like to go to the corner of ___ and ___ , near ____

Taxi guy: OK. Where are you from?

K: America.

Taxi guy: Where exactly?

K: California.

Taxi guy: But you don’t have yellow hair.

K: That’s right. I don’t have a red swimsuit and run on the beach in slow motion either.

Taxi guy: What?

K: Not all people from California have blonde hair.

Taxi guy: Yes, they do.

Kat: No they don’t, you watch too much Baywatch or something.

Taxi guy: You’re lying.

K: Have you ever been to California?

Taxi guy: No, but I know.

K: OK, whatever you say.

Taxi guy: So you have a boyfriend?

K: Why?

Taxi guy: Want to go for coffee?

K: No thank you.

Taxi guy: Why? You don’t like me.

K: I’m sure you’re very nice, but I don’t want to go for coffee.

Taxi guy: Then what’s the problem?

K: No problem, I just don’t want to go.

Taxi guy: It’s because you have a boyfriend, isn’t it?

K: I have a fiancé, but that’s not the reason I don’t want to go for coffee.

Taxi guy: No problem. Let’s go for coffee.

K: You have a wedding ring.

Taxi guy: So? It’s just a ring.

K: That’s a lovely sentiment. I’m sure your wife would love to hear that.

Taxi guy: So you don’t want to go for coffee?

K: No thank you. Seriously.

Taxi guy: Pity. What are you, a lesbian?

K: No, I just don’t want to go out with you. Drop me here please, I’ll walk the rest of the way. Thank you!

Conversation on the elevator at work

K: Fourth floor, please.

Lady: Where you from?

K: I’m from America. Where are you from?

Lady: I’m from Korea. What you doing here?

K: I’ve lived here for 10 years.

Lady: Your English is good, you no have accent and speak good.

K: I should, I’m four generations in California. It’s my native language.

Lady: Maybe I thought you no speak English good.

K: Why would you think that? You just met me.

Lady: Don’t know, that’s what I thought.

Conversation with my boss

K: Mr. ___ , are we going to discuss my salary like you promised?

Mr. ___: Sure.

K: Well, I’ve been here for ___ now, and I do a lot more for you than I was originally hired to do. I’m always on time, I work whatever shift you need and since I took over your ___ , our circle of influence has increased and we exceeded our original goals.

Mr. ___: You’re right. So?

K: So, I’m asking you to raise my salary by ___ now. I think it’s only fair based on my performance and the amount of money you earn from my work.

Mr. ___: But you don’t speak fluent Greek.

K: That’s right, the ad you placed for my position didn’t call for it, only basic Greek and native English. I’m a native English speaker with Level 3 Greek, which is actually more than what you asked, and that’s why you hired me.

Mr. ___: Well, you don’t have a university degree.

K: What do you mean? I do.

Mr. ___: It’s not from a Greek university.

K: You’re right, it’s better. It’s from an American university.

Mr. ___: It’s not from a university I recognize.

K: Mr. ___ , it’s from the same university as your son. In fact, you asked me to help him write his personal statement and he got in.

Mr. ___: Uh well, you don’t speak fluent Greek. So, no raise. Go back to your office.

K: But…

Mr. ___: Conversation is finished.

* I quit and left for a better job less than 60 days later.

Conversation with the Alfa Vita woman

(Translated from Greek)

At checkout with my reusable AB Vasilopoulos bag.

AB: Where did you get this bag?

K: From my fiancé’s mother.

AB: There’s no tag on it.

K: She took it off before she gave it to us.

AB: Why?

K: I don’t know, maybe she didn’t know it was important.

AB: (Looking at the bag, then me) Well, where did she get it?

K: I don’t know, do you want me to call and ask her? I have a phone.

AB: No, but I need the tag to scan it.

K: OK, but she took the tag off. What can I do? I take tags off of things after I buy them too; no one told us to NOT take it off.

AB: Well, I can’t give you credit for it.

K: Fine, you never give me credit for using the bag anyway.

AB: That’s because it’s suspicious.

K: OK, fine. Do you want me to pay for it again? I have money, I have no reason to steal things.

AB: No, but you’re not getting any credit for it.

K: Yeah, I’m not a koufos. I heard.

* A friend in the north tells a story about trips to the supermarket that could easily be from my life, called “Unnecessary Tension.” I suppose after 15 years, my nerves are deadened. 😉

My friend Niko believes I like to stay home because it’s the only time I’m not being hassled. Me? I see them as stories I can laugh about after rolling my eyes, shaking my head, and resisting the urge to slap someone. 😀

Related posts

Conversations with my fiance
Crazy American things
It’s time to play Name that Dimitri
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  toomanytribbles wrote @ July 13th, 2007 at 12:22

cool blog. it’s comforting to find others’ adventures coping with greece. i wonder why you’re so persistent. i’m presently in china.. but i’ll be back!

  Sydney wrote @ July 17th, 2007 at 18:07

I loved the conversation with your boss. I’m a fairly roll-with-it kind of person and I usually don’t find it hard to accept differences – but even I had a hard time swallowing that getting married gives you a raise in Greece.

I suppose it’s the capitalist upbringing, but that one really twists my knickers. (that and the open and legal discrimination for age/$ex in job adverts.)Here you are, adding value, but you don’t get a raise because he doesn’t have to give you one. Chances are he understands that you’re not going anywhere even if he doesn’t give you a raise. Grr.

I honestly didn’t know, before leaving the States, that the differences in working would extend so far beyond simple language/hours/social exchanges differences.

Excellent slices of life.

  Kat wrote @ July 17th, 2007 at 18:31

I’m quite relaxed about some things also, but once I gather concrete evidence that my boss’ profits have doubled or tripled since shortly after my arrival, then I need to stand my ground. If I were making a decent salary, perhaps I wouldn’t ask for a raise. In addition, there are men doing less than me, working for a shorter period than I, and they earn considerably more money. I’m the woman, so I supposedly “don’t need the money.”

I’ve twice left employers due to the denial of a raise. The first was raking in $2 million in contracts after I started setting and pushing goals, and he wouldn’t give me a lousy 100 euros raise, so I found another job and quit. He assumed, wrongly, that I was leaving him for a job in the USA; he was shocked I was leaving him for a Greek employer, as if he was the best boss in Greece.

Within 6 months at my new job, our volume/profit tripled and my boss was able to purchase a new office building after a year (coincidence?). I asked for a 100 euro raise, he wouldn’t give it to me, so I left. He’s now got 3 people doing my job, but they’re easily controlled and docile so he doesn’t care — he got his building paid in cash from my 2 years with him. (There are other entries about him on this site).

So now I’m with another Greek employer. This is the last one before I leave, so I’m just biding my time.

I think it’s a case of Greece. Not all countries are like this, and I see Greeks treated poorly also; but there are a few who are fine. And for the record, I never expect a country to be like the United States as I know you don’t — I believe everyone is just looking for a decent job and a decent life.

Thanks for leaving a comment, Syd.

  Sydney wrote @ July 17th, 2007 at 20:41

I understood that you didn’t expect it to be the USA. Despite our many trials and tribulations in Greece, I feel very strongly that only a very small portion (if any) of those problems were because we were foreigners. Mostly, they were simply how Greece is. I’m sure others feel differently, but I’ve seen too many locals go through similar stuff to believe that it was because of our non-Greekness.

  PIC wrote @ July 24th, 2007 at 17:03

You really do get the run-around. I think I would too, but after awhile I just gave up because I decided normal blood pressure is better than arguing with everyone all day long and having my BP skyrocket (which is what I used to do).

One topic I wonder if you’d cover is my personal favorite. Just because I’m American, they want to know how much money I make. I’ve tried saying “none of your busihess” but my Greek wife says I’m rude when I do that. But, they are not rude for asking a total stranger how much money they make?

Anyways, I’m rambling now. What say you?

  Kat wrote @ July 24th, 2007 at 18:58

A long time ago, I stopped letting it bug me, mostly because I had other things to worry about and so little time. For me, this is just a normal day out of many in my life, and I posted it as a humorous account; it’s not serious, and anyone who takes it that way is lacking a sense of humor. The only time it bugs me is when, for example, the taxi driver follows me home; then I adjust my behavior by getting out a few blocks away and walking the rest of the way to my house so he doesn’t know where I live. It’s happened more than 50 percent of the time, so this is not an isolated incident.

There is no word for “privacy” in Greek, and I think many take this to mean that the sky’s the limit (this concurs with your wife). On the other hand, I know many Greeks who are offended if you ask them the same question so why should you answer? I don’t — if someone is insistent, I’ll lie. I also don’t ask — I only know because someone volunteers the info.

  Stathis wrote @ August 3rd, 2007 at 18:29

I really like your blog!! You know us all too well!
I want to tell you about a dialogue which happened in a convention in New York.

I went there with other friends from the university to attend the united nations american simulation. For me it was a hell of an experience because NY is THE city! Nevermind..

So me and my best friend were attending a very boring meeting with about 180 other students from US. So we did what every Greek will do when he/she is with another Greek among foreigners. Talk loud – of course in Greek- and laugh at everything. After 10 minutes an american at the back asks me
-Excuse me are you speaking French?
-I didn’t think you were speaking french because i know some(?!). Where are you from?
-so, what language do you speak in Greece?
-In Greece we speak Greek


  Kat wrote @ October 21st, 2007 at 22:22

Stathis, I was thinking about your comment today. A European that I consider intelligent asked me, “what language do they speak in Greece?” (same as what they asked you). I cannot understand how people don’t know! It’s like asking, “what are the people from Greece called?”

In any case, you are providing a service to all the people who do a Google search with the same question. 🙂

  The Scorpion wrote @ October 22nd, 2007 at 03:50

Or my favorite–My American aunt asks me if people in Greece use “Grecian Formula” to dye their hair. Do they even have that product here? Or when they ask about the Grecian people or Grecian language. I don’t think I’ve heard Greeks refer to themselves as Grecians??


  AussieGreek wrote @ July 13th, 2008 at 07:55

I’m currently visiting family in Athens, which is rare as I live in Australia, and being only half Greek I can’t speak the language and visiting this country is like being in China, no difference for me. Everything is strange and foreign. Last night I asked a taxi driver at a bus station, how much to drop me off 2 kms down the road? He said 200 euros. Then he laughed and said, 3 euros but you must spend ALL night with me. I said no, I just want to go home. He said ok, 200 euros. He did drop me off and it was only 3 euros, but not after offering himself countless times again. What is it with Greek taxi drivers??? Aren’t they getting enough?

  Kat wrote @ July 13th, 2008 at 18:10

S – The only time I’ve heard the word Grecian used is in Shelley’s poem, “Ode to a Grecian Urn.”

AG – LOL! Thanks for leaving a comment today. Your story brought tears to my eyes, and I’m glad nothing weird happened in the end (I have a story that started the same, but ended rather disgustingly). Greece is still a beautiful place, and I’m sure your family will help you enjoy yourself. Have a nice stay!

  KT wrote @ July 14th, 2008 at 01:47

I’m not sure what it is about cab drivers, but I can remember a few times when I took a cab and things did not go well. Americana eisai eh? (so your american) kai exeis kai diko sou spiti (and you have your own house?) I would say no it’s my parents i’m just living here. A few weeks before I left from Greece I took a cab to go to my house 2km distance, and we almost crashed 3 times until he took me home, because he was flirting with me.. According to my aunt in Greece cab drivers are not to be trusted!! Greece is still beautiful but the people there SUCK

  maria v wrote @ July 21st, 2008 at 14:39

here’s my dollar’s worth to add to your story:
i went to the tax department, and filled out a form which I then had to sign. The woman cleark looked at my signature and excalimed: Oh you’re signing in English, I dont know if we can accept that. I had to tell her that the police did in my ID card. She showed no sign of embarrassment for her stupidity.

  Simon Baddeley wrote @ August 8th, 2008 at 03:50

About two years ago an English hotelier told me that we would delight in Greece and enjoy our time here, while we remain in ‘harvest’, but once we started (if we ever did) ‘harvesting’, we’d encounter a very different world. I guess that distinction applies in lots of places, though I did not encounter it in my years working in USA, and I was doing other jobs to pay for my academic fees, while also working at my university in Ann Arbor. It makes me realise how incredibly useful (but also potentially subversive) your website is with all the help it offers to people wishing to harvest for even a subsistence crop. Simon

  Ann wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 04:36

Really funny blog and really funny dialogues. Indeed bureaucracy, lack of professional opportunities and turned on taxi drivers can be a burden not only to foreigners like yourself but also to locals. I must say how honored i feel that people like you choose my country in order to live, work and learn the language.
I’ve lived abroad and visited many countries. Every time i met good people, bad people, stupid people etc. I had good and bad experiences. Difference is i chose to talk about both sides.

You seem ecstatic to trash the country you have tried so badly to live in. No one forced you right? You choose to refer to Greeks as stupid or ignorant people who take advantage of poor foreigners like yourself.

Isolated incidents occur of course like in every other country but if it was such a big hell you wouldn’t be here. Less negativity and more respect to the country that welcomed you would do miracles to a whiner like yourself.

Enjoy and use the bus!

  Kat wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 07:28

The passive-aggressive tone and narrowmindedness of your comment made it obvious to me you hadn’t read many posts, and I confirmed you read only five of 300 articles on this website.

I do say that Greeks and non-Greeks alike are subject to this treatment, not only in this post and its comments but nearly everywhere on this website. In my life, it’s widespread and not at all isolated. I do portray both sides. I do inject optimism and humor into personal stories (two qualities I attribute to my survival). I do say the majority of my friends are Greek and intelligent people. Why would I trash them? Greeks made similar or worse comments, but you’ll say that’s their right. My stories from 11 years in residence are too honest for the “sweep it under the rug” mentality so prevalent here and probably touched a nerve, but you won’t admit and instead accuse me of whining. One word: Chauvinism. On the other hand, I’m a citizen from a flawed country and am not afraid to say so when everyone in the world criticizes it, even if they’ve never lived a day in the USA or visited.

“Your” country — that reference in itself is indication of the kind of nationalism foreigners face — did NOT welcome me, these are not my worst stories, and sharing true-life experiences does not connotate disrespect. This website is full of generosity and love, but you choose to not see it. “Your” fellow Greeks also deem posts about my personal experiences as objective and required reading for anyone living and working in Greece.

P.S. Taking the bus is worse than a taxi, though it is my main form of transport. I’m subject to staring, improper touching bordering on molestation, unprovoked comments and swearing, and people physically pulling me from my seat by both arms to give to a young Greek man. I wasn’t going to tell that story, but since you brought it up…

Thank you for your unsolicited advice and name calling. Two more things that have made me feel so welcome in Greece. 😀

  Dermot wrote @ December 8th, 2008 at 23:01

Have to comment on all of this. My wife and I have been living in Crete for about 18 months now having been on holidays many times previous to that. We are finding out the good and the bad of living in Greece. We have the most wonderful neighbours who will give us anything, and the only thing we can do in return is give them the occasional lift to the local city. They have been impossibly generous because we are helping them with their olive harvest, which is a very different and exciting experience for us. they insist on giving us more than enough olive oil for the whole year, and a plentiful supply of firewood for our woodburning stove. When we moved here they had no idea of who we were (we are from Ireland) but they embraced us like like relatives. That is not to say that we are blind to the dodgy aspects of living here. Attitudes towards women are far behind what we are used to in our part of the world, but on the other hand , we would not have dreamed of leaving anything down in Ireland, wallet, etc. without expecting it to be robbed in double quick time. Here in Crete people regularly leave motorbikes with keys in and all sorts of stuff on the carrier and handlebars in the middle of the city (Chania) and expect it to still be there when they return, which it invariably is. All in all, we think that life here is very good, despite some medieval attitudes in some areas, but with correspinding upsides in others. The unstinting generosity, the touchy-feely-ness, so lacking in the northern hemispherse, is a little bit disconcerting but all the more precious for that.

  Alexia wrote @ February 3rd, 2009 at 09:28

I stumbled upon your blog and really enjoyed it.

I’m making a feature length documentary about Athenian taxi drivers and hope to wrap it up this year. If you are interested there’s a trailer at the web address I gave. I want to follow your posts. Is there a page on your blog where I can find bookmarks like Digg or Delicious?


Kat Reply:

Hi Alexia, thank you for stopping by and saying hi. I’ll look at your trailer and website when I have more free time. There are currently no Digg or Delicious options, however you can click the RSS icon near the URL and subscribe or set up a Google/Yahoo/MSN reader, which will notify you of new or updated posts and comments.

  Demitris wrote @ February 8th, 2009 at 15:31

That taxi driver sounds like a certified idiot. I avoid using the taxi’s like the plague when i’m in Greece but I know that’s not always possible. Some professionalism would go a looong way in making this service attractive again to me and many other people.

Dermot has put forward some excellent points & I wholeheartedly agree with what he says. It’s actually a lot better to live in the rural parts of Greece if you can do so. Alternatively mid-sized cities/towns are not bad either if you can get work there.

Kat Reply:

There are good taxi drivers; I know some. Living in Greece is a different experience for everyone. I respect what Dermot says, but I’ve not experienced the same thing over 11 years living in various parts of Greece (rural, island, urban) as a non-EU citizen who must work. That said, there are pros and cons to living anywhere. My post was a specific example of everyday conversations from my life and the stereotypes people put on me, done with humor. It was meant to be funny, not a serious or representative statement of how it is for everyone.

  Ilektra wrote @ November 1st, 2010 at 19:09

Comment 1:
Conversation with an American taxi driver, picking me up from the airport:
(note: I speak fluent English)

driver: So, where are you flying from?
me: Vancouver, I was at a conference.
driver: But do you live here? You have an accent.
me: Yes, I live here, but I’m from Greece.
driver: Oh, Greece, nice. It’s a beautiful country!
me: Yes, it is. Have you ever been there?
driver: No, but I’d like to go. Where in Greece are you from?
me: Thessaloniki.
driver: What?
me: Thessaloniki. The second larger city of Greece….
driver: …..
me: Not Athens.
driver: A, ok… Do you like Pakistani food?
me: Yes, I like all food.
driver: There’s a very good Pakistani restaurant near here. Do you want to go for dinner with me?
me: No, thanks.
driver: But why? Are you married?
me: No.
driver: So, why not come for dinner with me?
me: I just want to get home.
driver: You know, you look very beautiful and healthy (yes, he did say “healthy”!). Why not come for dinner with me?
me: Thanks for the compliment, but I just want to get home, please.
driver: But…………………

… the rest of the ride went like that, since I couldn’t just get off the taxi in the middle of suburbia…

So, to make a long story short: taxi drivers are a funny bunch everywhere in the world (I personally enjoy their company, no matter how weird it gets at times) and life is tough for immigrants everywhere, so will you please stop s#*&-talking about my country? Please.

PS. Your ex boss is a d!ck, though, I wonder how you managed to stand him for so long!
PS1. Why don’t you get your degree recognized from DOATAP? It’ll take like 6-7 months, but I think there’s no substantial fee and it may save you a lot of trouble in the long term…

Comment 2:
You know what? You’re right. I’m sorry. Really. I just realized you’re just doing the well-deserving complaining towards a society that’s functioning quite differently from what you’re used to, exactly like I was doing when I was living in the US. As an “outsider” (more of how I mean this later – please don’t take it the wrong way just yet) you have the clear view to spot and spell out things nice and frankly. Exactly like I was doing in the US. But do you know what my American friends told me at that time? – something I’ll never, EVER say outside of a blatantly obvious joke – If you don’t like it, go back to your miserable country. So, yeah, please don’t go back to your country, just realize that sometimes you’re painting an unfairly negative picture about a place that some people hold dearly. Examples? Well, not all Greeks (or the successful/happy ones) are well-connected, bribing, tax-evading slimeballs, or comfy housewives/depending on their parents. Greeks are not more macho than, say, Italy or the US (the only place in the western world where it’s considered ok to be a housewife), not more unfriendly to foreigners than Germany or Switzerland and not more proud than Spaniards or French. Greek bureucracy is not worse than the UK one and there’s as much English spoken at public services as in French ones. The health care and education system is among the most free in the world, and quite decent too. And the list goes on…

So, about this “outsider” thing… I’m not saying it in a chauvinistic way, Greece is by now your country as much as it is mine, and I hate the stringent immigration laws as much as any random Greek-born Albanian does. But it’s this strange love rooted so deep you can’t even notice, for the place you were raised in and is part of who you are, which you don’t have for Greece and I don’t have for the US or any other place I’ve lived in. I bump into it all the time bickering with my American boyfriend, so apparently it’s not a uniquely Greek thing. So, maybe this is why I/we native Greeks sometimes feel like someone is stepping on our toes when they speak the ugly truth about stuff we ourselves complain about all the time freely, as you pointed out. Maybe it’s just that, and not the feeling I have that you’re seeing things out of context…

And, as it seems I have to prove my street-cred here, I’ve never been supported by parents/spouse, exactly like you. I left Greece 10 years ago to study and pursue a career that is only possible in very specific places in the world – well, even less so in Greece due to its poor funding for science. I’m not going back to Greece anytime soon (if at all) due to the previously mentioned narrow career choices for me, and I’m perfectly fine with it, not much nostos left here… And I was browsing your site to find some info about wedding/citizenship technicalities for my future American husband (very helpful indeed, even with the dose of venom of the person that has been through it and suffered enough – thanks!), and then stuck around to find out what your deal really was before I went unfairly ballistic on you. A, and I told you about the DOATAP thing because I did it recently, and it was quite a breeze – compared to Greek bureucracy pains in general – and I could share some practical advise if you want.

Anyways, I didn’t mean to drug this publicly, but you don’t give a choice of private communication – sorry, I don’t twit… 😮 )
Have a nice day!

Kat Reply:

Contrary to your generalization, I never said all taxi drivers were this way. This was a humorous post based on factual stories from my life — are you saying I’m not allowed to tell the truth? I don’t work for the EOT, and my worst stories have yet to be told publicly. If you took it negatively, perhaps you should ask yourself why since I have no control over your perspective and you could have closed the browser at any time during your 3 hours on my website.

My ex-boss is who he is, we grew to respect each other, and I found him humorous. Why I tolerated him? I’m not a beneficiary, depending on a husband or parents to support me financially, and I don’t quit or have tantrums when life hands me challenges. An immigrant in Greece — something you’ve never been — does not face the same kind of discrimination everywhere in the world.

Perhaps you think you know me from reading a years-old story of my life, but It’d be prudent to know someone’s present situation before dispensing unsolicited advice. Having a degree recognized solves little to nothing for a non-Greek (and even many Greeks), as explained in “Value of a university degree in Greece.”

I noted that you called Greece, your country, as if I had no right to call it my own after living and working here legally for 13 years. But I bet if I were Greek, you wouldn’t even blink. That’s chauvinistic. In Switzerland, do they forbid you to call it your country? Your comment is reminiscent of one made by your compatriot ‘Melina’ on “Kalimera!,” followed by people who aptly, intelligently and eloquently explain the difference between promoting Greece, hiding the truth and lies.

I do not see where I’ve talked sh!t about your country, though I see clearly where you’ve talked sh!t about people you’ve never met. So what you’re saying is I should do as you say, not as you do. That’s hypocrisy.

Wishing you peace.

  elvira wrote @ November 7th, 2010 at 02:51

hola entiendo perfectamente el porque un griego ataca cuando se critica formas de ser que inclusive a griegos molesta, hace 15 anos vivo en grecia casada con griego e hijo griego soy de un pais de latinoamerica, yo he querido amado a este pais he adoptado todo cultura costumbres idioma, lamentablemente me he sentido y me siento griega a pesar de no haber nacido aqui pero los griegos no me aceptan me maltratan me desprecian y me aislan porque no soy griega, he llegado a este sitio buscando respuestas de porque me tratan tan mal el hecho de no haber nacido aqui es un pecado y lamentablemente tambien discriminan a mi hijo, no critico nada mas es dolor lo que siento y el sentirme tan sola gracias

  Eddy wrote @ May 13th, 2011 at 17:06


I respect your site very much, and visit it regularly. It just occurred to me that you may well be able to shed some light on the following question. I would be grateful for whatever thoughts you have.

In Athens one sees so many taxis that are brand new Mercedes Benzes or BMWs, i.e. cars that are amongst the most expensive ones available in the world.

How can this be? Do taxi-drivers get special exemptions, or can they buy these very expensive cars at low prices?

Or do some Greek taxi-drivers simply make a great deal of money, somehow?

Sorry, comments are closed at this time.