Living in Greece

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

American in Athens in Eleftheros Typos

My wonderful blog buddy Betabug and I were mentioned in the local Greek media to celebrate the 1st of August.

What follows is a Greek-to-English translation of the article in Eleftheros Typos by Marios Rozakos.

Reflections of a city on the Internet

Athens through the eyes of Greek and foreign bloggers
Wednesday, 01.08.07

A pair of birds flirt in the opposite apartment building, the hostile pedestrian light of Fillelinon street where “Grigoris” (the green light) appears for a mere 8 seconds, the nightflowers that unexpectedly appear in various neighborhoods, the expensive Greek salads in tourist tavernas — four of a million pictures that confront residents and visitors of Athens. Some excite, some enrage, some people are pleasantly surprised, some unpleasantly, but they have a common theme: They inspire and mobilize Internet writers.

In the thousands of Greek-speaking blogs and millions of foreign ones, the city is reflected in or redefined by the perspectives of a visitor-observer, opening an online dialogue for the good and the crooked, leaving an electronic imprint in time. Personal accounts, denouncements, traveling advice, <and> useful information coexist on Web pages and become a point of reference for thousands of digital visitors.

Amongst the Internet narratives, the ones that stand out are those by foreign tourists or foreigners living in the capital. Many of them are embedded in foreign network blogs with big audiences, such as the traveler’s Web blog ‘Travelpod.’ Nwong from Brooklyn, USA is one of its millions of users. Two years ago, she could be found in Athens. “Athens is a city that is hard to get a feel of. It’s tough to make out a first impression… The city itself is a big historical <site>. You can walk down a shop filled street and easily bypass an area covered in glass protecting important archaeological finds,” she writes.

The warmest description is that of blogger Aurora Borealis (, who lived and fell in love with backdrop of the Citadel. “I can feel the smell of nightflowers coming from undetected corners, and some times you think it is coming from the corners of your mind… The memories of Athens are hitting me and they are hitting me hard in the heart, in the lungs, in my veins. I miss my city. Cause now, I can call Athens ‘my city’ since the girls in the bakery store two streets above Solonos remember my name.”

Naturally, in the blogosphere is also imprinted the negative aspect of life in the big city. Exhaustive price comparisons that prove how – unjustifiably – high the cost of living is in comparison to other <major cities>, but also warnings about traps that tourists should be aware of in restaurants, constitute an integral part of Web pages — “survival guides” for Athens, such as and

At least, according to the majority of foreign bloggers, the city’s natives remain friendly and expressive. “I don’t know about Madrid, but Athens is a bit different, with much less big city syndrome (BCS),” observes the author of the online journal What are the symptoms of the syndrome? Closed, smileless, gloomy faces… People do not talk that much to each other <on the underground>.” In Athens, “a few minutes out of the rush hour…and much more in the evening than in the morning, you will get children running around, people arguing with all their heart (even if they are strangers putting on a noisy show), lovers kissing, groups of teenagers laughing out loud.”


Being categorized as writing about the negative aspect of Athens, I was initially offended since I present a truthful straightforward account based on facts and 10 years first-hand experience from the lives of Greeks and non-Greeks alike. It’s not just a blog about ills and price comparisons, it’s about helping people navigate bureaucracy and life as a non-EU, non-Greek citizen — the only one among the four bloggers mentioned, in fact. I believe the word negative should be substituted with the word realistic.

However, I was assured that Mr. Rozakos was not criticizing or singling me out, that perhaps he chose to recognize my website because he sees it for what it is. A non-Polyanna resource with practical information and entertaining (sometimes humorous) posts about life in the big bad city without the newbie innocence, romanticism or dramatic passages.

And even if the article had labeled me as negative, that’s OK too. Not only because bad publicity is free publicity nonetheless, but because I’ve never been the kind of person who got upset over oft comments, cringed under pressure or feared death threats. In fact, I love confrontation and challenge. But that’s obvious, isn’t it?

I’m an American in Athens.

To see the original article in Greek

Kαθρέφτης της πόλης το Διαδίκτυο – Η Αθήνα με τα μάτια Ελλήνων και ξένων bloggers
– Ροζακος Μαριος

Ευχαριστουμε Μαριο! 🙂 and a ‘thank you’ to my readers who make it all worthwhile!

Related posts

Unhappy urbanites, in and out of Athens
An American in Athens is now Living in Greece

In completing the Greek-English translation, I chose to take quotes directly from the websites mentioned since Mr. Rozakos inadvertently took some them out of context and changed the original meaning. I also adjusted the grammar and words with utmost respect to the original article because the literal translation from Greek to English did not make sense (not a criticism, only a fact of what happens when languages are different) or was inaccurate, e.g. Manhattan and Los Angeles are not the respective capitals of New York and California. Two native Greeks checked my work, so it’s as close as it’s going to get.


  PIC wrote @ August 2nd, 2007 at 08:11

Congrats Kat. I’m impressed that they were willing to show the average Greek that foreigners do occasionally have complaints about Greece. Usually, whenever they interview foreigners on Greek TV, it shows them praising the greatness of Greece and the wonderful time they had. You never hear about the foreigners who missed their boat, had rude service, got ripped off by a taxi driver etc. I was interviewed during the Olympics in 2004 and I told them it was shameful that the city was not more accessible to the disabled and as expected my comments were not aired with the rest.

Hell, if all they want to hear is how great Greece is 24 hours a day, that’s fine with me, but it’s not “realistic” as you say…

  Vassili wrote @ August 2nd, 2007 at 10:00

Very well put Kat. It’s not negative, just realistic. You’re being just as real as every guy in the Kafeneion who complains about high prices, bad roads, health care etc etc etc (as Yul Brynner would say). And since you’re still here despite all this, it shows how much more you love the place.

  Thomas wrote @ August 2nd, 2007 at 10:14

Congratulations. I think some misrepresentation is inevitable when they try to summarise a blog. I think they’re pretty fair, since they admit that the comparisons made on the blogs are justified, as far as cost of living is concerned.

Actually, now that I think about it, considering they’re journalists who can’t even spell “bloggers” correctly, you got pretty good treatment.

  EllasDevil wrote @ August 2nd, 2007 at 12:10

You mean we’re no longer going down to throw rocks at their offices…

Man… you could have told me sooner! 🙂

I booked the day off work…!

  Παναγιώτης wrote @ August 2nd, 2007 at 12:27

Good morning,

The greeks are proud yet chauvinistic. We always mumble and complain amongst ourselves about the mess in this country, but when a foreigner points out the mess, the Greeks all start to curse him that he speaks in an anti-greek and hostile manner. This is much like our lives. It’s always the state’s or someone else’s fault, not ours.

We are like poor heirs: It is announced that we have been given a huge legacy, but as the peasants we are, we waste it lavishly here and there; and instead of nectar and ambrosia, we are willing to feed on the trash of subculture that haunts our daily lives.

Greece is an extremely beautiful but cheap prostitute, and the Greek is her pimp. He is always telling her how beautiful she is, how much culture she has, how privileged he is in comparison to the ξένους, but when they are alone, he beats her, sells off her precious treasures, trades off her property and tries to convince her that all of this is happening because of her inabilities and weaknesses.

To my fellow countrymen who may be offended by my opinion, let’s face the truth, let’s not hide from ourselves. The ξένοι also have problems in their countries, but at least they don’t try to convert their drawbacks to advantages. Instead, they try to solve them.

The longest it takes for a problem to be solved is from the cafeteria chatting to home. And it stops there. Let the TV brainwashing begin…

  arammos wrote @ August 2nd, 2007 at 14:57

You are not negative! You are writing about the problems you are facing here. The same probs we are facing too.

Very good news for your nice job. I am happy for you.

  PIC wrote @ August 2nd, 2007 at 15:57

Kat, I agree with Vassilis. With all the problems and you still Love it here. It reminds me of a comment I read on a blog awhile ago. The blog host said something like “I love Greece because I CHOSE to live here, You Greeks HAVE to live here” or something like that.

Panayiotis comments were very wise and I’d like to borrow them.

  yiannos wrote @ August 2nd, 2007 at 16:56

panayiotis, that was an excellent post i must admit.

  Kat wrote @ August 2nd, 2007 at 22:59

I’m a bit baffled as to why only men commented on this post to date, in any case…

First I want to say that, as an American, I acknowledge that the USA has issues and our President is not the brightest bulb in the box. However, I am willing and able to agree with (or at least listen to) any criticisms about my homeland and admit that it may not be the best country in the world. All countries have their good and bad, not just the USA and Greece.

PIC – Indeed. People thought I was exaggerating when I told them that my sibling and I got spit on and booed while wearing our USA team hats (much like everyone from every nation was wearing their colors) at the Peace and Friendship Stadium during Athens 2004. We ended up putting them away because no taxis would pick us up.

Vassili – Well, I have my moments of love and hate (mostly when renewing my permit), just like many others. 😉

Thomas – Thanks, and so true! You make a good point, as always.

Arammos – Why thank you! And it’s nice you took the time to say so between your sunning and swimming. I hope you’re having a great time! 🙂

Yiannos – Thanks for stopping, I’ll get to the kudos in a second.

ED – Hey! I never said we were throwing rocks, just uh…well, you know. See you later and make sure your watch is synchronized.

And last but certainly not least, Panagiotis – What can I say? The power and meaning behind your words are made ever more eloquent because they were said with feeling and courage. Thank you for your words, thank you for your readership, but most of all thank you for your honesty.

  Sydney wrote @ August 3rd, 2007 at 00:07

I just wanted to pipe in – congrats on the print media coverage.

Oh, just wanted to add – it’s not just Greek TV and papers which only show foreigners who say good stuff. We laugh a lot because every Swedish news article about a famous person quotes them as saying, “I love Sweden.” Or something very similar.

First, what is the celebrity going to say when asked point-blank, “What do you think of Sweden?” Second, if she did say something like, “I think it’s awful that people here don’t smile or hold open doors” would they print it? No way.

And Paniotis – I’m so happy that you are blogging. What a magnificent way to describe one of the internal issues Greece has. Great post.

  melusina wrote @ August 3rd, 2007 at 00:27

Congrats on the mention, even if it was a bit “misinformed”. Your site is definitely not negative, it is informative and yes, realistic. But I guess the perception is understandable, I mean, if you blog about stubbing your toe in Greece and you are a foreigner, you are dissing Greece!

Honestly though, your blog should be referred to by the U.S. Embassy, because if I had had all this helpful information when I first moved here, life would have been much easier!

Panagiotis said it all quite well. It is an interesting sentimentality Greeks have about their country, but a bit sad in a way. Greece has such a great history, Greeks deserve better.

  PIC wrote @ August 3rd, 2007 at 08:05

Sydney, I found your comment about Sweden cute as well.

Interesting that they throw the microphone in front of the actors and ask their opinion of Sweden.

By contrast, at least in the USA, I remember several interviews done by the local news in Los Angeles asking tourists at the Airport in Los Angeles if they had a good time and their overall experience and comments on America. Most said great things about California and the States; however, there were a few who said that America is overdoing it on Security, and thought our war in Iraq was folly etc. Did our local journalists in California censor this? Nope, they did not. The good along with the bad was aired…

That is the difference.

  KikiT wrote @ August 3rd, 2007 at 12:10

I think you do a great job on your blog… and I find it relevant and reverant how informative it is to Expats from other countries trying to live their lives in Greece.

As a Greek living in Canada… when I come to Greece, I am treated with the worst regard, and I don’t think Greeks realise how they behave sometimes. And it is sad as they feel like they are the most hospitable country going.

I find all your legal information- Informative!! And your daily routine… FUN!! I don’t think describing your day in Athens as being negative, because you can walk down the street of summer smell the blooming flowers, watch the kids run through the streets and also get your heel caught in the crack of the sidewalk. Doesn’t mean you hate Athens!!

I think you do a great job!!

  Tania wrote @ August 3rd, 2007 at 14:03

Kat, as they say, no publicity is bad publicity. It’s great that your blog, out of the hundreds in Greece and millions across the globe, got a mention in a newspaper with such high readership in Greece. Congratulations – you deserve it. I admire your eloquence and the very interesting comments you make on everyday situations. Your entry about noise in Athens made me laugh and nod my head in agreement (as you know). Again, sinharitiria!

  Kat wrote @ August 3rd, 2007 at 18:27

Now to the girls 😉

Syd – Thank you for the compliment and the contrasting example. Reminds of when I attended a concert in Canada, and the reporter kept trying to get someone to say something positive. They cut all the people who said anything critical, even if it was constructive.

Mel – You know what, I think what Marios was saying is that he wholly acknowledges that there is negative stuff about Athens and my site justifiably details those things. I believe it was a testament to what I present, not a criticism (although when I initially read it, I didn’t take it that way). Or maybe I’m just in denial that I was misrepresented.

And thank you for saying what you did about how helpful the content is. I think the U.S. Embassy can’t publish such things because its purpose is to provide services for U.S. citizens living here and Greeks seeking to go to the U.S. for travel or immigration purposes. Personnel serve a diplomatic purpose, and it’s not really their job to guide expats who choose to transplant their roots. Do you know what I mean? They’re in a very precarious position and need to maintain a balance between respect for the home country and intervene only in affairs within their legal boundaries.

I also believe Greece’s inhabitants deserve better.

KikiT – Well, hey there! Thanks for adding your comment, and let me say that I don’t hate Athens or Greeks or Greece and I’m sure Mr. Rozakos wasn’t saying I did. As I said before, I believe he was acknowledging that Athens (like any city) has its drawbacks and praised this site for presenting that in a justifiable way.

You make a good point that Greeks from abroad (even if you were born here) are treated differently. I have several Greek-American and Greek-Canadian friends, who tell the occasional story that isn’t unique to nationality or race. I hope you stop in again and add your views on other posts – for me it’s good to have input from Greeks living abroad that visit on occasion.

Tania – I can’t thank you enough for your support and posting my blog as a link to the boards you manage. I’m glad that you, Mimi and Angie (and of course others) stop in, say ‘hi’ and get a giggle here and there.

DD – It’s not that foreigners aren’t “allowed” to be negative about Greece because of course you can do anything you want, with or without permission or prior authorization. I think it’s a matter of being attacked after making such comments.

I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion. Hell, I listen to people bitch and whine about America all the time, even telling me I deserved to die in NY on 9/11. But you have to consider whether the source has credibility — I have no hesitation to strike at someone who lacks it. I believe people don’t attack me because I’ve built credibility by creating a life here from the ground up, showing my devotion to Greece and walking my talk. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe my day of reckoning is coming.

In any case, I’ve always believed that debates that light a fire under people is the first step to real awareness and change. That’s not to say racism or blatant terrorism is OK, it’s not. However, opening an angry dialogue is much better than silent apathy. And as you know, you cannot please everyone no matter the outcome.

  Tania wrote @ August 4th, 2007 at 05:46

Thanks Kat – I wanted to add that I am often surprised and disgusted by some of the anti-American sentiment in Greece aimed at individuals. I was disgusted that you and your sibling were spat on – there is NO excuse for that. I am no fan of Bush and criticize him and his cronies often and loudly. Unfortunately the Australian Government seems to follow him around like a little puppy dog but that’s a whole other post.

We were in Greece when 9/11 happened and I was horrified by a couple of comments from people (as was my dh) and we told them so. In fact we had a very heated argument with some idiot in the horio but I was not prepared to back down because it was blatant racism that was being spouted.

I think hating the U.S. government and its foreign policy is a different matter than taking it out on individual citizens. Unforgivable.

I did read an interesting argument in a book recently (must find the title and post it for you) about the reason why a lot of Greeks hate the U.S. so much – it is supposedly because the U.S. government supported the junta and the Greeks can never forgive the U.S. for that. Not sure if that’s true but it made me feel like I understood it a bit better.

I find your blog well balanced – you are not a sycophant, but you also don’t overstate things in a negative way – you state things as they are and I like that.

I suppose the whole thing about not being allowed to criticize if you are a xeni must be like not being able to criticize the inlaws because you’re not really part of the family – ridiculous really, and obviously the people that say it are defensive because there is truth to what is being said :).

This has now turned into an editorial instead of a comment – sorry.

  Kat wrote @ August 4th, 2007 at 11:16

I wanted to note that at the water polo and basketball games I attended, Greeks were booing everyone — Italians, Poles, French — not just Americans. We really wanted Greece to win, but switched our loyalty due to the behavior. The guy next to us picked up on it and wondered why we wouldn’t cheer anymore, and I told him (in Greek) it was rude for the host nation to boo people and not extend warmth and friendship to our guests (filoxenia) generally, but especially in line with the Olympic spirit.

The U.S. did support the junta, and they’ve not intervened on behalf of Greece with respect to the ongoing Cyprus division, which is a humanitarian issue much like the U.S.’s decision to bomb Kosovo; that’s hypocrisy. I get that and I think it’s wrong. But the U.S. gave Greece a lot of money and support to rebuild after WWII. I’m not saying that makes it all better, it doesn’t. I’m saying that the U.S. has done something (not nothing, as many claim), though it may not be enough. I’m saying that politics is a very volatile issue in which a country’s citizens aren’t responsible. I mean, I didn’t vote for Bush twice and I live in Greece by choice. Doesn’t that speak volumes about my stance?

I’ve had people come up to me in public places and ask me questions, and I’ve never minded that — I prefer that than the stabbing looks of death and cursing. Even the guys in Plaka make comments in Greek as I walk by, and they’re a little surprised when I confront them in their language. I think dialogue helps build a bridge between people, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to work for the U.S. embassy or the GNTO — who better than a non-Greek to promote Greece, after all? But maybe I can do more in a community, person-to-person role as I am now.

I’ve never been attacked on this site for what I present, but like I said maybe my day of reckoning is coming.

Thank you for your comment/editorial. There’s no reason for you or anyone to apologize for expressing their thoughts honestly, even if they disagree with mine.

  betabug wrote @ August 10th, 2007 at 16:55

A bit late to chime in, but I think there is an oversight in your translation: “the hostile pedestrian light of Fillelinon street near “Grigoris” turns green for barely 8 seconds” should be “the hostile pedestrian light of Fillelinon street, where “Grigoris” shows himself for only 8 seconds”. “Grigoris” is the nickname of the little green man in the pedestrian’s traffic lights who signals that you can walk. Maybe he is a relatvie of the guy who founded the “Grigoris” sandwich shops, but more likely it’s yet another case of everybody having the same few names 😉

I don’t think the articles author was singling you out for criticizing (or even giving you as an example for that), it’s more that he wanted to show how us foreigners notice things that the “locals” don’t see any more because of having gotten used to them.

  Kat wrote @ August 10th, 2007 at 18:29

Hey S! It’s never too late, in fact you’re the only person to point out “Grigoris.” As you can see, plenty of Greeks posted comments before you; and the two native Greeks I consulted on the translation also said nothing. Now that you pointed it out, a Greek who checked my translation now confirms Stamatis and Grigoris. *Sigh* Thanks for letting me know.

Everyone has a different interpretation of the article. I’m fine with all of them.

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