Planning on moving to Greece? Are you Greek and thinking of coming back? Think long and hard. Visiting on vacation and dreaming of living in Greece are a lot different than the actual reality of being here.
If you’re an EU/EFTA citizen (except Croatia), you’ll have a much easier time. If you’re an American or other non-EU citizen, you must find out whether you can stake a claim to EU citizenship through an ancestor or get a residence/work permit for Greece by one of the methods explained in “How American/non-EU citizens can get a permit to move, live and work in Greece.” And if you know little or nothing about what Greece is truly like beyond gushing travel ads and stories from a friend or relative, follow Greek news at: www.twitter.com/livingingreece.
* Article last updated February 8, 2014.
Why people move to Greece
Nearly everyone moves to Greece for emotional or sentimental reasons. Most non-Greeks move to be with a spouse, fiance(e), boyfriend/girlfriend or partner; many Greeks move back based on nostalgia and longing for the patrida, usually to an established family home, forgetting the financial and practical reasons their ancestors originally left.
Still others are “runaway expats” who dream of escaping or take the leap after reading a novel that is fictional or heavily edited, not realizing that old problems follow and new challenges await them. Many decisions are made based on memories of an idyllic vacation or a starry-eyed romance before uprooting lives, not taking into consideration the bureaucracy, cost and how such a move will affect long-term life goals once the charm of being somewhere new or with someone new wears off.
It has always been my intention to publish an article about moving to Greece, since the question of, “Should I?” or “Why should I?” is the first thing people confront. However, I have never been comfortable with dispensing advice on big decisions. Why?
- Each individual is different: What’s right for one person is not for another. Just because I did it and your boyfriend, mother or cousin is happy here, doesn’t mean that you will be.
- Greece is a “results may vary” country: People who experience virtually no problems either don’t work for a Greek employer or don’t work at all, depending on retirement money, personal wealth, parental subsidies or a working spouse, which is why many who are students, holidaymakers, retirees and housewives, or were children when they last lived here as in “Mourning the Greece of my childhood” (BBC), are out of touch with everyday adversity and have romanticized accounts of life in Greece.
*I was successful and continued the same career I had in America without connections or being dependent on funding or marriage to a Greek/EU citizen, but I made indescribable sacrifices and am a very rare exception. There are thousands who didn’t make it and left, still here but struggling, or regretting their choice in silence.
- Being Greek doesn’t solve everything: Those born abroad, or Greek citizens who were born in Greece and left, are often considered not Greek enough. And when competing with job candidates already here, experience abroad is not necessarily an advantage since first-hand knowledge of Greece’s current industries, laws and trends is far more desirable.
- Love is fine, but don’t leave your brain behind: Many who fall in love with the country or come to Greece to be near and/or marry someone they met on vacation will move under the guise of “following their heart,” then wake up when reality sets in or the relationship falls apart. You have a 50/50 chance of forever and fewer rights in a foreign country. Don’t forget to think.
- Non-Greeks have a completely different experience than Greeks and should not believe everything their partners say without doing separate research. I meet a lot of non-Greeks who uprooted their lives and careers after Greek spouses/fiance(e)s dismissed my website, painted a dream scenario of enjoying a “simpler life,” living six months in paradise and six months elsewhere, freelancing, traveling and soaking up the sun. Many are unemployed, dependent, subject to daily discrimination/racism and now trapped or faced with divorce because their Greek counterparts refuse to leave. Some won’t sign passport renewals for children, using them as leverage. Taking a risk is fine; getting tricked is not.
- The economic crisis has vastly changed the landscape and future of Greece, which sunshine, beaches and the power of positive thinking cannot solve. Already low salaries are lower, businesses are shutting down at a record rate, up to 900 people lose their jobs every day, unemployment is more than double the eurozone average at 27.7 percent overall (charts in English & Greek) and 36.9 percent for non-Greeks, those who have jobs have problems getting paid, pension funds are bankrupt, neo-Nazis now sit in Parliament and taxes were raised four times in 18 months. Quality of life in Greece was ranked third worst in the EU by its residents, in addition to being expensive and uncertain, with the country expected to be in recession ’til 2015 and in recovery until 2023, though the country’s educated elite will have long gone by then.
I don’t know you, nor do you know me: I’m flattered you trust me enough to ask my opinion, but this is still about you. I am a messenger and truth teller, not a fortune teller.
No one is fit to advise anyone on personal decisions that will permanently impact the course of his or her life, so polling and consulting friends, relatives or strangers in a forum is a waste of time. This is your life, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks — it only matters what you think and what you can live with.
If you cannot make a decision on your own and commit to it, you have a difficult road ahead.
How I and this website can help you
I started this website with the intention of assisting you on your journey, filling a void by providing transparent practical information, complemented with news and stories not heard in mainstream media to break down stereotypes, hearsay, gushing reviews and myths. Unintentionally, it has become a bridge to creating understanding between people and a community for readers to connect and share stories, regardless of nationality.
A small minority believe this site is negative, and I’m on a mission to discourage people from moving to Greece, though I don’t see what I’d have to gain from doing that. Being truthful is a very different thing than being negative or anti-Greek, and I can assure everyone that I have not told my worst stories or even half of the bad things that occur in my life every day for reasons of privacy. In fact, this website has helped thousands that the Greek consulate/embassy and official Greek government sources failed to assist and saved people time, frustration and money.
You may never make the same sacrifices or encounter the difficulties that I and many others faced, but it doesn’t make our experiences less true or valid. Don’t you want to know the warnings and pitfalls, rather than be surprised after you’ve given up your home, career and bank account? Further, if people are so easily frightened by the information and stories on this site, I can say with certainty that they won’t have the nerve to face down reality and will likely be eaten alive or forced to return home in a short time.
The majority believe this website is — aside from being helpful — the most honest, objective and realistic account of what it’s like to live and work in Greece, with readers often telling me they nod their heads when reading something I’ve written, learn something new and recommend me to people they know. Some even say it’s inspiring and have embraced me as their friend. I am humbled, especially since many of these people are Greek.
Everyone takes away something different, and that’s the point. Life is both good and bad, every country has pros and cons, every action has benefits and consequences, every person has likes and dislikes. It’s important to sit quietly with yourself and be clear about what you want, define your priorities and make a commitment to persevere. Answers come from within, and dreams come true when those answers are put into action.
This website is an investment I’ve made in you. It is a resource and gift I built in my unpaid time and am offering free of charge to help your dreams come true. It can help you break down reality, be happy where you are and consider non-Hellenic options, or it can save you time and pain by empowering you with 15 years first-hand knowledge and experience, so you can jump to the front of the line and take advantage of what I’ve learned on your journey to Greece.
Take responsibility for your choices. It is, after all, your life.
In the news
Note that most of these stories involve affluent families or couples in retirement. It’s not a coincidence. They were also written before the crisis and nothing has been published since.
“The truth about expat life in Greece” — Scots in Greece (Herald Scotland)
“Fancy moving to Greece?” — UK couple (Lancaster Guardian)
“Retreat to Crete” – Expats talk about moving to Greece (Daily Mail)
“Chasing dreams: Family selling house to move to Corfu” — Telegraph
“Shops of time: I turned down jobs abroad with big salaries to work alongside my father” — Ta Nea
“A simpler life in Crete” — International Living
All of these stories pertain to people who live and work in Greece and know what it’s truly like.
“Dreams of living in Greece don’t match reality” — Brooklyn Ink
“Moving back to Greece the ‘biggest mistake of my life’” — Le Monde
“More than half the population wants to leave for better quality of life and job” — To Vima
“She came back to Greece to contribute, but sacrificed for a future that never came” — CNN
“Only one way out of Greek crisis: Board a plane and never look back” — Reuters
“Why I left Greece” — Huffington Post
“Greece’s one million unpaid workers” — BBC
“Racism on the rise: There’s no such thing as a legal non-Greek” — FT
“One in three families mulls leaving Greece” — Kathimerini
“Majority of households cut food, clothing, heat from budget” — To Vima
“UK resident jailed in Greece on false allegations” — BBC
“Quality of living in Greece amongst worst in EU, according to residents” — Gallup Poll
“I told Greek-American relatives to stay in New York” — Bloomberg
“Brain drain: Greeks say their country is a ‘dead end‘” — BBC
“Greece’s epidemic of racist attacks” — NY Times
“Women in Greece face double burden, discrimination, domestic violence” — Guardian
“We love Greece, but everyone wants out” — Canada.com
“Ready to bale out over bailout: Greeks and foreigners are leaving” — BBC
“Hit by crisis, migrants in Greece head home” — Kathimerini
“Talented professionals aged 25-40 talk about why they’re leaving Greece” — The Independent
“The 592-Euro Generation: Greek TV comedy based on serious reality” — The Guardian
“I have bitterly regretted the day I booked my ticket to Greece” — WSJ
“Half of PhD holders and 10 percent of university graduates have left” — Daily Beast
“Greece loses skilled workers to countries still hiring” — Deutsche Welle
“Overqualified and Unemployed: Women in Greece finding little success” — NY Times
“I dreamed of returning to Greece. It was bad, so I came back” — CNN
“Thousands of Greeks put plan B into action: Leaving” — Kathimerini
“A staggering 95 percent of executives ready to leave Greece” — Eleftherotypia
“Businessmen under 45 Amongst Homeless, Hungry, Suicidal” — NY Times
“Attacks on Immigrants on the Rise in Greece” — NY Times
“Ninety-five percent of Greek parents urge children to work abroad” — Kathimerini
“Tired of Cronyism & Stagnation, Greeks Leave for Better Lives & Salaries” — NY Times
“It was a ‘horrible mistake’ to move back to Greece” — BBC
“Greeks Look Abroad as Jobs Dry Up: 61% don’t look for work in Greece before deciding to leave” — WSJ
“A 20-year love affair with Greece turned nightmare” — Daily Mail
“Almost 74% of Greeks Aged 22-35 Would Opt to Emigrate; 66% Seek Better Quality of Life” — Bloomberg
“Young, educated Greeks rush to emigrate to UK, USA, Canada, Australia during debt crisis” — Guardian
“Gave up career in London, built dream house in Corfu but left when Greek recession hit” — Daily Mail
“Greeks look abroad for jobs again, as austerity bites” — Reuters
“UK citizen ‘unlawfully killed’; Greek doctor listed ‘natural causes’” — BBC
“Moving back to UK; living in Greece economically impossible” — The Shuttle
“Adriana Huffington’s story of leaving Greece for America” — Huffington Post
“Hard times prompt Albanians to return home” — Reuters
“Greeks head to the Emirates as jobs dry up” — The National
“Man dies of negligence in Greek hospital, body sent back to UK minus a kidney” — The Guardian
“UK woman found dead after moving to Crete, Greece; organs missing” — Sunday Express
“Greeks in Thessaloniki say they’re trapped, can’t leave — no funds” — Eleftherotypia
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.
Photo from suretone.com