Living in Greece

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

O klimatismo dude no cometh

Air conditioner

Each time I move, I face the enviable task of changing all the bills to my name, updating my address at the eforia, waiting in vain for OTE and getting the air conditioning guy to install and give freon to my hace frio friend.

We thought we were ready to go this summer because our AC unit was installed and serviced last winter when we moved. Apparently not. I turned it on and found nothing but warm air, which only caused me to wilt further under this uninsulated top-floor apartment house registering 39°C in the shade. For those of you that don’t speak Celsius, that’s 102°F. At night, it only gets down to 31°C or 88°F, and it’s humid.

Needless to say, I’ve not slept well for several days in a row, usually waking up in a terrible panic from sweating in my sleep and not being able to breathe. The outer door of the bedroom faces the now noisy-all-night-club-until-dawn-blast-my-music-because-I-don’t-work beach access road, and it isn’t constructed properly so light floods in at 5:00. But even if it were quiet, we can’t leave the door open because mosquitoes want to show their love for me in spite of two tablet/liquid machines and being doused in DEET, plus the house is covered in dust and dirt within a few hours when the wind blows. Sleeping in a bathtub full of cold water wrinkles my skin after an hour and makes me feel like white trash, so I try to make do with a fan blowing hot air on me while I cook, clean and work.

Add to this our water being turned off in the morning and afternoon, throw in some power cuts and that’s my “affluent” Athenian life. You want to be me, don’t you? 😉

I waited eagerly for the klimatismo dude to show up today sometime after noon, looking forward to a full evening of sleep and restoring my sanity by morning. Well, it’s after midnight and he no cometh. Never mind that I waited all day in the house, sweating myself to a sticky, salty anxiety. Never mind that there was no wind. Never mind that there was no phone call to reschedule. It’s not the first time.

It once took me nine appointments, three different services and nine days off from work over 40 days to get a man to come out five years ago, and it was only upon befriending someone who ran a heating/cooling shop according to business etiquette he learned in America that I finally got it done. Too bad we now live in an area that is some distance away, or I’d call him.

Tomorrow my Greek counterpart is going to find me a portable air conditioner. If he doesn’t, I’m thinking of sleeping on the marble floor like I did in desperation five years ago. Is that crazy? Maybe not since I told this story to Tino’s modern Greek-American mom, and she told me she did the same thing when she lived in Greece.

Plakakia slumber party anyone?

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37 Comments

  DIO wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 11:49

Let me break down my experience for you during my stay in Athens 10 years ago (no air-condition of course)….

The apartment had a small balcony where I placed the mattress and decided to give it a try. Well, you know what, I spent 10 nights sleeping tight and for a strange reason the mosquitos kept ignoring me…smooth!

As for your situation, the “noisy-all-night-club-until-dawn-blast-my-music-because-I-don’t-work” really seems to be the biggest issue…

  maria v wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 14:59

i wish i could send you some cretan ‘aeraki’ to cool you down. the area you live in now sounds (thumb down). i think you won’t be living there for too long

  Dora wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 16:03

One summer on the island was one of the hottest even the natives had ever experienced. No one had air conditioning and fans did nothing. We slept on the plakakia or on lawn chairs on the porch. Inside, my mother-in-law wouldn’t let us open the window shutters since she was afriad the Albanians would come in the night and I hated leaving open the front door for fear the lizards and such would walk in.

At 4:30 each morning the roosters were crowing, by 5AM the garbage guys were yelling, by 6AM the motorcycles and buses were roaring, and the guy selling all manner of stuff from his truck was screaming, “Karpouza, domates, peponia,…” Who could sleep?

  hiski wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 16:08

Where is this suburb where you live??? Sounds like maybe Glyfada area? I have just moved here from the US, living now temporarly in an apartment in Kifissia. (Nice here but want to see the water!) I really have been wanting to look for a place to live in the southern suburbs, like Glyfada.

Do you have any advice??? ok, the traffic and disco noise surely sucks, but is there somewhere around there that it is somehow avoidable? Otherwise to be honest, maybe Glyfada area isn’t that great, it sounds like your housing situation/area really is a big bummer…

Thanks for the help, appreciate the advice!
H.

  rositta wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 18:52

Well Kat, time for a move? I hope by September it will cool down since the apartment in Glyfada (1st floor this time) doesn’t have air conditioning. I hope you get everything working soon before you wilt…ciao

  FMS wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 19:45

The only positive thing about central Athens is that people will actually deliver/repair/ deal with things generally because it is convenient for them. On the downside, it’s hotter (by about 2-3C), noisier (illegal clubs booming until 6 am, idiot student types shouting inanities at 4 or 5 am; cars honking all night so that they dont need to stop at lights; delivery trucks appearing from 5 am), and in some districts expensive per sq. m. Oh, did I mention the thriving export industry of cockroach farms? Every polykatoikia has one!

  K wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 20:25

*****
“Add to this our water being turned off in the morning and afternoon, throw in some power cuts and that’s my “affluent” southern suburb Athenian life.”
*****

I officially take back my “doesn’t feel like the developing world” comments from the previous post ;-))

Aisxos

  The Scorpion wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 21:21

Just be glad you don’t have the Greek Mother-In-law (MIL) telling you not to run the fan or you’ll get “PSI-KSEE” (draft??). Some imiginary Greek (only apparently) illness y ou can get in Greece if you run a fan at night, or walk out in the cold after sweating. I asked my American doctors and they haven’t heard of it so maybe it’s something unique to Greece???

  Kat wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 20:28

D – Well, you’re cool as a cuc, aren’t you? No mossies on you! We technically aren’t on the road with the night clubs, just the main road that everyone takes to get there and go home (as if that’s better, haha). If it weren’t for the noise and the fact mosquitos would carry me away, I would use the balcony or fill up this kiddie pool I’ve got and sleep in it.

M – Why thanks! We have committed to living here because I’ve already moved twice in under 18 months, and our scheduled re-assessment of our life/careers is a few months from now.

D – It’s good to know I’ve got a plakakia partner! I laughed so hard when I read your comment. It’s like you live next door to me or something. Our schedule goes like this:
3:00-5:00: Rooster crowing (yes, we live in a city, but our neighbor thinks it’s a village)
5:00: Garbage man
6:00: Paliatzi and ntomates freskes, etc.
7:00: Landlords downstairs are yelling at each other; kids screaming; doors slamming
8:00-17:00: I don’t really know because I’m at work, but on days I telecommute, it’s a lot of neighbor noise, delivery trucks, road noise, motorcycles, babies screaming and crying.
18:00: Children next door and yappy drop-kick dogs are in the yard, which irritates other dogs and the whole neighborhood erupts.
19:00-20:00: Airplanes overhead, all of my neighbors turn on their sprinklers or hose their driveway (why? I don’t know)
20:00: Gionis starts birping (a lovely sound!)
21:00 – whenever: Hens gossiping and cackling on their balconies, eating, yelling, talking on the phone, dogs barking, food delivery.
1:00: Traffic to beach gets bad, pulsing music from cars, motorcycles
All day until it cools – Tzitziki (cicadas)

Last night, I had to laugh when one of these hens was telling her dog to shut up, and she was (ironically) louder than the barking itself.

H – Hello! We are farther south of Glyfada, and I can’t tell you where because I value my privacy. We cannot see the actual water from here; we see green mountains and the beach is 5 min. The problem isn’t the location. The problem is most homes built in Greece do not have insulation and therefore are not soundproof. Yes, people are loud and so is traffic, but the construction is really the issue as I’ve mentioned in previous posts (this is one reason resources are wasted and electricity grids are overextended regarding heating and cooling). You really need to inspect any house closely and not listen to what the landlord says. I regret that I can’t dispense advice for you here as I have a whole list of things to look for; maybe in a future article. But it also depends on your priorities, personal compromises and a little luck.

R – I’m melting! But you know the funny thing? Even though I’m sweating buckets, my skin is dry from the wind/fan and wearing mosquito repellent all the time. What a conundrum. A mosquito net at night is an option, but I don’t see how to wear one while watching TV, cooking and working. With weather being so unpredictable, I hope things will be cooler by the time you get here.

X – Maybe I’m just unlucky, but the incident I detail about making 9 appts with three services 5 years ago occurred when I indeed lived in the center of Athens, and I’d started scheduling when it was early May (not even last-minute busy high season). I can count on one hand how many times repair/delivery people kept appts in the same day (never mind the time), and those times were only because I knew someone or had a connection. It’s only been the last two years I’ve been in the burbs, and it’s not remote or poor by any means.

K – LOL! 😀

  Nik wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 22:58

What I fail to understand is, if you move around so much anyway why not track down some place that is to your ideal living environment. Why keep puting up with the noise. Find some place out in the sticks and stay there. Don’t get me wrong I sympathize with you but I just don’t understand why you put up with it.

  Mil wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 23:28

First time posting. Found your website after moving to Greece this past December. I’m Canadian but lived the last 10 years in Manhattan. I get such a tickle reading your posts. You seem like my kinda gal. I can’t complain where I live at the moment as we’re in the northern suburbs in Nea Erithreia. Temps are at least 3-5 degrees lower and since we’re living on the 6th floor we manage a nice cross breeze. However, you do bring back memories of when I lived in a first floor apartment in NYC where the heat/humidity could be unbearable and the noise off the streets was constant. I guess one thing to be grateful about is that you aren’t having to deal with the West Nile virus!!!

  A wrote @ June 26th, 2008 at 00:49

People, people, people: I have to put my foot down. Everyone with a yia yia or an MIL knows that if you run the AC or the fan, you are going to end up with “creo stomaki”. Same result if you take too many baths or showers.

  Paul wrote @ June 26th, 2008 at 01:26

@ Scorpion

Ah yes, the dreaded Psiksi. If you want to terrify Greeks on a hot day, open a window to let a draft in and watch them all panic. Hilarious!

  melusina wrote @ June 26th, 2008 at 01:28

You can come up to Thessaloniki and stay with us, Kat, we have nice cool air conditioning now. We weren’t going to buy it up here because everyone said it would be nice and cold up on the mountain, but after a couple of hot days in late May we decided it would be necessary. I mean really, maybe it is a couple of degrees “cooler” but the difference between 38 and 36 isn’t really that much when it is hot and humid. We only got it for our bedroom and the computer/T.V. room upstairs for now.

Of course, I’m still trying to deal with my climate guilt for using it, but we made up for that a little bit by spending more on ‘A’ rating air conditioners.

P.S. Glad to see that it isn’t only those of us in the Thessaloniki ‘burbs that go without water. Today, off at 9am and on again 1am for an all day water lockout. Whee!

  Kat wrote @ June 26th, 2008 at 00:54

The S – If you run the fan and it blows directly on you for an extended period, you can feel stiff and tired, i.e. wind does the same thing and additionally causes windburn. I put our fan on oscillate. I don’t know of any illness caused by a fan or AC, but I do know that if people think they’re going to get sick, they usually do. That’s a whole different thing.

N – If you’ve been following the site, the last two moves were not my choosing. I was perfectly happy in the home I was in 2 years ago before I met my fiance and lived there for 3 years, as I did 4 years in the apartment before that. We both changed jobs, and it was extremely cost prohibitive to drive from north to south, raising my fiance’s fuel costs (even before it reached today’s level) and his commute time to 2 hours each day without traffic. Therefore living in the sticks, as you say, isn’t viable since we’re young people who both work in the city. I take public transport, he refuses although to his credit he occasionally cycles to work from our present location. We are not changing homes again because it is expensive to move, I’m the one who gets stuck packing, arranging and unpacking, and we are changing countries in the near future.

Moving would also solve nothing since people are still ill-mannered, disrespectful and noisy in the sticks, and houses are still not insulated and not soundproof there as well. Seriously, I’ve had more peace and quiet living on a main street in NYC or Brussels.

The pickings were slim at the time we moved and still are; the majority of houses resemble mine rather than “the ideal,” so there’s no guarantee we’d find something better, only different, and different could be worse. Most people only get an ideal house if they buy and build/renovate it themselves or pay more than 1000 euros a month (that’s nearly my whole month’s salary). As we don’t plan to make a future here, it makes no sense to invest or throw away that kind of money. And if it were left only to me, I would have left GR already and this site would not exist. But we make the best of compromises sometimes and find the humor in things because getting upset and angry accomplishes nothing in the end.

M – Well hi! It’s always nice to know someone gets my sense of humor and sees this site as more than useful. But now you’re bringing back memories of my 2 years in NYC. The weather forecasts were so honest, weren’t they? “Tomorrow will be stifling” and “this weekend will be oppressive.” They weren’t kidding! And going underground to the subway was even worse…urg! That AC didn’t help much while being pressed like sardines in a can. Thank you for coming out of the shadows today to comment and compliment.

A – I’ve never encountered that in my AC-and-fan-using lifetime, complemented by twice daily showers in summer. Is there a remedy for those who do, other than stinking and sweating to death? 😉

  Chris Stefanou wrote @ June 26th, 2008 at 06:52

I spent nine years in Greece. My abodes were in Papagou. The mosquitos were Airbus A380 size, with similar sound. In that period I spent many summer days under a mosquito net, and even then, a culprit would on occasion sneak in. I had installed an air conditioner, but the mosquirtos still found opportunity to visit.

On my last days when the movers took the bed away, I made a makeshift shelter by visiting a construction site and “borrowing” some rebar which I bent in the form of an arch. I inserted the ends in holes of construction bricks. It worked well. This was the answer to sleeping on the floor.

I, incidentally was the magnet for the beasties; my wife and son were immune since mosquitoes ignored them.

All of the antagonisms you face, and those expressed by the readers, are all reminders on how challenging—and irritating—life can be in Greece. Every one of the irritants are all too real. I have run into them even while visiting and staying in hotels.

Kalo kalokairi.
CS

  Kat wrote @ June 26th, 2008 at 19:35

All – The AC man is supposed to come tomorrow, so I’ll be waiting again and I hope for a good end result. If he doesn’t show up, I’m going to take care of it myself by begging the man I know in the center to send one of his men. This cannot go on.

P – LOL! My ex-boyfriend’s mom used to tell me all kinds of horror stories no matter what we did, mostly having to do with people dying. “Don’t go into the sea, a man got killed by a shark once”; “don’t walk by the side of the road, a soldier got hit by a car and died”; don’t eat just before you swim, you’ll go to the hospital.” Yeesh.

M – When I lived in the center of Athens, my landlord told me I didn’t need AC. And what happens after that? A heatwave — it was 43C every day for 10 days. That’s when my sleeping on the marble floor days started, alternated with dousing my head with cold water. My landlord changed his mind as well; he had AC installed in his apartment at the same time. An ‘A’ rating is the best; I’m sure your use is much less than corporations who leave it running 24/7.

Regarding water and cuts, I know people on Crete who have the same issues, as well as the Peloponnese. Since our electricity was cut here and in the center of Athens, the traffic lights weren’t working and traffic was a huge mess, so we never got the portable AC and I had another sleepless night. As summer progresses, I know we’ll see a lot more cuts as the grid gets overloaded. Nothing was done since last year, and I don’t think the population decreased or people’s habits have changed.

P.S. Careful about inviting me, I might just show up at your house with carrot cake and coriander!

CS – The buggers are especially loud when you’re sleeping, aren’t they? I’m so glad you know what I’m saying. When I tell people I get bitten on my scalp or the bottom of my feet if I don’t spray them with DEET, they think I’m exaggerating or (my favorite) “it’s all in (my) mind.” Yeah, I’m sure I manufactured these welts on my body. I love people who claim, “There’s no mosquitos.” Oh yeah, just because they don’t like you, it doesn’t mean they’re not around!

And in hotels, you have the added pleasure of maids entering your room and knocking on the door despite the do not disturb sign, tourists coming and going, and sometimes no hot water. LOL. It’s character building 😉

I’ll keep your ingenuity in mind about the bed when we take leave.

Pas – I received your inquiry and will respond to you privately regarding your questions. And just so you know, this website is not just for Americans. My content is used by Canadians, Australians, Greeks, EU citizens of all countries, non-EU citizens from Africa and Asia, and anyone wanting to share their experience or read about everyone else’s. Yes, some articles focus on American issues, but that’s because there are 300 million of them and that’s the country I’m from. The same rules that apply to Americans in Greece apply to all non-EU citizens. There is no differentiation in nationality.

  Cheryl wrote @ June 27th, 2008 at 00:02

Kat- When my Greek husband brags about how relieving his cold shower was and that he plans to buy 2 more A/C units…you know it’s hot! We have a unit in our bedroom that we bought in the winter to use as a dehumidifier and I’m soooo glad. We all sleep in the same bedroom now-camping out once again. I have a full size air mattress on the floor between my bed and the wall but it works. As far as mosquitos go-they’re not too bad here but my kids spent the night in Halkidiki and came back just covered with bites. I’m not opening the doors a lot at night so luckily we haven’t had too many in here. And as far as noise is concerned-we’ve got a yard full of real cackling hens across the road and a neglected dog that barks all night…I mean-all night! And, I’m convinced that the damn roosters never stop with their crap. Until moving here, I really believed that they only woke people up with the sunrise, how sadly uninformed I was. But I’ll take it over any load music and cackling humans any day!

  D wrote @ June 27th, 2008 at 01:00

this has to be the funniest blog post title I’ve ever read. im in the centre and i commiserate. hope you get your a/c hooked up real soon.

  EllasDevil wrote @ June 27th, 2008 at 01:24

Mmm… I’m kinda thinking I’ve been mis-lead because I was told about the whole draft thing and have never slept with a fan pointing in my direction. I can’t sleep in an air conditioned room either because it’s makes me far too dry.

My answer like a lot of you guys is sleep on the marble if it gets too hot so count me in for the slumber party however the heat usually just knocks me out anyway… I sleep like a log when it’s hot so I won’t be up all night complaining!

PS: Hi to the new guys living in my neck of the woods… I’m in Kifissia too. Isn’t it amazing to hear how people south of the railroad tracks live?

As for noise, I assumed everyone else would be like me… sleep right through it because you’re used to it. Luckily where I live, there isn’t much noise…. there’s a good gap between me and the street and the road itself is really quiet anyway because it’s a dead end.

  Nik wrote @ June 27th, 2008 at 08:56

Yeah, well I follow the site most of the time. I just don’t post. And I understand you’re young. But I’m not exactly old myself. I’m 17. But I suppose you know more about living in greece than I do. I’ve been in AL most of my life living in a town of 1,400. So I’ve never had to worry about noise. I’m just saying people are ill mannered anywhere you go. That’s unavoidable. Yesh, moving is expensive, I get that too. Luckily for me I don’t have to worry about it very much. I have a house, family, and money in Kefalonia. HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

  Kat wrote @ June 27th, 2008 at 09:22

C – Funny you should mention that. You know what just happened? My fiance asked for a pair of my American earplugs. Him. Mr. it’s never too loud to sleep, I can sleep right through it, no problem. Well, there you go! Right now I’m listening to traffic, pulsing music, car alarms and a mother and daughter screaming at each other, and it’s 3 a.m. I’ll take the real hens any day! And give me the owl too. He’s cute.

D – Why thank you! See what extreme sleep deprivation can do to you? LOL.

ED – Yeah, yeah, north is good, south is bad. I fully expected you to say something after you got caught up and settled in. Heat knocks me out too, but extreme heat and stifling humidity or lack of air circulation keeps me awake. I use to fall asleep in the car when I lived on Rhodes because it was the only time I had AC, as my apartment had none and laying in the sea every day got boring, not to mention a bit like a big salty hot tub.

As I said to Cheryl above, my fiance asked for a pair of earplugs tonight, so it must be bad. He’s the kind of sleeps-like-a-log guy you can literally hit and kick, and he won’t wake up. How I long for my quiet, non-snobby street in the north! Filakia

Nik – If you’re saying that people are ill mannered everywhere, then you’re basically admitting that your original suggestion of moving to the sticks is irrelevant. And manners aside — although GR is the noisiest country of 36 I’ve been to and Greeks proudly admit they’re loud — the majority of homes here are poorly built and not soundproof, so that’s the issue. Therefore, people everywhere in GR (even those in the sticks) have the same noise challenges I do and moving accomplishes nothing. Also, you mean YOUR FAMILY has a house and money in Kefallonia. Until you grow up, earn a living of your own and see what real life is all about when you pay your own way in a city working alongside millions as we do, it’d be prudent to not dispense unsolicited advice based on ignorance and inexperience. For sure I know more about living in GR than you do, being as I’m here 11 years and made it on my own, while you can’t even make a decision about whether you want to move here or not and have help. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Ah, the arrogance of being 17 youth.

  EllasDevil wrote @ June 27th, 2008 at 14:47

You’re welcome back at any time. I got over the whole you abandoning us thing and took you off the blacklist! 🙂

Hope you’re all climate controlled soon!

  Kev (formerly K) wrote @ June 27th, 2008 at 20:11

To the people that continuously make the argument, “there are people like that everywhere”, or “it’s like that everywhere” it’s important to remember that, while this is partially true, every country and culture has its own unique nuances. Every country has its national psyche or general mentality, and a lot of those little societal quirks that you notice in daily life are a side effect or manifestation of that underlying national psyche.

When you are in Greece you know you are in Greece. When you are in France you know you are in France. When you are in Russia, you know you are in Russia.

There ARE differences. If there weren’t, you wouldn’t even know you changed countries when traveling. But the differences are difficult to express. When you try to express them, people contest you.

“No, it’s like that everywhere.”
“There are loud people everywhere.”

Yes, there are loud people everywhere. But when you say, for example, that Greece is generally a loud place, most people know what you’re talking about. Similarly, when you say that Japan is an organized place, people that have visited there know what you mean. And you can’t prove this situation by situation. Because if you try, people will say, “No, but I was once in a tourist office in Paris, and this guy was yelling, so loud people are everywhere.”

Unfortunately it’s not really something that can be statistically or analytically proven. It’s based on impressions. It’s like art, if you’re feeling it, if you’re getting that vibe off that society, situation after situation, then there is probably some truth to it.

  A wrote @ June 27th, 2008 at 21:21

I can’t remember exactly what the remedy for creo stomaki is. After being berated for such folly, my grandmother would perform some feat with burned, crushed chicken bones and oregano, which was wiped on the inner wrist. After this she would do her evil eye test and pronounce the patient on the road to recovery so long as no additional showers or baths occurred in the near future.

The first time I went to my father’s village, in July, I was amazed at all the old people wearing woolen long underwear. They were immune to their own smell. Of course, at the time, bathing meant a dip in the river, or some water boiled and then mixed with cold spring water and splashed on you with a towel, or a shower from an olive oil tin with a spigot on the front. Under these circumstances, I can see how it was not so appealing.

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