Living in Greece

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

Cost of living in Greece vs. the world 2008

Cost of Living GreecePhoto from worldstockphotos.com

Is Greece expensive?

Athens is the 25th most expensive city in the world, according to the Mercer 2008 Cost of Living Survey of 143 cities. The Greek capital is getting more expensive, moving up four places from last year, while notoriously expensive cities such as London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, New York and Geneva saw the cost of living go down.

Amsterdam and Athens are now tied in cost of living, though the Netherlands fares better than Greece in quality of living (#12 vs. #77) and offers double the minimum salary (1301€ vs. 668€).

Mercer performs this comprehensive cost analysis of more than 200 factors that include housing, transportation, food, clothing, entertainment and common household products in 250 locations. Semi-annual surveys are conducted by professional researchers simultaneously, and vendors are carefully chosen where goods and services of international quality are offered to maintain equality and fairness.

Some claim this survey is inaccurate in calculating costs, however local residents and expatriates patronize the same stores, eat the same food and use the same hospitals, utilities and public/private services.

In Greece, prices can actually be more expensive in rural locations and islands in comparison to Athens due to transportation, fuel costs and lack of competition; locally grown produce is also not guaranteed to be lower than imports. Thus, the cost of living can actually be higher and salaries often lower than for those residing in a metropolis.

See “Cost of Living in Greece vs. the world 2009” to see the latest.

Top 50 Most Expensive Cities 2008

1. Moscow, Russia
2. Tokyo, Japan
3. London, UK
4. Oslo, Norway
5. Seoul, Korea
6. Hong Kong, China
7. Copenhagen, Denmark
8. Geneva, Switzerland
9. Zurich, Switzerland
10. Milan, Italy
11. Osaka, Japan
12. Paris, France
13. Singapore
14. Tel Aviv, Israel
15. Sydney, Australia
16. Dublin, Ireland (tie)
16. Rome, Italy (tie)
18. St. Petersburg, Russia
19. Vienna, Austria
20. Beijing, China
21. Helsinki, Finland
22. New York City, USA
23. Istanbul, Turkey
24. Shanghai, China
25. Amsterdam, Netherlands (tie)
25. Athens, Greece (tie)
25. Sao Paulo, Brazil (tie)
28. Madrid, Spain
29. Prague, Czech Republic
30. Lagos, Nigeria
31. Barcelona, Spain (tie)
31. Rio de Janiero, Brazil (tie)
31. Stockholm, Sweden (tie)
34. Douala, Cameroon
35. Warsaw, Poland
36. Melbourne, Australia
37. Munich, Germany
38. Berlin, Germany
39. Brussels, Belgium
40. Frankfurt, Germany
41. Dakar, Senegal
42. Kiev, Ukraine
43. Luxembourg
44. Almaty, Kazakhstan
45. Bratislava, Slovakia
46. Dusseldorf, Germany (tie)
46. Riga, Latvia (tie)
48. Mumbai, India
49. Zagreb, Croatia
50. Hamburg, Germany

To see 2008 vs. 2007 rankings of these Top 50 cities, click here.

* If you do not see your Australian, African, Asian, Middle Eastern or North American city on this list, see CNN Money’s ranking of all 143 cities by clicking here.

In the News

Profit margins in Greece are unheard of in other EU countries
Greek families struggling to make ends meet
Cost of Living in Greece, highest in EU, particularly basics such as food
Greeks worried about finances more than last year
78 percent of Greeks believe prices are set to rise
Greece: Second highest prices for liquid gas/petrol in the EU
Rise in cost of living has Greece battling for tourists” – BBC

(All published after my article on the same topic was plagiarized by a different newspaper on May 6th)

Related posts

Athens, Greece: Quality of Living ranking 2008
Athens, Greece: 29th Most Expensive City in the World 2007
Consumers pay double for basics in Greece vs. other EU countries

* Article updated January 10, 2009

25 Comments »

  Dora wrote @ July 25th, 2008 at 21:27

As with your last post, I try to discus these issues with my Greek-born husband and he’s all on the defensive. He’ll say, “No, that’s not really how it is” or “What, people are moving back, the life is so great.” Yet I hear it all the time how hard it is from those who left only to return to the US. Most say what you post: Food and everyday items are very expensive, can’t get anyone to give straight answers, have to run around all day to pay a bill, traffic and parking is unbelievable, everyone goes on strike at the same time, seems like everyone is on the take, can’t trust the doctors/hospitals.

  maria v wrote @ July 25th, 2008 at 21:34

athens may come 25 out of 50 on the mercer scale, but as you say, there are more expensive rural areas than athens in greece itself.

as more than half the cities cited in the mercer study are capitals and/or european (2 of which constitute whole countries), it’s not surprising that athens is among them. what surprises me most is that moscow topped the list

  FMS wrote @ July 25th, 2008 at 21:40

If you factor in wages, I would wager that Athens is in the top 4 most expensive cities of the world for its residents. Look at all the countries in the top 20, and think about their wage levels: there is no comparison with Greek wages. The calculations in this table have been made for businesspeople with a fixed budget, just to give an idea of costs. But wages in Norway, for example, are very high; London and Tokyo are high…etc etc

  luc wrote @ July 25th, 2008 at 22:34

Almaty looks mighty tempting all of a sudden… :D

  rositta wrote @ July 26th, 2008 at 04:06

And here I’ve been complaining of the price of gas and food recently (everything has gone up by about 30% this year). I guess I should be very grateful for where I live and save my pennies for my upcoming trip…ciao

  Kat wrote @ July 26th, 2008 at 13:06

D – I think it’s important to understand that there’s nothing for your husband or anyone like him to be defensive about. Many stories — both those based on real slices of my life and those on hard facts from companies/institutions — are not criticisms or complaints. It’s reality.

I know many people who don’t know what I’m talking about because their parents, or a connection, or a servant/errand boy take care of everything for them…or maybe they’re just out of touch for whatever reason (i.e. Only here for vacation, rich, ignorant, isolated, in denial, can’t understand the language, etc.). They live in a bubble, but it’s still their reality and it may be a great one. And there are some people who are just used to it and accept it after so many years, like me and many of my Greek friends. It’s not good or bad. It’s not love or hate. It just is.

M – Moscow has been at the top for 3 years, which I believe has to do with skyrocketing inflation. I put the note about prices being higher in rural and island locations for two reasons: some think it’s cheaper in a village and that’s not necessarily true; and I’ve seen reports of local farmers saying it’s difficult for them to compete with imports because EU subsidies haven’t been distributed by the Greek govt to help them be competitive.

X – That’s true. This is the reason I purposely mentioned Amsterdam, which ranked the same in cost of living as Athens but offers a significantly higher standard of living and minimum salary. But I’m sure there are a lot of people getting rich off of the black market in GR, which of course doesn’t apply to the normal person.

L – I’m pretty sure I know what your comment refers to, and I just want to tell you that a lot of people in many parts of GR are experiencing the same thing. That became clear to me when I returned to Athens and checked posts/emails.

R – Canada has done something interesting the past 2 years. In the 2007 ranking, most cities (including yours) took a sharp dive in cost of living, relative to the world scale. Then in the past year, Canada experienced a sharp rise, thus returning to levels seen in years previous to 2007. You might have actually thought it was more expensive this past year because it was making up for the drop in 2006-2007.

Some of this has to do with currency strength or weakness against the US Dollar, some has to do with inflation, home prices and economical indicators of a country, i.e., Oslo jumped up because real estate prices rose. But GR cannot blame the euro because Spain and Denmark use the euro also and saw a drop in cost of living (the Netherlands held steady), while quality of living improved or stayed the same; therefore, it’s got to do with this country’s economy.

  bios wrote @ July 29th, 2008 at 00:40

checked out those lines posted above; the first case family is making 3,400 Euros between them and they can’t make ends meet? did i read that correctly? even with a 500 Euro a month mortgage payment, that sounds ridiculous to me.

  Vasileios wrote @ July 29th, 2008 at 02:03

It’s the first time ,but not last, that I am posting in here after finding I can relate to this blog, it’s not even funny. So allow me to reveal my side of the story.

I was born and raised in Greece, where I got 90% of my education including my BSc. We still had the drachma back then in 1999 when I was graduating college and met my “evil” (to me, my saviour) American future wife. I remember her coming to Thessaloniki to visit me, telling me how inexpensive everything was. Even as a student back then, Greece was extremely affordable. For instance, I remember my coffee cost 500 drachmas, which 8 freaking years later costs an equivalent of 1,500 drachmas (4 euros, unless you go to a local kafenio where you can find it for 3 euros). Therefore, we are talking about a 200% inflation on a product that has practically no cost (sugar and coffee). I cannot even imagine what is happening right now in Greece with the rest of the products.

Thank God that I had decided at the time I met my wife to move to England to get my MSc and have a better taste of what my life outside of Greece would be like, since my English, thanks again to her, was at a more than decent level. At the time I was there, my wife wanted us to move back to Greece like crazy (fyi, she was living in the US back then trying to keep a long distance relationship). I tried to get it out of her mind, even today (living in the US) she still wants us to move back there. I can only see that happening if I become her lifetime sponsor by working in the States :)

When I first moved to England, I had culture shock as to how well things worked. The pound was far stronger than the drachma of course, but back then at least even students like me had the chance to get a part-time or full-time job and make up for it while in college. I was hearing some lazy greek boys studying and complaining about the quality of life in England, but if Greece had half the benefits England was providing at the time, the greeks would have been the happiest people in the world.

So during my studies in England I decided to travel to the US several times in order to visit my wife (can’t even count the air-miles anymore). That’s where I had my major culture shock of all time. I just had no words to explain to friends and family back in Greece how logical the cost of living had been retained Dallas, Texas; and I can assure you three years later having lived in the States and working (even in not the best of times) the kind of things one can accomplish here because the limit here is the sky.

My conclusion is for a country as big as the US is, it would only take a Greek to govern it and bring inflation and the cost of living to greek standards. It’s sad, but true.

I have a love-hate relationship with Greece as most of you probably do, but the monetary substitution of the drachma to the euro, in direct relationship with the mentality that persists in Greece has brought things where they are today. I feel it’s a shrinking boat in so many ways and have a lot of friends there that I call heroes for trying to survive with every possible means every day.

I will not be surprised if I were to see Greece and Athens in particular climbing to the top of this list in 10 years from now, competing with Moscow as one of the most corrupted capitals in the world. Greece and the Euro reminds me of a peasant who is trying to maintain a Ferrari. It’s simply impossible, which is why only a few have the privilege to enjoy life there.

  Paul wrote @ July 29th, 2008 at 09:21

@ Vasileios

“Greece was extremely affordable. For instance, I remember my coffee cost 500 drachmas”

Actually, 500 dracs was by no means cheap even back then, compared with other parts of Europe – especially considering that was the price for a plastic cup of instant coffee!

  deviousdiva wrote @ July 29th, 2008 at 19:27

“I have a love-hate relationship with Greece as most of you probably do”

yep.

Love being the predominant factor. And hate being that it bleeds us dry with very few returns in terms of money. LOL

  KT wrote @ July 29th, 2008 at 23:55

wow things are just getting worse and worse in Greece. I’m glad I left,, the country is only for a vacation …and holidays…

  melusina wrote @ July 30th, 2008 at 18:49

It is so shocking how prices have skyrocketed since I moved here (post Euro, but life was cheap!). I just really don’t see how the cost of living can be justified vs. minimum salaries. I mean, in America it is hard – but I think the minimum wage here ends up being less than five euros an hour, or something (even though it is a monthly salary, not hourly).

Sometimes I think I’d rather be living in the Netherlands. ;)

Love-hate relationship is definitely right, but then again, I had a love-hate relationship with Nashville too so I guess that is the way life goes.

  Kev wrote @ July 31st, 2008 at 01:38

Vasileios,

“Greece and the Euro reminds me of a peasant who is trying to maintain a Ferrari.”

Very fitting analogy. I will recycle that line if you don’t mind ;-).

The only exception to that is if you live in a Cretan village, in which case you would actually have the Ferrari paid off, along with an arsenal of weaponary even a Afghan Taliban fighter would envy!

  T wrote @ July 31st, 2008 at 20:35

From my experience of speaking with and traveling to Greece extensively, I have come to the realization that Greece is almost like a third world country in terms of the top 10-20% of the country is very well off/as wealthy as anywhere else (US, UK, Germany, Japan, etc.) but the bottom 80% just barely eek by on Euro20-40K per family per year which in purchasing power terms is even less than that b/c there is no real competition in Greece and the prices are on par with inner Paris when it comes to restaurants, drinks, clothes, shoes, etc. The top 10-20% are the Greeks you see on vacation all over the world, shopping in NY, London and Paris, summering in Mykonos, Santorini and the like, inflating the prices in the best areas of Athens, driving the nice cars, etc. Greece needs to break the oligopolies, introduce some competition so the lower strata of society can get things cheaply like poorer americans do via Walmart, etc. Also, social transfers and govt benefits which help the lower economic classes in other OECD countries are dysfunctional in Greece due to corruption, unprofessional/underpaid civil servants.

  FMS wrote @ August 1st, 2008 at 03:08

There is one primary cause of the Greek third world problems of income distribution — CORRUPTION. It was always present in Greece, but got out of control under Pasok (especially when Simitis was PM) and is now being actively covered up by New Democracy. There is actually no viable governing party which is not committed to continuing and promoting corruption, therefore the third world mess that Greece is currently in, will remain in perpetuity. The probability is that things will get worse, with the general global economic climate…

  bios wrote @ August 1st, 2008 at 07:04

^^^T, while i agree with that, somehow I doubt the rich class is between 10-20% of population; the middle class is just over one million people i think.

But you are right; the rich people in Greece are probably just as rich as in any other comparable OECD country. And the more affluent areas of the cities are most definitely pricey, in almost every single aspect.

as for the walmarts etc, eventually that will happen, just like it did for electronics. i.e mediamart etc.

  vasilios wrote @ August 1st, 2008 at 12:56

Kev: there is certainly NO need to disturbingly generalize the Cretan population as such, please refrain from any such racist remarks in the future.

You are only lending credibility to those who *falsely* beleive this website is inherently, “anti-hellenic” in nature.

Shall we even begin to decifer the wealth garnished amongst young american males in ALL the urban centers of america ?

Note from Kat: V, Kev is not American, so the last sentence is not relevant to him if it was meant that way; the only American commentators are Mel and me. His comment is also not technically racist; at the most, stereotypical. Based on Kev’s past comments, which were both highly insightful and thoughtful, I’m sure his reference was not meant to be degrading to Cretans, but to be taken in a humorous way. I encourage everyone to ask questions or seek to understand before making judgments.

  Kev wrote @ August 1st, 2008 at 21:55

Vasilios,

I am Cretan. And some of my roots are from those areas that the media has generalized about. And I also know people who have grown up in Milopotamo.

It was just a joke mocking the Greek media.

Wow, how sensitive.

  KT wrote @ August 14th, 2008 at 16:04

I dont understand how Athens can be so expensive when the basiko is 700euros. I really feel sorry for the majority of the Greeks in Ellada but they need to stand up for themselves, and maybe they are not really helping the situation when they buy the most expensive cell phone, clothing, shoes, etc, it makes me wonder are they really suffering ? or are they just complaining… I don’t recall ever taking a loan to go on a vacation, or spending $600 on a cell phone, or $200 on a pair of jeans. It took me 40euros to take the bus to my village (that was my vacation) I spent 50 euros on my cell phone, and 40euros on my pair of jeans.
I remember a survey done in 2007 said Greeks spend the most money out of all European countries on looking good,(clothes, bags, shoes, cell phones, magazines/newspapers..etc) that dosen’t sound like they are living a bad life does it? So I really dont know what to believe anymore. One minute I feel sorry for them, and another when I see all this luxury they are buying (regardless if it’s bought with plastic money) it makes me sick to my stomach. How can they choose all these materialistic things over solving their own countries problems?? What also makes me sick is that my cousins and people who are married, and in their late 30′s are still being babied by their parents, their parents take care of the kids, some of the bills, it’s like why not me? It really pisses me off sometimes that as Greek-Americans we are faced with reality at a really young age, our parents make us work for their restaraunt, or send us to work as early as 14 years old, spend our own money, and I understand that is the right way , because we are more independent, mature, and take responsibility, but sometimes I get jealous of my cousins having it so easy in Greece.

  Angelo wrote @ August 24th, 2008 at 01:56

FYI, the minimum wage in Greece is higher then the minimum wage in America. I get FoxNews here using Skybox Satellite. This is what they have reported 2 weeks ago. Also I have to pay 14 months to my employees and much more then 668 euros per month. On top of that I have to pay about 45% for IKA. God gave us 12 months but my employees do not work 12 months, they do not work 11 months, they do not work 10 months out of a year but maybe they work 9.5 months, I’m not counting the weekend. Just seems like there is so many holidays and they have off each one of them. So definitely the pay is extremely low in Greece but not many people go with the minimum pay because it would not be possible to buy a 320 thousand euros apartment in my neighborhood here in Glyfada on a minimum wage as you can guess. All this is only my opinion but I’m sure you know more about it since you have been doing your homework. Keep up the good work.

I’m kinda stuck in this country for 9 years now and hopefully in the future I will be spending less time here and much more time back home in Michigan :-) If there are any Americans reading this, I’m praying for ya and hoping you have some fun on the beach and have a good time in Greece but a suggestion if your thinking of hanging out in Greece for too long I would not suggest it unless you do not need to work for a living and youre not going to be looking for a job here :-)

Note from Kat: Hi Angelo! :) I realize the minimum is higher in GR than the USA, but most do not earn the minimum in the USA. Also, middle class in the USA is literally that; however in GR, the middle class is roughly 10-15 percent, upper class 10-15 percent, and then the rest. Significant difference, and it means many of us start at the minimum despite having years of experience and university degree. Not everyone can own a home in Glyfada, many have owned them for years and simply added floors, others had help, a lot of people took out loans they could not afford, and checks are bouncing at an all-time high. In any case, this post is about cost of living.

I agree wholeheartedly with your last sentence, and thank you for saying that.

  The Scorpion wrote @ August 24th, 2008 at 09:28

One other point to note is that sure the minimum wage in the USA is defintely lower in Greece, but those minimum wage jobs in the USA are few and far between. The reality is that most people won’t take a “minimum wage” job in the states. Most minimum wage jobs are the extreme bottom of the barrell blue-collar type of jobs. However, in Greece, minimum wage jobs also include white-collar jobs, and most jobs for that matter.

  FMS wrote @ August 24th, 2008 at 15:56

A distinct feature of the Greek labour market (and one that marks it out as economically backward) is a high rate of minimum pay compared with lack of possibility for real career progress. In other words, you get paid just for having a job (which means that kids are massively overpaid) and rarely get paid for the quality of work you actually do. Only those with the openly corrupted positions ceded by personal and political connections get good pay: again, this marks out Greece as being in the “Third World” category for employment practices.

The saddest thing about all of this is that it punishes employers by giving them mostly uninspired and lazy employees; and it also punishes employees by failing to reward achievement or effort. The beneficiaries of such a system are the lazy and highly corrupted…We cannot make any comparisons with the USA or developed world.

Kat Reply:

Thank you for summarizing truths about the Greek labor market in such a succinct way. It’s precisely the point I illustrate in “Examples of jobs and salaries in Athens,” as well as “Value of a university degree in Greece.”

  George wrote @ October 3rd, 2009 at 10:29

Some of the people here, actually just seem to be homesick and are trying to make themselves feel better about that.

Here is a quote from the wikipedia on the greek economy:

GDP Growth of Greece compared to the Eurozone between 1996 and 2006.
Annual growth of Greek GDP has surpassed the respective levels of most of
its EU partners.[34] The tourism industry is a major source of foreign
exchange earnings and revenue accounting for 15% of Greece’s total GDP[35]
and employing ,directly or indirectly, 16.5% of the total workforce.

The Greek labor force totals 4.9 million, and it is the second most
industrious between OECD countries, after South Korea.[36] The Groningen
Growth & Development Centre has published a poll revealing that between 1995
and 2005, Greece was the country with the largest work/hour ratio among
European nations; Greeks worked an average of 1,900 hours per year, followed
by the Spanish (average of 1,800 hours/year).[37] In 2007, the average
worker made around 20 dollars, similar to Spain and slightly more than half
of average U.S. hourly income. Immigrants make up nearly one-fifth of the
work force, occupied mainly in agricultural and construction work.

  Kat wrote @ October 3rd, 2009 at 11:12

George,

You quoted figures that are incorrect and outdated. This is not surprising since you took them from Wikipedia. Second, any stats for Greece reported to the EU, OECD, IMF, etc. are of questionable accuracy since Greek government lackeys provide them, therefore lacking transparency and integrity. Third, Greece supposedly ranks high on being “industrious,” but it sinks to the bottom in productivity. Claiming to work a lot and extending one’s working hours because of incompetence, talking on the phone and having a cigarette every half hour is very different than actually producing quality results.

If you think the Greek economy is healthier and more resilient than other EU nations and the USA, I have only one word for you: Denial. GDP in Greece superficially rose on consumer spending fueled by credit and heavy borrowing in both the public and private sector (New Democracy alone used a loophole in reporting to borrow 53 billion in secret, which is 20 percent GDP). The deficit is 8 percent GDP and predicted to reach 14 percent, which is almost five times the maximum level allowed by the EU; Greece is also the 2nd largest beneficiary of EU handouts behind Lithuania, has the 2nd highest debt in the EU, and logs 2.3 billion in bounced checks as of end of August.

Last but not least, you don’t know any of the commentators above and therefore cannot make judgments about who they are, if they are homesick or why they have certain opinions. Many Greeks claim to know everything about Greece, when in fact the majority have succumbed to apathy, nationalism, nostalgia and rumors fed to them since birth. I find it’s better to look at the facts.

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