Moving to Greece – a beginners guide
A practical guide to living in Greece
The first thing that comes to mind when people think of Greece these days is either the image of beaches and blue seas or the crippling financial crisis of 2015. Expats living in Greece, however, know that the country is an amazing place to live and stay there because of the culture, food, experience and lifestyle. Our Info on Greece’s history, culture, cuisine and everyday life is all outlined below, enjoy and let us know what your experience of life in Greece is or has been.
Life in Greece
At a glance – the great
- The history by just standing in the centre of Athens is everywhere. You can turn a corner that someone turned thousands of years ago and the Pantheon sticks out like Tom Hardy.
- There are over 3000 islands in Greece, all different, all selling a different vibe. Go to Mykonos for a chilled party scene or Skopelos and walk in the footsteps of Pierce Brosnan and Amanda Seyfried.
- The food… THE FOOD! If it’s a Mediterranean cuisine you want then this is the centre of the Mediterranean and Mediterranean food you will get, along with Gyros, slow cooked stifado and olive oil, gallons and gallons of olive oil.
At a Glance – things to bear in mind
- Greece is still reeling from the economic crash of 2015 and many people live very frivolously, the average salary is €500-€700 per month
- Its public infrastructure (especially the healthcare system) is unfortunately in bad shape due to the financial crisis so having private healthcare through a company is for sure a benefit.
- You should keep in mind that there are a lot of strikes and demonstrations in the centre of Athens, as a result of constantly changing government ideals.
Greece: An Introduction
Although located at the crossroads between the east and west, Greece, rather than being a mix of European and Middle Eastern cultures, has its own distinctive character. There are nearly eleven million people living in Greece, across 3000 islands.
The country, literally, on the Mediterranean Sea. enjoys a temperate climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Eighty percent of the country is covered in mountains, every island is its own small mountain in the sea.
The people living in Greece are known for their warmth and hospitality. A great majority of Greeks (88.1%) are members of the Greek Orthodox Church but Greece is now gradually becoming a multicultural country, with an estimated one fifth of its workforce claiming foreign descent.
As an expat living in Greece, you will receive a premier seat at the table to experience its unique culture and charm.
Even those not living in Greece will know of its long history, which stretches back to prehistoric times, with the first traces of human settlement dating to the Stone Age. Greece, with its mainland and over 3,000 islands, was centre stage in world history for many centuries due to its strategic position on the Mediterranean Sea.
The famous civilisation of ancient Greece emerged in the first millennium BCE, and enjoyed its Golden Age from about 500 to 300 BCE. Many of the ideas developed during this time, regarding democracy, philosophy, medicine, the arts, and more remain influential today. Countless films on Greek mythology have been made and countless more on the wars surrounding Greece and the tumultuous history it has had.
Expats living in Greece will have time to visit many of the relics of these bygone ages. After Ancient Greece fell to the Romans in 146 BCE, it became a part of the Roman Empire, then the Byzantine Empire, and finally the Ottoman Empire, before finally gaining its independence in 1830.
Throughout the rest of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Greece added more, mainly Greek-speaking, islands and territories to its possessions. During World War II, life in Greece was disrupted when it was first invaded by Italy in 1940 and then occupied by Germany from 1941 to 1944. Many Greeks starved to death during the occupation, and a fierce counter-occupation movement also took many lives.
Adding to the strife, at the end of WWII, a civil war erupted between the Communists and anti-Communists, which lasted until 1949. Greece subsequently joined NATO in 1952. A military coup seized power in 1967 and the country was governed by a military dictatorship for the next seven years. In 1974, a parliamentary republic was established and the monarchy was abolished. All in all a busy century but one that has shaped its people and individuality on a Global scale.
Politics in Greece
Being the oldest democratic country in the World it does indeed have politics, but we won’t go into too much detail here.
The Mediterranean Diet
Greece is famous for its agricultural products, including olive oil, olives (that make the oil), wine, cheese, and saffron. Recent studies have indicated that the Mediterranean Diet practiced in Greece increases longevity and decreases the risk of heart disease and diseases of the digestive system. This diet consists of olive oil, cereals, legumes, fresh fruits, and vegetables, a moderate amount of fish and wine, as well as lamb, chicken and pork, frequently found in street food dishes such as Gyros and kebabs.
The Mediterranean Diet is not only a way of eating, but rather a way of life, based on social interaction and communal meals. As such it forms the foundation of Greek culture. Since November 2010, the Mediterranean Diet has been classed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Greece, together with Italy, Spain, and Morocco… who knew a food could be considered a UNESCO culture.
Orthodox Easter, or Pascha, is the most important religious holiday in Greece. It is celebrated with candlelight processions, fireworks and drinking, dancing and feasting, lots of feasting.
There are many traditions during ‘Holy Week’ leading up to Easter as well and is in many ways a larger celebration than Christmas, that being said,
Christmas celebrations in Greece last for twelve days, from Christmas Day to Epiphany. Traditionally, small boats, known as karavaki, were decorated instead of trees, and nowadays, this practice is being revived. Another delightful Christmas tradition is that of the kallikantzari, or Christmas elves. These little hobgoblins emerge from beneath the earth’s surface for the twelve days of Christmas to sneak into Greek homes and scare the inhabitants… because an old fat man coming down a chimney isn’t bad enough.
Everyday Life in Greece
Shops are open, it’s interesting to note that only very recently were shops of any size able to open on a Sunday, it was illegal before due to the strict Christian laws but due to the economy taking a bullet and tourism being a major factor in its revival, having shops open on a Sunday was deemed a necessity.
If you’re interested there are post offices and places to send packages of olive oil back to loved ones.
Opening a Bank Account in Greece
In order to open a bank account in Greece, you need to be in possession of your taxpayer identification number (Αριθμός Φορολογικού Μητρώου). You also need to bring your passport to open a bank account. In addition, you have to provide your home address; a utility bill is generally enough. Also, if you work in Greece, the bank needs the address of your workplace: to provide the information you can bring your pay slip or your employment contract, which, if you are finding employment through Logical Recruitment Partners will all be explained.
As of March 2012, banks can ask for your most recent income tax return (ekkatharistiko) in addition to your passport before performing any kind of financial transaction. This serves as a proof of income as well as showing that you paid your taxes.
Transportation Infrastructure in Greece
Greece has an airport for all the major tourist islands but there are major international airports just outside both Athens and Thessoliniki. There are also good train connections with many major European destinations, though, in early 2016, the refugee crisis at the border to Macedonia led to difficulties on that route. Regular ferry transit also connects Greece with Italy and Turkey.
Within Greece, in addition to the rail network, long-distance bus lines connect most major cities. Ferries are the best way to get to the many Greek islands. The main ports in Attica on the mainland are Piraeus (Athens) and Rafina. Domestic flights are operated by a number of carriers.
As we mentioned earlier, Greece is home to over 3000 islands, some huge like Crete, some small like Mykanos and 1 which is split down the middle with Turkey, Corfu.
All of them have a different experience to behold, whether you want to walk around the white and blue streets of Santorini, walk a beach with a perfectly placed shipwreck on Zante or enjoy some luxury on Kefalonia.
Each island has a lot and a little to offer depending on what you want to spend a few days off doing. You can even take a flight to an island overnight just to try a restaurant you have really wanted to try (its that cheap to get around). The beauty of the islands is that hopping around them (if you have a few days off and want to experience a number of them) is relatively easy due to the close proximity of a large number of much smaller islands, especially on the Aegean side.
Things to Remember
As Greece is located on a major fault line, tremors often occur and major earthquakes are a possibility. To help with disaster preparedness, the Greek government has put together an earthquake safety leaflet, which should be read. Don’t be too worried though, Greece gets hundreds of tiny tremors every year and you will get used to the daily disruption they can cause.
The financial crisis and the tough austerity measures have led to widespread discontent and political instability. As a result, there are often strikes which can affect all areas of daily life — public transportation, opening hours for government offices and garbage collection, etc. In addition, there are frequent protests and demonstrations. These are usually peaceful, but have been known to get violent, so it is best to avoid such areas at these times if at all possible.
There has also been an increase in the number of refugees arriving on the Greek islands, especially Lesbos, Kos, and Samos. Even though incidents in these areas are fairly rare and being based in Athens or Thessoliniki (as you will be if you relocate through one of LRP’s routes)
Medical Care in Greece
Medical services are generally good, especially in Athens and Thessaloniki. However, the situation of public hospitals has worsened because of the debt crisis that began in 2009. In fact, in 2015 the government only spent 4% of the GDP on the healthcare system, while it spent 10% in 2009.
Most of the Greeks who still have the resources to do so are now opting for private healthcare, and through all of LRP’s clients private healthcare is offered from the beginning of employment or after your induction period. Doctors in the big cities usually speak English in addition to another European language.
Due to the way it was set up, remembering an emergency line can be like trying to remember In case of an emergency, dial 112, the European-wide emergency number, where you are guaranteed to reach English-speaking operators. Alternatively, dial 100 for the police, 166 for an ambulance, and 199 in case of fire.
Do you want to relocate?
If you have never moved abroad, the process will be scary at times but overall, exciting, and if you have, you know the experiences’ that lie ahead. Whatever stage you are at, Logical Recruitment Partners along with our clients can help you navigate your way around and ensure relocating your life abroad is as simple as moving your life to College or another city.