Moving to Greece

Expats moving to Greece will be relocating to a country of archaeological marvel, rich traditions and shimmering beaches. The Hellenic Republic, or Hellas, consists of 3,000 islands and rocky outcrops at the tip of the Balkan Peninsula.

Considered by many to be the birthplace of Western civilization, Greece is surrounded by Italy and the Ionian Sea in the west, and Turkey and the Aegean Sea in the east. It has long been an attractive destination for its relaxed lifestyle, sunshine and natural beauty.

However, this idyllic version of Greece is starkly contrasted with the current socio-economic and political state of the country. Greece continues to struggle with the consequences of the 2010 debt crisis and the austerity measures imposed by its European partners. The record growth the country enjoyed before the credit crunch in 2008 is a thing of the past and its high unemployment rate means that jobs in Greece are scarce. 

Traditionally, employment in Greece has been provided mainly by the service industry, construction, telecommunications, agriculture and shipping. The collapse of Greece's economy left many of these industries reeling and most have yet to recover fully. However, perhaps as a result of low prices, tourism is the exception to the rule, and continues to provide employment opportunities for foreigners in Greece.

Anybody that considers relocating to Greece should take the relatively unstable state of the economy and the severely weakened job market into consideration. Wealthier expats are, however, presented with opportunities as housing and rental prices have significantly declined in recent years and might present good investments, and tourism continues to bring in seasonal influxes of foreign visitors.

The Greek cities which attract the most expats are Thessaloniki, and Athens. Thessaloniki is well known for its high-tech industries and hosts the Thessaloniki Technology Park as well as the Thessaloniki Science Center and Museum. While perhaps not as multicultural as Athens, it is still home to a large expat population. Athens, otherwise known as the City of the Gods, is the birthplace of democracy where the monuments of Ancient Greece continue to dominate the city. It is also Greece’s financial capital, houses the headquarters of many of the multinational companies operating in the country and, in the recent past, saw a wave of political protests.

Greece has its social and economic problems, and the high unemployment rate has intensified anti-foreigner sentiment which has, in a few cases, escalated to violence. It is also notorious for high levels of corruption in politics and business, as well as complicated government bureaucracy.

However, it is a place of truly majestic beauty. Its people are warm and friendly, they value relationships, love food and are proud of their culture and traditions. For expats who can afford it, or who are adventurous enough to take the plunge, Greece remains a popular destination for its high-quality lifestyle, ancient villages and the olive groves which dot the landscape.

Fast facts

Official name: the Hellenic Republic

Population: 11.03 million

Capital city: Athens (also the largest city)

Other major cities: Thessaloniki, Piraeus

Neighbouring countries: Greece consists of the mainland, a peninsula on the southern tip of the Balkans, and 227 inhabited islands. The mainland is bordered by Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria. Across the Ionian Sea to the west is Italy and across the Aegean Sea to the east is Turkey. Across the Mediterranean Sea to the south are Libya and Egypt.

System of governance: Parliamentary republic, where most political power is held by the prime minister and the government. The president holds a ceremonial position.

Major religions: Christianity (Greek Orthodox)

Main languages: Greek, although English is also widely spoken.

Money: Greece uses the Euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents. Expats are able to open a bank account in Greece provided they obtain a Greek tax number (AFM). Generally, ATMs are widely available, although some may not offer services in English.   

Tipping: For restaurants, if there isn't already a service charge, tips are normally 10 percent of the bill. Taxis also appreciate tips of around 10 percent. 

Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 between the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).

Electricity: 220 volts, 50Hz. European-style two pin plugs are most common. Adaptors are recommended for US appliances.

Internet domain: .gr

International dialling code: +30

Emergency contacts: As with other European countries, the general emergency number is 112. For local services, dial 100 (police), 166 (ambulance), or 199 (fire). The Hellenic Police are generally easy to deal with and effective. The biggest hospitals are in Athens and Thessaloniki and, in certain cases, medical emergencies requiring special care may be evacuated from more remote locations to these areas.

Transport and driving: Expats will find themselves driving on the right hand side. Travel between islands is usually done by ferry. Metro networks and intra-city bus systems are restricted to larger cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki. Inter-city transport can be done via buses and trains. Commercial taxis are often available, and defensive driving is highly recommended.