Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I am from Toronto in Canada.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Athens, Greece.
Q: When did you move here?
A: I moved here in 2003.
Q: Did you move here alone or with family?
A: I came here alone after completing my Master's degree in England and then met my husband here a few years later.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved here because, given that my parents are Greek, I used to visit Greece every summer and decided I'd like to try living here. I am a Managing Partner at the XpatAthens.com group of companies.
Living in Greece
Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city? How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country?
A: I like the fact that Athens is a vibrant, alive city, with something going on at all times of day and night. There are many things to do, even on a small budget. The lifestyle here in Greece I think is better in that people generally meet their friends and family more often and are more social. The weather is nicer, even in the winter, and it's easier (and closer) to travel to beautiful destinations from Greece. In Canada, however, other factors such as a more organised public sector and a greater ease of starting a business does make it an attractive place to live...
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: Well, besides Twizzlers, I miss most, especially now with the crisis, the perceived government stability. Something you take for granted when there isn't a crisis.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: I had to improve my Greek, even though I could speak and write. And I also had to get used to the way things are done here, the way people drive, etc. In general, I came with an open mind and tried (try) to see the reasoning behind things being the way they are.
Q: How would you rate the public transport? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
A: I live in the suburbs so I do need a car, but when I did live in more central areas of Athens, I was OK getting to most places taking public transit. The public transit system has much improved since the new metro lines began running. But buses, trolleys and the tram also help to get you where you're going. And taxis, too.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in your city? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: I have given birth to both of my children here in Athens and I had in both cases a very good experience. I am also happy with the doctors here; like in any country, sometimes you have to 'shop around' before you find someone that you click with.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in your host city or country? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: There aren't any specific safety issues that expats must consider that are different from what you would watch out for in other cities. The basic rules apply. I would encourage research on standard procedures before beginning to do things like taking taxi rides, and requesting other services where someone may find the opportunity to take advantage of you...
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in the city? What different options are available for expats?
A: The standard of housing here is directly related to how much you can afford. The only issue an owner might have with renting to an expat is the duration of stay. That's something that can be negotiated.
Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: I find that most expats tend to live in the southern and northern suburbs, like Glyfada and Kifisia, as well as in the city center in areas like Acropolis, Thissio, Plaka and Kolonaki.
Meeting people and making friends in Greece
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against any particular groups of people?
A: Greeks are very tolerant of foreigners and enjoy engaging them in conversation and learning about their country of origin. They see women as equals as well. Becoming friends takes a little longer - I find that Greeks are hesitant at first, but once they let you in their 'circle of trust' you become like family.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: It was easy for me because when I first got here I already had a few friends from university who either were from Athens or decided to try life here as well. I also worked in jobs where there were many other expats, most of whom I'm still friends with today.
Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends?
A: I do mix with locals, in that my husband is Greek and we do spend time with his friends – I will however say that I find I have more in common with other expats and tend to gravitate towards them and vice versa. Having said that, I am always open to making friends with the locals.
About working in Greece
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: I was actually born in Greece, so I have dual citizenship.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job there? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: Looking for a job is generally quite challenging now, and it always depends on the type of work you are looking for. Tips for expats would be to always keep an eye on the XpatAthens Employment channel of our Classifieds – as well as check other online sources , such as Facebook groups like 'Finding a Job in Athens'.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in the country?
A: My tips for expats who want to do business in Greece are to pick up the phone. Email culture is here but phone calls and face-to-face meetings are still the best way to do business here.
Family and children
Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A: Although my children are not yet of school age, to be honest, public schools don't have the best reputation. It is said that not much gets done during class time, and then students go for private tutoring all afternoon to be taught what they should have learned during the day. Also, because central Athens is a growing multicultural center, and the public schools within this area have a large number of children whose first language is not Greek, it is said that this slows down the learning of those whose first language is Greek.
Another option is for people to send their kids to private schools. There are a whole range that differ in terms of language (Greek, English, French, German, etc.) as well as operating hours and pricing.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: My advice to any new expats coming to Greece is to keep an open mind; in order to be happy, enjoy what's here, and try to limit as much as possible comparisons with the way things are done at home...
– Interviewed October 2013