Moving To Greece

It’s not a myth that Greece is a paradise from time immemorial.
Officially called the Hellenic Republic, Greece is fast becoming a popular expat destination, partly because of its mystic beauty and mostly because it is, after all, a developed European nation, teeming with the promise of better opportunities, and a new life filled with adventure.

In a survey on migrants by Greece’s Ministry of Economy and Finance in 2008, 46.6% of the 55,733 respondents answered that they plan to stay permanently while 23.4% opted to stay at least more than five years in Greece.

This so-called ‘cradle of Western civilization’ is located in the southeastern portion of Europe. Almost 80% of Greece’s land area is dotted with hills and mountains, the most famous of which would be the mythological throne of Zeus, Mount Olympus. The cities of Thessaly, Central Macedonia, and Thrace, however, are mostly composed of wide plains.

Greece has three main climates: Mediterranean, which can be mildly cold and wet in winter, and dry during summer, Alpine, which is mostly experienced in the mountains and is primarily consist of harsh cold winds, and Temperate which spells damp winters and hot summers.

The Grecian economy is also at par with its neighbors in Europe. Ranked as the second most industrious country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it also has the largest work-hour ration among European nations. Based on International Monetary Fund (IMF) statistics in 2008, this country has an average per capita income of about $30,661 (US Dollars).

Shipping and Tourism are the two main industries in Greece. The shipping industry accounts for 4.5% of the country’s GDP, while tourism makes up 15%.

If you wish to go around Greece and see the country where the ‘myths of the gods’ are told, you’d either have to take the road or the railways system, which has been highly modernized since the 1980’s. Improvements in the capital, Athens, include the new international airport opened in 2001, the suburban motorway Attiki Odos which was opened in the same year, and the metro system (expanded in the year 2000).

97% of the population belongs to the Greek Orthodox religion. The immigrant population on the other hand, has approximately 200,000 Roman Catholic Church members. There are also Muslims, mostly situated in Thrace.

Education starts at the age of 6 for primary school. At the age of 12, they start gymnasium. Gymnasium is the European equivalent of secondary schooling where a pupil is prepared for university academic study.

The Grecian population is also updated with trends in science and technology. In fact, public spending for research and development amounted to about 456.37 million Euros in 2003.

Being home to the first ever Olympics in world history, Greece is also proud of its modern sports heritage. Sports like football and basketball are a major means of recreation in the country.

Grecian food is European cuisine at its healthiest. Meals are almost always made with fresh ingredients and in small portions like meze, (an array of appetizers) which is enjoyed with dips like feta cheese or tzatziki (dip made of yoghurt, cucumbers, garlic, olive oil and other herbs).

Visas and Work Permits

As with most European nations, members of the European nation are not required to secure a visa to enter or do business in Greece for 90 days. Included in this list of exempted countries are U.S citizens, Australians, Canadians, and the Japanese.

If you wish to do business or stay as a permanent resident of Greece, you would need to secure a separate resident and working visa. A special written permit must be obtained from the Grecian Ministry of Labor to an immigrant who wishes to gain employment in the country.

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Cost of Living in Greece

Food and Housing

Meals in Greece are almost always healthy and eaten in smaller portions. Thus, eating in Greece would not be as expensive in comparison to other European countries. Bread, for example, is one of the staples, and it only costs 0.60 Euros, and is available on almost every corner of any Grecian city in local bakeries. These bakeries also offer a variety of pastries such as pies, cookies, and crackers.

Eating out is an option, but don’t make it a habit, especially if you like places frequented by tourists. Not only are they almost always packed, but prices are higher in those places. A simple meal with salad, main course, and a soft drink would cost about 12 Euros plus the service charge. Tipping is somewhat customary, but if you don’t feel inclined in giving, then you don’t have to.

Most grocery items are affordable. Stocking up with food items at home is best for families as cooking and eating at home is definitely cheaper than dining in restaurants. As Greece is also an agricultural country, markets offer a variety of fruits and vegetables. Meats, on the other hand, tend to be a little pricier, especially fish. The cost of a pork steak would be about seven to eight Euros, while fish prices can go up to about 45 to 65 Euros per kilo.

Property

Non-nationals of Greece or non- EU (European Union) nationals may also purchase properties in Greece. Prices are relatively lower in comparison to other European countries and the United States. Around 3000 properties have been sold to foreign nationals as of 2003.

Apartments and village homes can cost as little as 40,000-200,000 Euros for a considerably large plot of land with a swimming pool.

If you’re not ready to purchase a property then you can always lease a home. Apartments are the most popular option, as they are already furnished most of the time and can be found in convenient locations. A single bedroom apartment which comes fully-furnished would cost about 500 Euros per month.

Clothing and Services

The Grecian dress code tends to be more conservative and formal than the neighboring European countries. Styles are highly influenced by Western culture, although traditional clothes like shawls, belts, and other garments in white and gold are still available. Designer brands can also be found in malls and are priced almost the same as they are in the UK or the US.

An individual would spend an average of about 100 Euros every month for clothing, depending on need, and the choice of brands.

Education is compulsory for children aged six to fifteen and secondary schooling is fully subsidized by the government. Most expats send their children to Greek primary and secondary schools and later opt for university schooling in other EU countries.

Electricity and water supply costs about 40 Euros and 15 Euros respectively, though in some housing lease arrangements, the cost of both can be included in the monthly rent.

Telephone and Internet connections are now widely available and are mostly affordable depending on the speed. The average cost for both would be 40 Euros per month, already including charges for calls.

Transportation

Getting around the smaller towns and villages can be done on foot, especially if you’re out for some leisure time. However, for longer distances, public transportation is readily available.

The most popular and most affordable means of transportation would be through public buses. There are two kinds of public buses in Greece: The Astiko, which goes around the towns and villages of large cities like Athens and the intercity buses which go to major Greek cities. A monthly pass would cost around 35 Euros.

If you prefer owning a private vehicle, a small family car costs about 6700 Euro. A liter of gas costs about one to two Euros.

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Culture Shock in Greece

Greece is a land of beautiful, warm and affectionate people. First time expats in Greece will need to make only a few cultural adjustments to fit in.
Expats living in Greece are only expected to respect Greek traditions and beliefs. Moving to Greece means accepting a society that is family oriented. Nepotism is accepted, as most companies are family-run. The corporate or the business world adheres to hierarchical culture. Respect should always be given to the elders or anyone who is more senior.

Greeks like to get to know their business colleagues before business can be concluded. Most Greeks give more weight to trust over qualifications. It may take time for foreigners to get the trust of Greeks. Expats should not expect to close a deal on the first meeting.

Reputation and honor are important, thus, when sharing or pointing out ideas, be careful not to embarrass Greek associates or friends. Questions or any disputes can always be raised and resolved in good and subtle ways.

When invited to a Greek home, always bring a gift for the hostess like a bottle of wine, brandy, pastries, whiskey, or flowers.

Expatriates in Greece should take note to avoid using the “okay”; one can just a thumbs up to signal okay. Never raise an open palm at face level, as Greeks may find it an insult.

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