Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Advice from a Good Samaritan

Happy New Year! How was it for you? I passed into this year running around in the dark thanks to a power cut at the crucial moment. Mr Zeus was caught on the stairs with a tray of glasses. Hope that's not the tone for the rest of the year.

I digress! This is the first new year I've had in Athens, which is a milestone for me. Since starting this blog it was come to my attention that there are other lost souls like me, snared in the trap of love and willing to fling themselves to foreign lands. I have done it, sweethearts, so here is some advice and resources to help you along:

The Attitude:
I'll be honest. When it came to dreams of moving overseas I had my heart set on somewhere in equatorial Asia. I never dreamt I'd end up living in Greece. But since I'm here, I have to work hard to make it my own, otherwise all Mr Zeus will ever hear from me is: "I moved here for YOU and this is all you got me for my birthday?" Drum it into your head even if you don't believe it that you are moving to Greece for you, for a future and if nothing else, the experience. Explore your city on your own, find out where you like to go and what you like to do; make it your own otherwise you will resent living here.

The Language:
I'm not going to sugar coat this; Greek is very hard to learn. It will drive you crazy, make you cry with frustration and horrify you with its endless folds of tricky grammar. But don't for a second chicken out of learning it because most people in Athens speak English. I now speak enough Greek to survive if I was abandoned somewhere, and it had transformed my relationship with life in Greece.

You have two options. You can either pay for lessons, there are hundreds of language schools in Athens. I attend classes at the Hellenic American Union, which cost about 370E for 3 months, six hours per week. However, having taken these classes I am not too impressed with what I got for my money, but anything better costs more.

Unless of course you take free Greek classes. Yes, free. The EU funds a scheme in Greece for immigrants to learn Greek. These classes are totally free, and I have taken them. They are actually better than Hellenic American, we get free materials and study supplements. I've heard different things about what you need to sign up. I just went with my passport which they photocopied, but then I am from the EU. Outside the EU, you may need to show a residency permit.
Visit or call 210 253 0334 for your nearest centre offering these classes.

Unless you come from an EU member state, you will need a residency permit for stays of over 3 months. This link will explain what you need to do in order to get one:

I Ain't Got Nobody:
When you move to Greece, you will be reduced to a three year old. You will have no language skills, you will have to rely on someone else for shelter, transportation, entertainment and socialising. Love is great, but it can't conjure up friends of your own or Mummy's cooking. It's lonely when you first move here. Do as much homework as you can and have no illusions about what life in Greece is like, it's very different to coming here on holiday. A good starting point is community organisations:
Language classes are also a good place to make friends.

I Ain't Got No Job:
Independent types will have to swallow their pride for a while. The job market in Greece stinks. Forget what you earned before, here 700E a month counts as good money. I got VERY lucky that my job in London let me carry on working from Athens, but for the rest, here are some useful links:
Allow about 3 months from beginning your search to landing a job. See the link of residence permits to learn what paperwork you'll need to work in Greece.

A final, very useful link is the guide produced by Athens News, which has links to answer pretty much anything you might want to know:

I think that about covers it. If you want to get in touch with me, I moderate all my comments so leave a comment with your email address and I'll get back to you without publishing the comment. It's hard darlings, real hard, but lucky for you you have me who's done it all, gleaned all this info the hard way and is now passing it on to you for free! So when you move here, bring me a nice present. Seriously though, I've done it and now nothing seems scary any more.



Jenny said...

Just a shameless plug for any other expats out there - we run a social group called ''Meet in Athens'' for young people and we go out regularly for drinks & dinner and so on - and we have over 200 people on the list now! You can go to to Register

alison said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.... very very useful information here!

betabug said...

Very good information, thanks for sharing! Let's hope Google picks this up good, so people can find it early enough!

Anonymous said...

Thank you VERY much for posting this information. Much appreciated!