Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Great comment, Ashley

The comments I receive on this blog on moving to and living in Greece are the measure of my success. Ashley just left the following comments:
You can learn more about the Greek culture at http://www.greekorthodox.com where you can make a personal profile & connect with other Greeks around the world! This could be helpful with your move to Greece!
Yes, I agree completely, the more networking oen can do before moving the better it will be for you if and when you make the move. There are many many Greek forums around the world which you can find ont he Internet and perhaps it would be a good idea if I started listing some of them in this blog?

Monday, 29 June 2009

This one just to tease - Greek summer has arrived

Some of you might have the impression that I am always moaning about Greece, wrong I love the place and the people. Summer has arrived, schools closed 15 July and open again mid-September and now the city is gradually getting empty. Many are moving to their little summer homes on the coast as the temperatures begin slowly to climb. Hotels are filling up and the water is just right for the typical Greek who would never dream of swimming in anything but warm Mediterranean waters. And slowly the city life is winding down, the clubs and discos more out of the center in the summer and from mid-July to mid-August shops change their opening hours to basically mornings only (with the exception of Fridays). Walking through the city this morning I noticed the numerous tourists struggling with their guide books and phrase books. White skinned and shading themselves constantly from the sun, the Northern European is not hard to detect.

Friday, 26 June 2009

More news on the cost of living in Greece - and it's not good

This article was pubished in May 2008 but I believe the economic turn down has not improved things and the cost of living in Greece has increased:

"Greece also has the highest cost of living in Europe, according to a recent survey by the Consumer Protection Center (KEPKA) on supermarket prices. Greeks pay –215.70 for 86 of the basic goods, for which Germans pay –162.71. For example, a kilo of yoghurt costs –0.93 in Germany but –2.49 in Greece. Fresh milk costs –0.66 in Germany but –0.94 in Greece. Local farm products such as feta cheese and red (Florina) peppers cost more in Greece than in any other European country."

This I admit is frightening but it is the realities of daily life:

"According to the latest report by the European Commission, 49 percent of Greeks say they have already reduced purchases of various goods, 73 percent are no longer planning to buy a new car, 82 percent have decided against buying a home and 74 percent against having repairs done to their homes.

One in three Greeks has difficulty in paying the rent or mortgage installment, having meat or fish on the table every two days or heating their homes adequately.

Nearly half of those with low incomes say they are pessimistic about the future and are expecting more price rises over the next few months. (In Spain the corresponding percentage is just 9 percent, in France 7 and Italy 6.4 percent.)

Today the percentage of the population that lives on the poverty line stands at 20 percent, with most of the burden being borne by pensioners, single-parent families, the unemployed, young people and immigrants. A fifth cannot afford to buy a personal computer, 11.31 percent cannot afford a washing machine and 22.3 percent a car. Meanwhile two-thirds (523,122 people) say they cannot afford extraordinary expenses and 79.3 percent don’t have the money for a week’s holiday.

About 400,000 people say they have not been able to afford a visit to a doctor."

Both quotes are from the national Greek newspaper Kathimerini

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Terrorism raises its ugly head in Greece.

Since the collapse of the military junta in Greece in 1973, contemporary history has been marred with the presence of terrorist groups. The most famous or infamous was the 17th November, named after the day the junta drove tanks into the Polytechnio in Athens to quell student uprisings against the junta. The 17 November terrorist group was disbanded in 2002 with the trial and emprisonment of its key members. The group assassinated 23 people in some 103 atacks and the targets were usually Amercian, Turkish and British diplomats and rich Greek entrepreneurs. The motives of the organistaion were getting the US bases out of Greece and Cyprus, getting Greece out of NATO and the EU. It was de fact an urban Marxist organisation.

With their demise in recent years we are witnessing the growth of an offspring of the 17 November group calling themselves the Revolutionary Struggle and it is deeply anti-American and anti-globalisation. Since its inception in 2003 it has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks and assassinations in Greece. Indeed only last week, an anti-terrorist officer protecting witnesses in a case against the group was gunned down in Athens.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A final word on the Greek language - embarrassing but funny

A true story. Just after moving to Greece - some two weeks in fact, a colleague of mine went off to the local bakery to get a loaf of bread. Armed with her scanty knowledge of Greek she walked in and was faced with a little old black-clothed lady behind the counter. Proudly she ordered "ena psouli, parakalo" - "one loaf please", she thought. In fact the word for bread in Greek is "psoumi". The immediate reaction of the little old lady indicated something was very wrong. Anyway, having asked for the bread, she then continued - "large and brown please". The atmosphere was icy to say the least. Perturbed my colleague returned home and still pondering the reaction in the shop she got out the dictionary. To her horror she had in fact order a certain part of the male anatomy - and a large brown one to boot.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The importance of having some knowledge of the Greek language

Let's be honest. If you are serious about moving permanently to Greece, then you should be serious about putting in some serious time to at least get a grasp of the language. Greek is a difficult language to learn - you are confronted with a completely different alphabet and that can be offputting enough. Thinking OK, I'll some catch on when I'm there is a mistake. Take it form someone who know and as a profesisonal linguist, I already spoke four other languages before I arrived. It is an investment you will never regret and you will feel much more confident in your new environment. Courses you will find in your telephone directory or on the Internet as Greece is a popular holiday destination and there are plenty of people wanting to learn.

Ideally, I woudl recommend doing an intensive course in Greece, I did exactly this and although I had followed a course in Germany before arriving, I found the three week intensive course much more beneficial. In fact I learned more in three weeks than I did in the six motns of twice weekly language courses at home.

Monday, 22 June 2009

My advice on the language issue

Something not to be underestimated when thinking of moving to Greece is that you will encounter a language barrier. Although many would argue this is not the case in the major cities and the touristic islands, there are a number of pitfalls you should avert. First and foremost, the majority of young and educated Greeks speak good English - simply because few people learn Greek. After living in Greece for over 14 years I will still have friends who insist on speaking English. They think they are being polite but they are not doing me a favour. It prevents me from learning the langauge. So if you do relocate be stubborn and insist you speak Greek, however weak you are at the beginning.What you are looking at below is the Greek alphabet (a word of Greek origin, by the way). The top part is Greek letters in capitals and below the Greek alphabet in small letters.
My experience is it took me about 2 years living here to learn not to have to translate each letter. It takes patience but very worth the trouble if you intend to make your life in Greece.

You may ask, why bother? The answer is very simple and was given by the great German philosopher, Goethe, who said "for every language we have a soul". One fact I will stress. If you never learn Greek, you will never understand the Greek mentality. I conclude with an interetsing point - over 53 000 words in the English language have their origins in Greek. So learning the language is an enlightening experience. It will increase your appreciation of your own language and its origins vastly.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Harsh news - even for EU citizens moving to Greece

If you are an EU citizen, you might think that you have a legitimate expectation to have national medical coverage in Greece. This is only true in part. But the rules do differ from most other EU counties and to a surprising degree. This is particularly the case if you become unemployed in Greece and here the social network falls down - incredibly so in my view.

The rules that apply to Greek citizens will also apply to any EU national who has become unemployed will working in Greece - and the news is not good. Firstly, you qualify for unemployment benefit you have to prove a minimum period of employment of 18 months. This gives you cover with the national insurance systems called IKA. However, unemployment benefit is payable only for 12 months. And if that is not bad enough, when your entitlement to unemployment benefit expires, you cease to be covered for medical insurance. Tough but true.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

A changing factor - the cost of getting to Greece

The travel landscape to and from Greece has changed remarkably over the past years with the massive increase in no frill airlines. This is something which should be factored in on any decision to relocate - and I say this from personal experience. I am exchanged by the island of Bali and for many years toyed with the idea of moving there. I still visit Indonesia on a regular basis but one of the main reasons I decided not to relocate was a number of simple questions I asked myself:

(a) Will my friends and family want to spend 17 hours ona one way trip to visit me.
(b) Will I want to spend quite a lot of money to come and see them if and when I want to.

The situation of relocating - particularly for Europeans to Greece - makes the prospect less daunting and the increase of cheap airlines has favoured this. As I do not plan on launching an advertising campaign for any particular low-cost airline, suffice it to say that both mainland Greece and the larger islands are well served by such airlines and indeed in some cases not just for the sumer season but throughout the year. Thessaloniki has frequent - if not daily - connections to London, Berlin and Athens has a much greater array of destinations where if you are clever enough to book and plan early enough you can get a round trip for less than Euro 100. This makes it much easier and cheaper to visit friends and family or to be visited than my original idea of a happy retirement in Bali.