When considering moving to Greece, many people have images of sunny beaches with clean, sparkling water and a never-ending island hopping adventure. Sure, there are so many things to do in Greece that you will never be bored or tire from its beauty. However, what is described above is what people experience when they come to Greece on holiday, not to live. With the economic crisis hitting Greece harder and harder each day, living is no picnic for locals, let alone expats trying to make a living in the financially troubled country. The reality check is that living in Greece is no vacation for expats and that there are many cultural and economical challenges stemming from the crisis. Let’s take a look at some of the issues that many expats come across to help prepare you for your move to Greece.
First off, it is worth mentioning that finding work for non-EU citizens is very difficult nowadays in Greece and you will only be paid “under the table.” This means that you will not get health benefits and you are at the mercy of the tax police who frequently visit companies notorious for employing illegal staff. Language schools are a big target, so sure, be happy that you found a job, but remember, if the police come and you are not documented you will be fined and usually kicked out of the country.
However, if you are able to legally work in Greece and are lucky enough to have a job lined up when you arrive, then you are probably already aware that the Greek salary differs greatly from the rest of the EU countries. Some figures have the Greek average monthly salary at around 700 euros per month. Honestly, if you find somewhere that actually pays this, you are lucky. It is not unheard of to work full-time and make as little as 450 to 580 euros per month, cleared. Furthermore, with the financial crisis taking its toll many companies expect their employees to work on their days off with no pay, if you don’t like it, they remind you that you can always quit.
With unemployment for 2016 documented around 25 percent (and suspected to be even higher due to undocumented people who are unemployed), and even higher for youth at over 50 percent, you will find yourself compromising your minimal salary requirements much more willingly that you would expect. It is also important for expats to understand that jobs are limited for non-Greek speakers. There was once a policy that companies had to give you an increase of salary if you are hired to speak in a foreign language, but this is rarely enforced since the wave of austerity increases began a few years ago. Also, during the hiring process in Greece, employers can ask you your age and if you have or are planning to have children. Just say no to both, it helps your odds of getting hired, particularly for women.
Finding an apartment in Greece in the times of this crisis is daunting as well. There are so many apartments for rent, but the great majority of them are flats that you would not actually want to live in because of their current condition. According to recent reports on Numbeo.com the average monthly cost for an unfurnished one bedroom apartment in the city center of Athens is around 259 euros, while one outside of the city it costs around 274 euros. The cost for an unfurnished three bedroom in downtown Athens is at an average of 457 euros and outside of the city is again higher at 510 euros. These are just averages for apartments in all conditions. The newer the apartment, the more it will cost. Not only because of the quality and modern fixtures, but also because there have been virtually no new buildings constructed in the past few years due to lack of financial funds, making the task of finding a newer apartment very difficult.
Also keeping in mind how you plan to get to work is important. The days when you could just ask a bus driver to “drop you off” along the route are pretty much gone, unless you are in some remote village in Greece. Therefore, you need to have a few different options in mind for transportation. Calculating how much a taxi ride to work will cost you is very important when considering taking a job or moving into a new home. Transportation strikes are very common in Greece and not many companies give you the opportunity to work from home. So if you want to get paid for the days or even weeks that a strike may last, you need to find an alternative means to get to work.
Also, once you find an apartment that you feel fits your needs, there are a few more hidden cultural “gems” that Greece safe keeps. When you move into an apartment in Greece it will almost always be unfurnished. When they say “unfurnished” they mean it. You will not have a stove or oven, nor a fridge or washing machine. It will be empty as Greeks take their appliances with them when they move to their next apartment. This is nothing new and existed long before the financial crisis, however, the prices of appliances and the willingness of landlords to chip in when buying them has changed over the course of the past few years. Although prices for appliances have steadily gone down since 2010, they are still higher than what most expats expect. This is something to keep in mind as you house hunt.
Heating, electricity and water are not included in your rent in Greece and can cost an average of 150-200 euros per month for an 85 square meter apartment, according to reports on Numbeo.com. Knowing what type of heating is used in an apartment is crucial and can save you a lot of money. Many apartments have solar water heaters, but it is up to each individual owner if they install this feature not. In other words, don’t assume that since you see solar water panels on the rooftop of an apartment building that all of the units have solar water. Apartments can be heated with natural gas, the more reasonably priced option, and some buildings still use petrol for heating, which is more expensive. In fact, many buildings that use petrol no longer fill the tanks for winter because of the high prices. Therefore, you might see radiators in the apartment, but they may not actually work, leaving you forced to rely on plug-in electric heaters to keep warm. Electricity is charged per square meter and the price per square meter increases as the apartment size increases.
If you are not going to be employed by a Greek company, you will want to purchase health insurance for expats. You can find a lot of options online or contact your embassy. They are more expensive plans than what you find in your home countries but are worth it if something happens while you are living in Greece and you need to see a doctor. Always a nice option to be insured with an expat plan so you can see a private doctor and avoid the public healthcare sector in Greece.
Remember that the cost of living is generally lower in Greece than most other EU countries, but since the country lives with continual V.A.T. hikes now reaching 24 percent on most supermarket goods and many leisure activities your wallet will empty out quite fast on your Greek salary. Having funds that you can tap into from outside of Greece is recommended for expats who wish to move to Greece and actually experience “living” in the country.
Despite all of the hardships Greece is enchanting, and is a lovely place to live. The Greek culture and history awaits you at every turn. Unfortunately, many expats who move to Greece do not take all of the factors into consideration and find much frustration in the process of settling down. Just stay realistic and remember why you are here; to experience the “real” Greece, otherwise you would have opted for just a holiday.