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Things You Should Know Before Moving to Greece

Moving to Greece can be a long and time-consuming process, but first it’s worth acquainting yourself with some of the most basic cultural differences you’ll experience when you move to Greece. Try as much as you can to embrace the Greek culture and all its foibles. This is a country in love with life and with a deep-rooted respect for children and the family, so don’t be offended if you’re asked seemingly personal questions about your marital status, fertility and family setup…

Evil eye

Source: flickr | Dennis Skley

The very face of bad luck, it’s the Evil Eye that’s blamed for any unexplainable misfortune in a Greek’s life. The Greek Orthodox Church even recognises the Evil Eye as a force to be reckoned with and it’s an ancient Greek superstition. The best way to avert the reckless gaze of the Evil Eye is to keep one on your person, so as to reflect the evil back towards its origin. This is why cars, houses, key rings and jewellery often bear an Evil Eye, and it’s also why the Greeks are fond of painting buildings an evil-warding bright blue… and wary of blue-eyed people.

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Superstitions

Source: flickr | Josh McGinn

Greeks are hugely superstitious, but everyone knows that really. As an expat you can’t be expected to take on all the customs and beliefs of the Greeks, but it’s worth knowing about some of them so that you don’t upset or offend anyone inadvertently. Equally, some superstitions are quite pleasant and fun, and you could win over your Greek neighbours more quickly with a bit of local knowledge up your sleeve. Here’s a small selection: - The pomegranate is a symbol of happiness, prosperity and fertility. Bring one when visiting friends in their new home, or on New Year’s Eve. Smash it on their doorstep when you arrive.

  • Never hand someone a knife as it may predetermine conflict between you and the person you pass the knife to. Put it down on the table or counter, and let them pick it up.
  • Spitting is sometimes done for superstitious reasons, often upon hearing bad news about someone else. It symbolises warding off the Evil Eye, similar to the way some of us touch wood superstitiously.
  • Never let your shoes lie sole-side up. Or at least never let a Greek see you leave your shoes like this, as it’s a symbol of bad luck and is sometimes seen as an omen of impending death.
  • Never propose a toast when drinking water or coffee – it’s considered unlucky.
  • Don’t fall asleep under a cypress tree – it’s considered unlucky and the tree may steal your brains.
  • Keep eye contact when talking to people – not doing so is (you guessed it) considered unlucky. And a bit rude.

Economy and Grexit crisis

Greece is in the midst of financial turmoil while it secures further bailouts from the Eurozone and battles to pass new legislation. This will mainly only affect citizens of Greece and should not dissuade you from moving there. For instance the 60 Euro a day limit at ATM machines only applies to bank cards issued by Greek banks, if you have a bank card issued by another countries bank you should be able to withdraw your normal maximum (however there are reports of some ATM's running out of cash). This is an ongoing issue and one you should investigate fully before deciding to move.

Family structure

Source: flickr | Giulia Scifoni

Greek families tend to be extremely close-knit and it’s normal for children to live at home until they are married; sometimes sons stay on at home even after marriage, with their new wife in tow. Disrespecting one’s parents is considered one of the lowest things a person can do in Greece. Equally, the curse of a parent on a child is thought to be one of the worst misfortunes that can befall a person, as the curse is said to be heard loud and clear by God, and acted swiftly upon. A Greek has two fathers and two mothers, in theory: their biological parents, plus God the Father and the Virgin Mary. Disobedience towards the biological parents is therefore seen as disobedience towards the Holy family: a big no-no. Mothers tend to have a stronger bond with their children than fathers due to the physical bond shared in the womb, and as such you won’t find the sort of ‘mother in law’ eye-rolling we do quite freely in the UK.