21 Things To Know Before Moving To Greece
Thinking of moving to Greece and sunning it up on the golden sands? Well, you’re not alone. There are currently around 1.2 million migrants living in Greece: embracing the culture, exploring the beautiful coast, and tucking into some local delicacies.
But before you pack your bags and head to the airport, you might want to familiarise yourself with the ins and outs of this storied Mediterranean country. Luckily for you, we’ve listed 21 key things you should know before moving!
If you’ve already got your heart set on Greece, you can receive free quotes for shipping from the UK to Greece simply by filling in this short form. Once you’ve done this, our professional suppliers will be in touch shortly.
A view of Athens – the tourist epicentre of Greece – soaking in the glorious Greek sunshine
1. Prepare for name day celebrations
In some places, names are assigned to a certain date – and it’s a popular tradition in Greece to celebrate them. And Greeks tend to go big on name days.
Similar to birthdays, family and friends will be invited to an open house, where they can drop by and give their wishes, offer a small gift, and receive the traditional ‘kerasma' (food, sweets, coffee, and drinks).
Name days are usually bigger milestones than birthdays in Greece – particularly as people get older.
2. Birthdays are also celebrated, but not how you’re used to
In Greece and other Mediterranean countries, birthdays are celebrated in the same way as other places – but you might want to put some money aside for yours. Rather than being treated to food or a party, the birthday boy or girl is expected to pay the bill if they decide to invite people out for the occasion.
3. Consider healthcare insurance
If you’re moving to Greece, you may want to consider getting private healthcare insurance. Emergency care in Greece is free of charge, regardless of your nationality. However, unless an expat is employed, has a social security number, and pays for public health insurance, they will have to pay their own medical bills for most primary care visits. So it’s better to cover your back and take out private insurance.
Plus, although the quality of healthcare in Greece is generally quite good, most expats opt for some form of private health insurance to access better quality care and shorter waiting times.
4. Think before you flush
As a rule of thumb, avoid flushing toilet paper down the loo in Greece – otherwise, things could get messy.
Greek sewage pipes are only about two inches in diameter, making them prone to blockages. It may take you some time to get used to, but you’ll adapt quickly.
5. Drink coffee like a local
If you love coffee, you’re in luck – Greece is in the top 20 countries in the world with the highest coffee consumption. Coming in 17th, Greeks consume around 5.39 kg per person each year.
There’s a long list of ways people in Greece like their morning coffee fix – most of which are served without milk. On the bitter end of the coffee scale, you have ‘sketos’, which is a strong Greek coffee served without sugar. If you have a sweet tooth, however, you might prefer a ‘variglikos’ coffee, which includes two teaspoons of coffee and 2-3 tablespoons of sugar.
6. Economy and the Grexit crisis
Greece is currently experiencing the worst financial debt crisis in 21st century Europe. This will mainly affect Greek citizens only, but you should definitely look into how it may impact your move before you hop on the plane.
However, if you’re moving from the UK, it might not change your lifestyle as much as you’d think. For instance, there is a €60 daily limit at ATM machines, but this only applies to bank cards issued by Greek banks. If you have a bank card issued by another country's bank, you should be able to withdraw your normal maximum (there are, however, reports of some ATMs running out of cash).
7. Always carry cash
If you’re moving to Greece from the UK, it might come as a surprise that most payments are done in cash.
Although hotels and restaurants typically accept credit or debit cards, a lot of small businesses, tavernas and cafés, taxis, kiosks, or street vendors will only accept Euros in cash. Plus, the further you drift away from the tourist areas, the rarer card payments will become.
8. Greeks are quite superstitious
While the younger generations don’t believe them as strongly, superstitions are a huge part of Greece’s cultural identity. We’ve listed a few stand-out examples below:
- Touch red – When two people say the same words at the same time, Greeks believe this to be a sign that the two will get into a fight. To avoid the argument, they have to touch something that is red immediately
- Pomegranate smashing – At midnight on New Year’s Eve, all the lights are turned off and a pomegranate is smashed onto the floor. The more seeds that spill out, the more likely it is that the coming year will bring good fortune, health, and prosperity
- Gia mas – Greeks toast by saying “Gia mas” with alcohol, but they will never say cheers with coffee, which is said to bring bad luck
9. Vaskania (The Evil Eye)
Although The Evil Eye ties into superstition, we think this one deserves its own place on the list. The Evil Eye is said to be caused by a compliment or jealousy – and is believed to result in illness, misfortune, harm, and sometimes even death.
To ward off any curse, people wear charms in the shape of an eye, spit three times, or throw salt over their shoulder. To remove the curse, the receiver usually asks an elder woman to recite a secret prayer.
The Greek Orthodox Church even performs exorcisms to rid people of The Evil Eye.
10. Family structure
Greek families tend to be extremely close-knit – it’s very normal for children to live at home until they are married, and sometimes even longer.
In Greece, disrespecting your parents is considered one of the lowest things a person can do. In theory, Greeks have two fathers and two mothers: their biological parents, along with God and the Virgin Mary. Therefore, disobedience towards the biological parents is seen as disrespect towards the Holy family – a big no-no.
11. Pack your suncream
On average, Greece enjoys more than 250 days – or 3,000 sunny hours – of sunshine a year. Summers in Greece are usually very hot – temperatures average 30 to 35°C in July and August, but can sometimes reach 40°C or more.
Plus, at any location in Greece, you are never more than 85 miles from the coast – so the winds can be quite powerful.
Can you picture yourself setting up camp in Santorini, watching a sherbert-coloured sunset to end the day?
12. Easter is the most important holiday
Although Christmas is generally crowned as the holiday of the year for most countries, the Easter Holiday is much more important for the Greeks.
For the Orthodox Church, marking the resurrection of Christ is the biggest event of the year – so prepare for huge celebrations. The whole country laments the death of Christ before the mood eventually turns festive, with Easter Sunday being the climax of the celebrations.
13. Greece has lots of tasty delicacies
Prepare your stomach for the experience of a lifetime. Greek delicacies take influence from both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, and there are so many delicious delicacies to choose from! We’ve listed a few of our favourites below:
- Taramasalata – This creamy blend of pink or white fish roe, with either a potato or bread base, is best with a drizzle of virgin olive oil or a squeeze of lemon
- Moussaka – The iconic Greek oven-bake moussaka consists of layers of sautéed aubergine, minced lamb, fried puréed tomato, onion, garlic and spices, potato, then a final fluffy topping of béchamel sauce and cheese
- Baklava – A classic Greek pastry, made with flaky phyllo dough, layered with a cinnamon-spiced nut filling, and bathed in sweet syrup. It’s crunchy, sweet, and very decadent
14. English is widely spoken
Greek isn’t the easiest language to get under your belt – in fact, it’s been listed as one of the hardest languages in the modern world to pick up.
However, since all schoolchildren in Greece start learning English at a young age, most Greeks under 40 know English. If you’re moving to an area popular with tourists, you’ll also find that most people are fluent.
15. There is a strong sense of community
As well as tight family connections, Greeks often value a strong sense of community. Supporting one another and being kind is key to their culture.
There is a noun in Greek – philotimo, or filotimo – that translates as “love of honour”. The concept is almost impossible to translate fully into English, but it describes a way of life, of doing good, and of having respect for others. It’s often hailed as the highest of all Greek values.
16. Greece is very affordable
Greece is super affordable, especially when compared to other European countries. Compared to the UK, rent prices in Greece are a massive 135.39% lower, while grocery costs are around 15.78% less. So, you could look forward to saving a lot more!
That said, the closer you are to popular tourist areas, the higher the prices will be – especially for prime accommodation, restaurant meals, and entertainment. Settling on a lesser-known island, such as Yialos or Milos, or in a small inland town will cost much less per year than living in the heart of Athens or on Santorini.
18. The Golden Visa
After 2010, Greece introduced a Golden Visa program – designed to help the country move forward from its financial crisis. The scheme encourages non-EU expats to take advantage of fast-tracked residency in exchange for financial investment.
The main requirement for obtaining a Golden Visa is a real estate investment in Greece, amounting to at least €250,000. Since no deal has been put in place with Brexit yet, it’s unclear how The Golden Visa will work for Brits in the future.
19. Blue Zones
The Greek island of Ikaria is one of the world's few Blue Zones – an area with the longest average lifespan. About 30% of people on the island live well into their 90s, have much lower rates of cancer and heart disease, and suffer significantly less from depression and dementia – living long and healthy lives.
Although there is no one secret to the people of Ikaria's success, there are a few suspicions, including:
- A low-calorie diet
- An active lifestyle (the uneven terrain means people have to walk to get around the villages)
- Lack of stress, thanks to the simple village life
- Taking siestas
- Regular socialising over a homegrown glass of wine
20. Watch how you wave
Waving with an open palm and the fingers extended is considered an insult in Greece. This gesture comes from the traditional practice of rubbing dirt, ashes, or faeces in the face of convicts, and is considered to be highly offensive.
Greek authorities have even tried stomping out the gesture by threatening offenders with fines in the past. So be careful when greeting your fellow Greeks from afar!
Greece is adorned with golden, sandy beaches – just like this one here, hidden away in Corfu
21. Watch out for coins in your cake
Each New Year's Eve, Greeks hide a coin in the cake. Finding the coin in your slice of cake is believed to bring good luck for the year ahead.
This story originated from the 1600s, when Basil the Great distributed bread to all the people of the city of Caesarea – with each family finding pieces of gold inside, once they had cut into the buns.
Now that you know which superstitions to be aware of, which delicacies to dip into, and how affordable Greece can be, you’re officially ready to move!
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