Athens, Greece Report of what it's like to live there - 10/23/23
Personal Experiences from Athens, Greece
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, Mexico City, plus others before Foreign Service.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Seattle, WA, easy trip, though few direct flights to Athens, you need to transit at another airport in Europe.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What years did you live here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Our housing was very large (four floors!). A lot of the housing in the outskirt neighborhoods are similarly large and new (doesn't always mean nicer). They houses are older and smaller as you get closer to the Embassy and downtown. Housing has quite a few challenges despite being Europe, mold, incomplete construction. Our yard was basically inaccessible and only useful to raise our herd of mosquitos. It was a beautiful house with a lot of natural light, however, it felt a bit form over function.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get everything here and prices were comparable to the US.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
No grocery items; however, if you don't like fragrances in your cleaning supplies (even trash bags), you should bring or order online. Everything has a smell!
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Yes, there are endless options (fewer delivery options in the suburbs), everything is priced well and felt cheaper than ordering out in the US. There isn't much variety for food from different international regions and Greek food at all price points will be the most common to order on the apps.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No, though we did have a lot of ants, but I think it was just us.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We used diplomatic mail for anything US-based, but it was simple and easy to have packages delivered to the house. We never tried regular letters and there are mailing services as well.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We didn't have anyone for most of our time, but I believe it was about 8 Euros for cleaning and more for nannying services.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are a lot everywhere and within walking distance. No idea on costs.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Yes and yes! However, Greece is definitely still quite cash-based. At restaurants and grocery stores, it was easy to use a credit card, but a lot of smaller places preferred cash.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
I didn't need any Greek to get around, though it was nice to have a few phrases. The US Embassy offers free language classes which were great.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, most of the country (including housing) does not seem to be accessibility friendly.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, we commuted to the Embassy on buses and metro. The only challenge was the number of taxis/ubers in the suburbs meant you could be waiting a while.
2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?
Any vehicle can work, we have a small SUV which was perfectly fine. I wish we had kept our Prius for getting around town. We never felt we needed anything bigger or 4WD for our needs.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, it was up and running in our house when we moved in. We just had to takeover the contract. We left it running when we moved out.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Easy to find, I had a dual-SIM in my Google Fi phone which worked really well. Easy to top up as needed.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Embassy and working from home (international) seemed to be most common, it would be hard to work without Greek. Local salaries are lower if you work on the local market.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Anything you could want, a lot with refugees and street animals.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual is the most common, people dress nicely to go out, but not formal or fancy.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Pickpocketing and such in the tourist areas, there were rumors of home invasions, but we didn't know anyone personally. There are always protests that were closing roads, so just check before you head downtown.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No, nothing in particular. Medical and dental care was readily available and great quality!
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
It was a little worse in the winter with the fireplaces, but being near the sea we didn't notice too many issues.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
In rural Greece, it will be hard to be a vegan and even vegetarian. A lot of the tavernas serve meat and fish and cheese on the Greek salads.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Amazing! Yes, it can get hot, but too bad. Nice breezes, lots of swimming. We even got a bit of snow each winter!
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are quite a few available, US, British, French, etc. We have no direct experience.
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, though most begin late in the evenings. It seems that most activities were tied into the schools and other programs waited until people were home to open (after 5pm). You could have music lessons and others come to your residence.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Very large, felt generally good because you could always get out and do what you want. Not a particularly cohesive Embassy community, but that makes sense for the type of post and geographical location, you didn't need the Embassy for making friends.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Anything you could want, clubs, travel, wine tasting!
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, for all I think.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
We loved Pelion and going to various beaches, I didn't like the high ferry costs, so we explored mainland Greece.
5. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Canyoning/Abseiling, there are nooks and crannies where you can don a wetsuit and climb/rappel though canyons.
6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, lots of things to buy!
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Overall, cost of living felt cheaper than in the US. Sunny all the time with a lot to do.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Get out of town as soon as you can! Find a little town or island you love and visit it over and over again!
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. But don't forget your:
SUP, sunscreen and swimsuit!
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
I loved The Island by Victoria Hislop.