Moving to Greece sounds romantic and idyllic. Chances are, the sheer mention of it conjures up images of sipping coffee in quaint Athenian alleyways, relaxing upon pristine sandy white beaches on paradisaical islands, and spending long summer nights drinking ouzo with friendly locals. While living in Greece does embody all of that, there are also a lot of headaches, cultural clashes, and practical considerations to keep in mind also.
Things to Consider Before the Big Fat Greek Move
So that you can spend your time and energy on figuring out more important things such as picking yourself up a local hottie and finding the best local coffee shops, this expat guide to Greece aims to give you a little food for thought on moving to Greece.
I came to Greece in 2017 with the intention of staying for just a few months, but loved it so much that I’ve never left! I live in Pagrati, central Athens. If you have any queries or need any assistance, you are free to drop me a comment or ping me an email.
Finding Work in Greece
The absence of large international companies means that it is difficult for educated expats to find work in Greece. Unless you are fluent in modern Greek, it will be difficult to secure a job here.
That said, there are occasional opportunities for English speakers to work in the offices of large multinational companies, or to work in the travel industry as Tour Guides, Receptionists at hotels, etc. In the more affluent areas of Athens and other large cities, there is a demand for English Teachers. If you are hoping to move to a Greek island, keep in mind that a lot of the work in the hospitality sector is very much seasonal.
Salaries in Greece
The average salary in Greece is around 600 euros per month. English Teachers and professionals can expect to earn around 1000 euros per month, which is considered a respectable middle-class salary. Though the pay is much lower here as compared to other European countries, so too is the cost of living.
Be Realistic About What is Possible
I don’t want to be a killjoy here and I am definitely not telling you that you should not move to Greece. I would just like to advise you to be realistic when it comes to moving here and finding work. I think a lot of people fall in love with the idea of moving here and do not fully educate themselves on the situation in Greece. The economy here has still not recovered fully. There are educated Greek people in Athens and beyond who have degrees, are fluent in numerous languages yet struggle to find work. As a foreigner and especially a foreigner who cannot speak Greek, the quest to find a job here becomes that extra bit more difficult.
Consider Working Online if You Can
The struggle to find work in Greece can be omitted if you are able to work remotely or online. You may be surprised by how many companies and employers are open to the possibility of an employee working remotely. Digital Nomad/Remote Working job boards and Facebook groups are filled with all types of job postings. Everything from Administrative assistant roles to global Project Manager positions can be found. Practically any office job that you would do at a computer can be done online.
Build Contacts Before You Leave
Before you take the leap and dive into the unknown, try to be as prepared as physically possible. If you have not secured work and hope to do so on arrival, reach out to various people in advance. For example, if you hope to teach English in Greece, send an introductory email to the British embassy, and several language academies to see if they plan on hiring in the foreseeable future. Ensure that they have your resume on file. Join groups on Facebook such as “Expats in Athens” to see if anyone is looking for an Au Pair or an English speaking nanny.
If you are looking for a more corporate style role, the same logic applies. If you are planning on moving to Greece with the intention of freelancing or becoming a Digital Nomad, try and build up contacts, clients, and experience as a side-hustle before leaving your full-time job. This minimises stress and pressure.
Visa Eligibility and Residency Permits
At the moment, it is relatively easy for European Citizens to move to Greece. A visa or a promise of work is not required. Sadly with Brexit looming, I am not sure how much longer that will remain the case for us Brits but I will update this post accordingly as the situation changes.
Get a Beige Residency Permit ((“Αδεια παραμονής”)
If you are a European citizen and you want to live in Greece, the process is pretty straight forward. Within three months of arrival in Greece, you need to apply for a beige residency permit that states that you live here. This is a pain-free process that simply requires that you fill in a form and take the supporting documents along to your local police station.
The documents that you need for your beige residency permit when moving to Greece are:
- 2 x Passport sized photos
- A photocopy of passport
- Proof of medical insurance
- Proof of a clear health check (no contagious diseases, etc)
- Proof of address in Greece
- Proof of employment (a signed contract is sufficient) OR proof of sufficient funds if unemployed/self-employed (4000 euros).
If you are moving to Greece to live with a Greek partner and your name is not on any of the bills, you can have your partner attend your residency permit appointment with you to state that you are living with them. This is known as the “hospitality” route. You don’t have to be living together to follow this route.
Once you apply for the beige residency permit, you will be provided with a little blue note that states that your application is being processed. It can take anything from a month to several months for you to receive the permit back again. In that time, you can remain in Greece and exit and re-enter the country as you like – just carry the blue slip with you to show that you are residing in the country.
The Blue Residency Permit
After five years of living in Greece with a beige residency permit, you are eligible to apply for permanent residency and obtain a blue permit. Simply organise another appointment with the local authorities and ask to exchange your permit.
Other Nationalities – Getting a Visa to Live in Greece
It is relatively difficult to move to Greece if you are not an EU citizen and you are coming from what is referred to as a “third national” country (basically anywhere outside the EU). I cannot advise here fully but at the most basic level, moving to Greece as a third national country resident requires that you are either married to a Greek (spousal visa route), sponsored by a Greek company, or claiming citizenship through Greek parents.
Cost of Living in Greece
The cost of living in Greece is very low. In fact, it is estimated that living in Greece costs approximately 30% less than living in most European countries. Of course, whereabouts in the country you choose to live will play a factor here. Living in Athens is slightly more expensive as compared to rural areas, however, it is still possible to find accommodation in the Greek capital for less than 200 euros per month.
Apartment/Rental Costs in Greece
In Athens, expats can find studio apartments for rent for around 200 euros per month and moderately sized one bedroom apartments in and around the centre for between 350 and 500 euros. To find apartment rentals, you can browse the properties on xe.gr or Spitogatos.
It is important to note that going through a letting agent via the above sites when moving to Greece means having to pay additional fees and a deposit. It’s possible to rent property directly with landlords, though you should triple check the price and obtain several quotes. It’s not uncommon for foreign expats to be quoted falsely higher prices.
Food/Toiletries Costs in Greece
On the whole, food costs are cheaper in Greece. With a plethora of high quality, locally sourced fruit, vegetables and meats available, it’s easy to eat healthy in Greece without having a sky-high food budget. It’s advisable to shop at your local laiki agora for fresh produce rather than the supermarket since products are often fresher and cheaper.
Sometimes I find that branded products like cereal, condiments and snacks/chocolates are quite a bit more expensive in Greece due to the import taxes. If you live in Rhodes though, there are no import taxes and so that’s a nice little extra perk to living on a beautiful Greek island.
Healthcare in Greece
Greek healthcare is notorious for being among the worst in Europe. There is no coverage or insurance for foreign expats and the conditions at public hospitals and facilities are often extremely poor and unhygienic. It’s imperative that you find a comprehensive health insurance plan for moving to Greece.
There are a plethora of options available as far as healthcare insurance providers go. The best one for you will vary depending on aspects such as your nationality and general health. I am a British expat in Greece and I pay £50 per month for my policy.
Taxes? Those are Optional, Right?
Only something like one in five Greek people pay their taxes. If you are working for a Greek employer, your taxes will be subtracted from your salary automatically each month. If you are self-employed like me, the process is a little different and you have to pay money upfront in line with what you expect to make.
This is a useful resource for paying and managing taxes in Greece. Read up as much as you can in advance.
Taxes in Greece are pretty high. They range from 22-45% and you don’t have to be earning a lot to veer into the upper end of the bracket. It’s understandable why so many Greek people feel that they cannot afford their taxes.
Taxes as a Self-Employed Person in Greece
I would advise you to tread very carefully if planning on moving to Greece as a self-employed person or a Freelancer. Greek taxation laws for self-employed people state that taxes must be paid in advance of earnings being made. Fees for documenting taxes incorrectly are vicious. The advance payment does not sit well with me as if you over-estimate your earnings or are unable to work for any reason, you cannot get that money back. Think carefully.
I strongly advise consulting an Accountant on arrival in Greece. There is a gray area of uncertainty around where you are supposed to be paying your taxes. The overall consensus is that you should pay tax in the country that you are based most of the time.
If you spend more than 180 days in Greece, technically Greece is your permanent home and legally you should pay taxes here. That said, the Greek tax system is vicious and many self-employed people pay taxes to their home country. Sometimes, even Accountants avoid you to try and avoid the Greek tax system. Whether that is legal or not is another thing entirely!
VAT and Taxes on Purchases in Greece
You will often find that when you go shopping in independent stores, go to restaurants, or even visit the Doctors and Dentists, you will be offered a lower price if you pay in cash so that the person doesn’t have to pay tax. That was quite startling to me at first. Imagine my shock when I had a wisdom tooth extracted and my Dentist was haggling with me over the cost of this surgical procedure as if we were negotiating over a scarf in an Arabian bazaar.
Making Friends in Greece
It’s important to build a social circle when moving abroad to make your new place feel like a home away from home. Honestly, I have found it relatively difficult to make friends in Greece as it seems a very transient place – people come for 6 months, a year, two years and then leave.
If you put yourself out there though, befriending locals and fellow expats can help enrich your Greece experience. Some resources to consider are:
- Couchsurfing – Through the events, forums, and hangouts, it’s possible to meet locals, fellow expats, and travellers for a coffee or a walk. Most people on here are just passing through though.
- Meetup.com – Meetup hosts regular events for people of different interests. For example, foodies, wine lovers, writers, etc. If there is not something that tickles your fancy, you can also create your own group.
- InterNations – An expat group for professionals. InterNations organises frequent events in Athens and beyond, though I found most members to be older men.
- Facebook Groups – There are numerous facebook groups and forums dedicated to moving to Greece and meeting others in the same boat. Useful groups to consider are “Expats in Athens”, “Expats in Greece” and “Digital Nomads in Athens”.
Useful Things to Note About Moving to Greece
A Cash Based Society
Cash is still king in Greece. Larger shops and hotels usually do accept credit and debit cards, however, many smaller tavernas, coffee shops, and stores do not. It’s always prudent to carry a small amount of cash around with you.
The sewerage systems in Greece are largely underdeveloped. (Sorry I feel like this article took a crude turn!). As such, you cannot flush toilet paper down the toilets in Greece. Better you know now than after an incident, eh?
It’s All Greek to Me!
Most Greek people have a good understanding of English, especially in major cities and islands that attract tourists. That said, having a basic grasp of Greek goes a long way. To be honest, I find Greek really difficult. I am by no means fluent, however having a handful of phrases up your sleeve like “kalispera” (good evening!), “kalimera”, (good morning), etc is useful.
Explore Your New Homeland
Cultural clashes, administrative paperwork and headaches aside, moving to Greece is a wonderful, life-changing experience. The beauty of living in a foreign country is having the opportunity to do completely different things and explore your new homeland during your weekends and free time.
Greece is home to over 6000 islands, only 227 of which are actually inhabited. That means more island exploration, beautiful beaches, and scenic whitewashed tavernas than you could enjoy in a lifetime! Athens and the Greek mainland are also just as charming. For a little initial food for thought and Greek travel inspiration, take a look at this three day Athens itinerary, or this list of day trips from Athens.
Working hours in Greece are likely very different from what you are used to. The opening hours of shops and businesses do vary from place to place, however generally everywhere is open from 9 am until 9 pm. There is a break or “siesta” included in there though, which sees stores close from 2.30pm – 5.30pm. This doesn’t apply to large international chain stores in the cities.
In a similar vein to the Mediterranean siesta, Greece also enforces “quiet hours” to be followed in residential areas. This is between 3 pm and 5 pm in the day time, and from 10 pm to 7 am in the evenings.
Are you planning on moving to Greece? I live here in Pagrati, Athens and I’m happy to answer any queries you may have. Feel free to drop me an email or a comment below.