British Expat In Greece - Expat Interview With Bex

Published: 1 Nov at 11 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Greece
Bex, the wrong side of 35 and an unconventional woman, went about things the wrong way around in life. She worked, travelled to various countries and volunteered in Sri Lanka before undertaking her first University degree in her early 30’s. She then tried a spell of teaching in Greece, in a small inland village on the mainland. She loved it. >From here she spent some time teaching in Cairo, Egypt yet Greece had successfully cast its spell over her, so she returned to this unconventional country. Despite Greece’s frustrations and the issues Bex faces from time to time, she finds the humanity of the people in the face of adversity humbling, her support network of both expat and Greek friends growing and, of course, the ever present sunshine and blue skies great for the psychology. Bex runs her expat blog called Leaving Cairo (see listing here)

Leaving Cairo

Here's the interview with Bex...

Where are you originally from?
I was born in the UK.

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Greece - Athens, which is the capital.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I moved to Greece in September 2008 after spending time in other countries. I’m always open to adventure and other possibilities, but I like my life here and the friends I’ve made, so have no immediate plans to move.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I was a late starter at University, a Mature Student after spending years working and travelling. I had a stint of volunteer work in Sri Lanka as a teacher and knew this is what I wanted to do. Not enjoying the conventional 9-5 Monday to Friday lifestyle, I retrained as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher and chose Greece as I have a small family history with the country, we were always spending family holidays here.

Did you bring family with you?
My father is in the UK and even though he’s in his late 70’s, has managed to come to visit me at least once a year since 2009. He considers Greece his second home, if not literally, then in his heart.

Leaving CairoHow did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It is difficult getting used to different ways of doing things. And Greece (Southern Europe in general) is particularly frustrating due to all the bureaucracy that is in place. A simple task such as having a telephone line and internet installed can take up to 3 months here. But the good weighs up the bad—I honestly had never tasted tomatoes until I moved here. Of course I had eaten tomatoes before, but never truly tasted them­­. It’s the small things that make a difference: people wishing you a “Kali mera” in the mornings on the streets of Athens.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
My first year here, I lived & taught in a small inland village where there very few expats. This forced me to integrate with the local community. From 2009 I have lived in Athens and now have a mixture of both Greek and a few expat friends.
Once Greeks see you are making an effort to understand their culture and language, they are willing to start accepting you into their lives (although unfortunately my Greek is still very bad!).

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
I love the fact that in Greece, many people do not start contemplating going out until about 10:30/11:00pm. And coffee on the run? Ha! Here if you go for a coffee, be prepared to sit for a good couple of hours, nursing just one if you wish—no hurry to rush on or order more from the waiters.
I love the outdoor cinemas in Greece, which open from May to the end of September. There is often one in each Athenian neighbourhood & the islands and some show old black and white films as well as the latest blockbusters.
And best of all, Greeks do not make a plan to go out and get drunk. Very rarely do you see drunk youths on the streets. It is not frowned upon or ‘uncool’ to drink coffee with your friends at 11pm.
Athens tends to empty out in August, when temperatures can reach up to 42 degrees C. People go to their summer/family homes in the villages or islands. The social life picks up again in the autumn when events such as book readings take place, all manner of workshops, plays, etc. There are good internet pages for expats in Athens and “Athens News” is the local paper in English that lists all that is going on.

Leaving CairoWhat do you enjoy most about living here?
The spontaneity of life, the fact that despite all that is being said internationally about Greece and the adversity they face, the country and her people have an inbuilt strength and family values.
I feel safer on an every day level living in Athens than I did in my provincial home town back in the UK.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Cost of living is generally lower than in the UK, but recently basic food items such as eggs, bread and milk have risen due to the economic crisis.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The bureaucracy, as mentioned before. The fact that it is difficult to know on a daily basis what basic laws are as they seem to constantly change, making simple every day things in other countries very difficult.
Yet ironically this all serves to bind people together, and this is one of the many things I love about Greece.

Leaving CairoIf you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
There is no point in complaining or getting frustrated at the slow pace in which everything works here. If someone tells you something will be ready within a week, expect that to mean at least 2-3 weeks, if not longer.
And do not get hung up on time keeping. 8pm, for example, usually means from about 9pm onwards. Learn to let go a LOT.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
See above comments re: bureaucracy. Also, initially it was hard for me to be accepted as not just another Brit who wants to come to Greece, only mix with expats and drink myself stupid in the sun. Once that stereotype was removed, I felt warmly accepted into the Greek community.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
1) Try to learn a little of the language before you come.
2) Try to not just stick with your own kind. Mix and learn about the culture.
3) Don’t feel uncomfortable when a man looks you up and down. This is very normal and non-threatening in Greece. The old men in particular are just appreciating your beauty.
4) Don’t just holiday on the islands. There are some beautiful places in the Peloponnese, for example and inland to explore.
5) Greek taxi drivers are not being rude when they ask you what political party you vote for, or how much money you earn. People are naturally curious in Greece and genuinely interested.

Leaving CairoTell us a bit about your own expat blog.
The name of my blog is slightly misleading as it is entitled “Leaving Cairo.” I had worked in Cairo as an English teacher in 2010, fully intending to stay but something about Greece pulled me back. So I came back to Greece, initially with no job but fell on my feet and found some teaching work that I could fit around my writing.
The blog started in 2010 when I left Cairo and I continued it, writing daily observations and I found I wrote more and more about what was REALLY going on in Athens, which was not necessarily what the Press report. I try to keep it upbeat and humorous and have been told by friends they prefer to read it than the news.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Through my blog, Facebook page or Twitter (see below)

Bex's expat blog, Leaving Cairo is very worthy of a visit. She can be found on Twitter @AdventureGreece and her Facebook page. Bex's blog has an listing here which would appreciate a nice review if you can spare a minute! If you liked this interview with Bex, please also drop her a quick note below.
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Comments » There are 3 comments

Dario wrote 11 years ago:

Excellent interview. This jibes strongly with my own expat experience of Greece (where I lived for a year). Bex's 'Top 5 Tips' especially resonate, and it's SO refreshing to see such common sense. Her advice to learn to let go a lot is pure gold. Thanks for featuring this! Dario

Theodora wrote 11 years ago:

Hello.I am Theodora from Nea Smyrni, Athens. Bex's view about Greek people is really close to the reality. One or two things I would like to add: 1)Greeks do speak English, so do not feel bad if you can not communicate in Greek. It is after all a really difficult language to learn. 2) Do not feel scared of the bureaucracy. Even though it appears as α madhouse every time you enter a public service building it is funny as well. 3) If you visit Athens you shouldn't miss monuments such as the Akropolis, but you should also try the hip areas, the galleries, the bars and clubs by the sea and of course a night at the "bouzoukia".

Nene Davies wrote 11 years ago:

Great post Bex! Really enjoyable and interesting read.

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