Welcome to My Expat Interview Series. This is an insider’s sneak peek at the truths and realities of expat life. Not just from my point of view but from expats around the world. They are sharing their stories with the dreamers, the movers, the curious. You! This time you’ll meet Tiffany who is living in Athens, Greece.
The idea behind this series is to share other expat stories because:
1. You are probably bored to tears with me.
2. There is a world of opportunities out there. Maybe reading these interviews will inspire you to follow a dream that is more attainable than you ever thought.
3. I’m selfish. And totally nosy. I want to learn about how other expats live around the world. As much as I love Malaysia, I’m still a Sagittarius (read feisty, independent, traveler) who’s always ready for the next adventure.
So, without further ado… Let’s Dive into my Expat Interviews Series!
Meet Tiffany, a Dallas native who has expat-ed her way around the world. She’s lived in exotic places like Turks and Caicos and Qatar, but she fell in love with Greece and was determined to make it her home one day. She made the move in August of 2019, just before the world was turned upside down.
Is her new Greek home everything she hoped it would be? Keep reading.
Tell me about yourself.
I am from Dallas, Texas but moved to Greece in August of 2019. I started off in Naxos but moved to Athens in January.
Why did you decide to move to Greece?
I fell in love with Greece on my first trip here. The trip was a two-week sailing trip around the Greek islands.
What struggles did you have when you decided to leave your old life behind?
This isn’t my first time living as an expat so I was a bit more prepared. I always miss my family and sometimes wonder if I have made the right choice to live so far away from them. However, I feel like I have to live my own life and they encourage that.
What is the cost of living like?
Rent in Greece is much cheaper than in the United States. You can get a one-bedroom, unfurnished, on average around 350 euros or less. It of course depends on the neighborhood.
Keep in mind that unfurnished usually means there are no appliances in the apartment.
Food is more expensive than in the US and there are no coupons. I spend around $200 a month on groceries. There are also no big discount stores like Wal-mart or Costco.
What is your favorite part of expatriate life?
Exploring different cultures and getting to know people from other places. I love learning about the history of a place and how it came to be in its current state.
Do you need a visa to live in Greece? Was it easy to get?
Yes, you need a visa to live in Greece as an American. I am on the financially independent visa, which has the requirement of having 2000 euros per month in income. It is really meant for people who are retired or have passive income.
It takes a lot of time to gather the required documents and get an appointment.
Once you are here you still have to apply for a resident permit. Applying for the resident permit is harder and takes more time. I just got mine last week.
Was it easy to make friends? What is the social scene like?
Greece is now in its second lockdown and I moved to Athens right before the first lockdown, so that has made making friends hard.
There isn’t a large expat community and meeting Greeks is hard. However, I am pretty independent, so it hasn’t been a huge deal.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Greece?
The laid back lifestyle. Although that can be frustrating when it comes to getting things done. ie, the resident permit!
What are the negatives about living in Greece?
Greece moves at its own pace and learning to operate at that pace as an American is difficult even though I do like it.
Learning Greek is very hard as well.
If you could give one piece of advice to people moving to Greece what would it be?
Come to Greece in the winter before you decide to move to a Greek island or even Athens. It does get cold here in the winter and central heating is not found here. In my building, it is controlled by the management and as of late November it hasn’t been turned on yet.
What does home mean to you?
Home is Dallas and where my parents are.
What do you miss most about your home country?
What’s the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make being an expat in Greece?
My original intention was to live on an island but due to Airbnb, I could never find an apartment for the whole year and ended up moving to Athens, which wasn’t planned. But that is it really.
I had been coming here for a while and had spent months in Greece before. I know that isn’t an option for many people moving countries, but I highly recommend it.
You have to be open-minded about your expectations not being met, but you might be rewarded in other ways.
How is the quality of life there?
The quality of life is great. It is very safe and the weather is good most of the year.
As to the cost of living, I think it is a matter of perspective and what you are used to and are willing to accept.
Healthcare is affordable but navigating it when you don’t speak Greek can be hard.
Did you find any great resources (books, websites etc?) when planning your move?
No, unfortunately, there isn’t a lot out there that is up to date. I called the consulate a lot and visited a lot. But I have done all of this through my own trial and error.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first moved?
That I could have found a cheaper apartment.
That everything was going to take forever, like the visa.
Would you have done anything differently?
I would not have moved to Greece in August! August is when most of Europe takes their vacation and now all my renewals happen then when half the offices are on holiday.
Thank you, Tiffany, for sharing your story with us. I too fell in love with Greece and could see it as a part-time home for us one day, but now I’m more prepared for the realities and struggles.
For more info about Tiffany and her travels check out her blog. A Girl and Her Passport.