|Beautiful beaches, the warm climate, friendly people, and a simpler way of life are some of the attractions that living in Greece has for American expat Michael. Here he talks about how he and his wife came to move to the Greek island of Paros and their activities in their own slice of paradise.
-Where were you born?
Portland, Oregon, USA
-In which country and city are you living now?
-Are you living alone or with your family?
With my wife, Karin
-How long have you been living in Greece?
About 6 years; it was a gradual process. Our first extended stay was 8 years ago.
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Greece?
Ours is a long story which I wrote in an article for our newsletter—see links below. The short version is that as adults we have always had an international interest which led to a house exchange in England which led, as soon as our children were grown, to selling our home and business and moving to Ireland. There we bought the lifestyle of operating a small shop and living above in a great little village. After four years economics forced us to sell out and escape for a summer to Greece. We went back and forth between Ireland and Greece before finding a hotel to operate on Paros.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
Originally in Ireland our business permit was denied. Perseverance and the help of associates who were well placed politically won in the end. In Greece our Irish passport has opened all doors.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
Originally we were able to transfer our Oregon coverage to Ireland. Right now we are bogged down in the differences between the Irish system and the Greece one. Touch wood, it helps to stay healthy.
-How do you make your living in Greece? Do you have any type of income generated?
Again I have written several articles about some of the alternatives available. In general anyone can earn enough to cover food and shelter. After that it depends upon your personal drive, your skills and your capital. We leased small hotels from owners who did not want to operate them; worked hard and made no profit. Now I play at internet marketing and taking care of a friend’s villa. I advise everyone to take an extended trip, not a holiday, to their chosen spot and just start talking to the locals and expats there.
-Do you speak Greek and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
Greek is a particularly hard language to learn; yet many do it. I have not. I worked on it during the winter and then got busy in the summer and didn’t use it. So I have just enough to be polite. It depends upon your business how important it is. If you aren’t prepared to live like the locals, don’t make the move. Sure it is possible to import food, gadgets, and styles but you will find everyday life very frustrating because it does not conform to your standards. Remember you are not moving to a resort location to relax and have fun, you are looking for an enjoyable location to live life.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
For one reason or another we travel back to our home town about once a year, sometimes two years. Today with internet and VOIP it is easy and cheap to communicate. Every year some friend or family finds their way to our island paradise. Paros is the island with something for everyone. There are numerous year around cultural activities and way too many summer water sports. We manage to keep busy because we enjoy reading, videos, and the internet. Of course a busy day includes quiet time on the beach.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
No, we live year by year more or less at a subsistence level so we take life as it comes.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
Because of our financial situation as well as our desire for flexibility we rent. We are very lucky to have a priceless location at the beach and at the edge of a village. The owner inherited the property and would be foolish to ever sell. I won’t tell our rent but you can have a modern, 2-bedroom villa with view for about 4,000 Euro per year. Prices are based upon July and August; the rest of the year is free.
-What is the cost of living in Greece?
Prices of food, clothing and transportation are equivalent to other European and USA locations. The difference is one can live so much simpler here. No hustle, no bustle means no prestige cars or clothes. Warm climate means little dependence on oil prices; sea breeze means no expensive air conditioning. On and on you do with less.
-What do you think about the Greeks?
The Greeks are just different enough from other Europeans due to the 400 or so years of Turkish occupation that there are cultural abrasions. Our neighbors and towns people are friendly and welcoming but like any rural people they are family oriented and socialize little with others. My strongest advice: locate close to an international community.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Greece?
Greek history and culture is very rich and the weather is great. The bureaucracy is very slowly evolving out of the Byzantine era.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Greece?
To live in any foreign country attitude is all important; you either have the right stuff or you don't. Also don’t sweat the little things.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Greece?
I maintain a full service Paros web site at http://www.ParosParadise.com. It includes content and links about expat life, work from home at the beach and international volunteer opportunities.
I periodically blog about Greek island expat life at http://parosparadise.blogspot.com Also listed are other Greece blogs.
We host several workshops on varying interests including, art, cooking and filmmaking. Browse the classes at http://www.ParosParadise.com/workshops.htm
The article about how we came to be living abroad is found at http://www.parosparadise.com/NewsMay02.htm. It is entitled “Inside Out or Outside In.”
Finally you will find several fun sites about the Greek islands on Squidoo. Start with Vote for Your Favorite Greek Island.