Lifestyle & Culture

Lynne Evans: The trials, tribulations and absolute pleasures of living in Greece

Ah, the joys, trials and tribulations of living in Greece ….

Greece is a wonderful country but living here can be an exasperating experience. That holds true for expats and Greeks alike.

Spring has definitely sprung in Greece

The αλκυονίδες or halcyon days duly arrived here at the end of January and beginning of February. It did get cold then for a while, but now the spring flowers are blooming, and the almond trees have blossomed.

It’s been wonderful to bask in the sun outside the usual taverna, in the afternoons, I have to sit in the shade so that I don’t resemble a beetroot!

I’ve been watching the BBC weather updates and become quite disorientated as the snowy scenes in the United Kingdom make me feel cold. I then look out of the window and see the sun, reminding me that I’m here in Greece!

I can’t wait to go back to the Tayegetus Mountains in the Peloponnese again, but will have to wait until after the Greek Orthodox Easter, which this year is a week later than British Easter.

Athens metro’s new ticketing system

The Athens metro service has introduced an e-ticket system, which, instead of making getting a ticket easier and quicker has caused delays. Frustrated would-be commuters gather hopefully around the new ticket machines, hoping against hope that they can procure a ticket from them.

However, it is proving to be more difficult than before, and this despite the fact that the machine talks to you in Greek or English. My daughter was getting an e-ticket at Syntagma metro station and attracted a crowd, possibly because she was successful.

Elderly folk clamoured to know the secret.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t explain in Greek how it’s done and couldn’t spend all day helping people to get their tickets. She just didn’t understand what the problem was, as the ticketing system works in exactly the same way as it did in the old machines.

However, clearly there is a problem, or perhaps several.

Banks and the crisis

The fact that there are still capital controls, although not as stringent as a couple of years ago, is also a problem, although of course you can pay by credit or debit card.

Credit cards caused quite a few problems for Greeks, as banks would routinely give them to anyone who asked for one, and to people who didn’t ask. Bank customers were sent cards through the post. No one ever thought that they might lose their job, or not be able to pay back the banks.

Eternal optimists the Greeks!

A Greek friend of mine took out a loan in Swiss francs well before the crisis began, and he swears that it was never explained to him that this was not in his best interests. Banks are not responsible lenders here. He’s still paying back the loan and has managed to amass a fair bit of debt and just hopes that his flat is not repossessed by the bank.

The way things are going, it probably will be, even though it is his only residence.

In 2012, people were despairing of the financial situation and were horrified when an elderly man from the middle classes committed suicide in Syntagma Square, outside the parliament building in central Athens.

Greece is not to everyone’s taste

Although I can’t imagine living anywhere else now, I understand that quite a lot of people couldn’t live here permanently.

The former Top Gear presenter, Jeremy Clarkson has in the past made some derogatory remarks, all of which are unfortunately true, except the ones about the food and wine. Clarkson probably ate at touristy tavernas.

Greek wine has improved dramatically over the years, with some of the best wines coming from the volcanic island of Santorini. Doubtless the terroir helps. In the past Greek wine was something of a joke, with the choice of Demestika. which expats referred to as “domestos,” for obvious reasons, or retsina, which, I am told is an acquired taste.

I write this because I took to it at the first sip. I still drink it occasionally, but not as often as I did all those years ago.

The food is not as bad as Clarkson says, although this depends on where you eat. I’ve found that the tavernas in small neighbourhoods are usually very good. I’ve found one with excellent homecooked food in Brahami, Agios Demetrios, an Athens suburb. It is run by an elderly woman in her 80s who is very friendly and welcoming.

My friend says that her food is like that of his mother, so he is always happy to go there. Her son and daughter help a little, but she does all the cooking, except for making the cheesecake which her daughter makes for me.

The family are delighted that they have a foreign customer and give me little treats.

Such is the expat life in Greece ….

About the author:

Lynne Evans is originally from Wales but is an inveterate traveller. She is passionate about writing and feels compelled to write something every day.

Lynne has visited many countries in Europe and South Asia. Working as a freelance writer gives her opportunities to travel.

She’s currently living in her favourite country, Greece, in Athens. In the past she was always leaving Greece and then returning. This time she wants to stay, despite the economic situation.

More from Lynne:

Dispatches Detours: Lynne Evans is your guide for where to go, eat and stay in Peloponnese

Lynne Evans: The unvarnished truth about living in Greece

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