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Living and Life on Crete

One Briton's view of the pros and cons of living on the Greek Island of Crete. Having bought her own property on this popular island, Rachael Brand, aged 34, gives an insight into what it is all about. Obsessed with exploring the Greek Islands from a young age, the idea of buying a home and living on Crete had her in its grasp. From the moment she visited Crete for the first time as a child with her mum and dad, Rachael was in love with the place hook, line and sinker. She now has her own small house, high up on a hill overlooking the sea and shares with us her insider thoughts on her life as an expat.

Rachel was always a keen traveller, spending time in Budapest, Rome, Lisbon and other places along the way. She is a frelance web designer so has the ability to move from placce to place, as long as there is a good internet connection. As someone who is passionate about travelling and new experiences overseas, we talked to Rachel about her view on being a settled expat in Crete.

"I came to Crete and bought a house nearly 4 years ago now. It's not a very big house as I live alone and it did need some work on it but it was the terrace and the views that did for me. It cost me 75,000 euros and I've spent another 12,000 euros making it just how I want it and making it really modern inside. Luckily, I didn't need a mortgage as the flat I sold in the UK went for more. Every morning I get up and have my breakfast on the terrace overlooking the sea, what heaven.

I think one of the things I've learned that there is such a myth about living overseas. Many of my compatriots seem to think that all living in Crete is about is lazy days in the sun in one of the cafes, chatting to friends and just letting the time slip by. They have the idea that living here is going to be different from anywhere else they've lived before. It isn't like that: well, at least not for me. Fortunately I work from home so am spared the ritual of having to get up at the crack of dawn to go to work but I still have to cope with doing everything in a foreign language. And don't even mention the bureaucracy and amount of time things take. Life is just the same wherever you are".

For other would-be expats who are looking for property with the intention of moving or retiring to the islands, bureaucracy comes up as one of the top five frustrations. Others, to go along with this, are the language barrier and the cultural differences. If you combine these together, then there is more to concern yourself with than a cup of coffee or which cafe to sit in. However, on the other hand, nearly all expats say that they have a far better lifestyle on the isles, with little stress, no worry of violence, and actually savour their Greek lifestyle.

Rachel explains, "I don't spend that much here, compared with the UK. Being single, a lot of my money goes on clothes and socialising. There are plenty of good boutique shops and if I want to splash out a bit more or go off for the weekend, I take the ferry to the mainland. For day to day things, I just walk to the supermarkets. Still, with all the partying and such, I get by easily on 1,000 euros a month.

Rachel goes on to add, "A fascinating aspect of living abroad is the different people you come into contact with. I've meet tons of people who back in the UK I would never have met. It broadens your horizons, mixing in social circles you wouldn't before. Also, the Brits I have met and have become friends with - well, we have a deeper bond. It's like we have some kind of shared thing which means we help each other more. I suppose it's because we all experience the same frustrations as well as the highs".

A number of expats really start to miss their family and friends and can become lonely. Rachel believes that the best way to solve this is to get out there and mix. It doesn't have to be just with other Brits either. There are plenty of locals and other nationalities amongst whom you can find friends. Aquaintances are fleeting but good friends stick around and are a great support.

Everyone you will meet will have a story to tell, particularly expats. Whether these stories are true or not, they will at least be interesting and it's great to hear of others' experiences.

"Perhaps one of the most important things to me is the feeling I have here of being safe. There is hardly any crime, certainly almost none at all which is violent. After living in European cities and the UK for so long, this is an aspect of Greek life which I really appreciate. I learned on my travels that one of the best ways to avoid somebody stealing your handbag was to blend in with the locals and don't draw attention to yourself. As a single woman, living on my own, I try to apply common sense but really here, it is no problem.

I think the biggest trap which some expats fall into is alcoholism. It's so relaxed in Crete, just "having another one" is really tempting. I don't like seeing people, particularly my compatriots, getting drunk. It's embarrassing, particularly those on holiday. It seems that with the heat and the high of being on holiday, they can't contain their consumption. Most know their limits but unfortunately there are some who don't. Very often, the expats who end up drinking most of the day are usually the ones who return home".

"Of course, this kind of 'out of it' state, means those are the people more likely to be ripped off, with taxis charging them over the odds to get back to their villa and waiters adding up the bill wrongly or just scribbling the total on a bit of paper without an itemised bill".