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Fit to be an Expat?

Living on the Greek Islands: would you enjoy it? Whilst some of our readers have a Greek island property as a holiday home, others have bought property for later retirement and many are moving to the country permanently because of the very good value for money property and daily living. Deciding whether to become an expat is one of the most difficult of questions. What about the language? Which island? How much money do you need? All are important. In this article we investigate some of the questions which need to be considered honestly before making the move.


Starting out

Quest Greek Islands poses some initial questions to start yourself off:
Money. How much money do you have? Can you only just make ends meet or are you sitting on a wedge. Give yourself points from 1 to 5. One being that you make do: through to five if you have a house to sell with lots of equity

The language. How good, or not, are your Greek language skills? From 1 to 5, how would you rate your understanding of the language. One being not being able to speak a word and don't want to, thank you: through to five being completely fluent

The Greeks. Do you like them? Again from one being never met a Greeek and five being that you have lots of Greek friends

The Area. Do you know which island you want to live on, how well do you know the country? One is you have never been and five is having spent time during a few years holidaying and travelling around the isles.

It is fairly obvious from the questions, that the more points you have, the more likely you are to become an expat who would enjoy the country. However, even those who have 20 points should not necessarily call in the international removers yet.


We have put this first as money is at the root of everything we do in our daily lives and is often a thorny issue. Ignore money at your peril. This is one of the major reasons for exapts returning home within the first two years - probably even thereafter. The next few paragraphs are not for the filthy rich but are some thoughts for us more ordinary mortals on how much you need to live in the Greek Islands.

For those who feel they can 'just get by' or are willing to work, beg or borrow, maybe the move to your favourite should be considered more carefully before being put in place. Perhaps you can make it work, perhaps not. Undoubtedly you can find cash jobs and earn something but will you really be able to support yourself and your family in this way? You also run the risk of potentially being thrown out of the country or facing huge fines and will certainly not be in the Greek health care system. Although it has been done by expats, this is a very risky path to tread.

Considering how much money you'll need: take a look at your current monthly bills in your home country and add them all up. If you are, say, in the UK, then subtract current loans and mortgages if you will not have these after moving; then, as a rule of thumb, take two thirds of the rest. Some items in Bulgaria are more expensive, some less.

You will also need to think about whether you wish to take out a private health care policy in order that you are repatriated should something bad happen and of course, this needs to be included as an additional monthly cost.

As can be seen, you will now know how much cash you will need to support your family, or if you have the funds to buy an up and running business to provide you with an income, or the skills and money to start up on your own.

Many expats take the opportunity of moving to the islands to establish their own business and there are plenty of options. If you decide to work for yourself you need to be sure that your business plan is correct and that you build in 'buffers' on the financial side to give you every chance of success and not just end up with money nightmares, forcing you to turn tail back home.

That 100,000 euros you banked from the sale of your house will end up very little after a couple of years, particularly if you have undertaken renovation work on your property, put in the pool you've always wanted and held party bashes every weekend. Solve the issue of money before making the move.


Nearly every expat on any of the islands will tell you to learn the language as this will make a huge difference to your new life. Nonetheless, it is not critical to learn the language before you move - how many people do? We moved with no language skills in hand and have suffered no long-lasting harm.

Don't be upset if you scored only one point here. It is surprising firstly how people under or over-rate their language skills. Many who admit to having learned only the alphabet and can 'speak a bit', actually are really quite good. We don't know of anyone who has moved to Greece with a really good level of speaking Greek (spouses of expat Greeks excluded, although not always!). Your opinion of how much Greek you have mastered could well be wrong.

The test will come when you get out and about talking with the locals themselves. Much of it comes down to pure confidence, rather than precise grammatical knowledge. In reality, you have to leave all embarrassment aside and just get on and speak, mistakes and all. Indeed, it is the mistakes which will help you learn as you'll certainly remember those and hopefully never make them again!

After you get to your new home, make sure you regularly practice your language skills. Talk to the neighbours, chat in the local shops, watch Greek television. It is possible to live on any of the islands without speaking a word of Greek and indeed there are numerous foreigners who have done this. However, it is not the best long-term position as you will not only have to rely frustratingly on translators every step of the bureaucratic way but will miss out on much the country and its people have to offer. Communicating with people is a key to expat happiness.

Make the effort and bit by bit you will get there. Maybe you'll never be fluent but at least you will develop one of the essential skills to survival as an expat.