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Real Life on a Greek Island

Sitting at home and watching the rain drizzle down the window pane day in often brings thoughts of how green the grass is elsewhere, but is this notion really true? Can a permanent move to a Greek Island really be the solution to your problems? Or are you really dreaming about the endless happy memories you have when holidaying there?

Research Before You Go

Try and learn as much as you can about the culture you are moving into before you make your final move. Quest Greek Islands provides firsthand accounts of life on the islands as well as an insight into the culture and traditions of the Greek people. Take a longer holiday on the island of your choice in self –catering accommodation or if you can arrange it with your employer, ask for a six to twelve month sabbatical from work to test drive life here before making the final move. If you opt for the extended holiday book accommodation away from the resorts to experience what real Greek living is all about.

The Holiday Period

Even if you make the move, you may still feel like you are on a permanent holiday and this feeling may last for up to two years depending on your finances, but this permanent holiday feeling does dissolve leaving you to cope with life on an island in a country where you are not familiar with the native language and culture. Add to this the fact that you will be spending time away from family and friends who you have known for years. Simple tasks that you took for granted back home may take a lot longer and be more frustrating given the difference in work ethics. You may even find that spending so much time with your partner creates a strain on your relationship that never existed back home when one or both of you were gainfully employed.

The Culture Shock

Possibly all of your life you have been used to the traits and characteristics of your native culture. You may have criticised and complained about it for years, but when you start living by the norms and rules of the Greek island culture, you are sure to feel a little alienated. For a start off, things you may consider offensive like spitting are considered acceptable here, but the way you dress may not be. The difference in lifestyle, the poverty and simplistic life with some of the older generation and even some of the positive factors like the breathtaking scenery can shock your system. Another area, which many British and American expats find hard to accept is the lack of queuing – nothing is done in an orderly fashion here and it’s no good trying to impose your values on the locals no matter how much sense it makes, you simply have to be calm and accept that this is way things are done here – you will have to join the chaotic group of people and get noticed. Unless you accept that there are cultural differences and that you are the one who is going to change and adapt, you will feel frustrated and out of place, but the minute you start to live like a local you will have crossed the cultural divide.


Whilst many islands have excellent facilities for expats, the ability to integrate with the indigenous culture is essential if you are to feel at home on your island. Learning at least the rudiments of the language is necessary to your survival. Whilst you may have dreamed of lazing by the pool day after day, this soon grows tiresome and the need to occupy oneself on a daily basis is very important. This doesn’t mean that you have to step into full time work and replicate your working patterns back home, but finding some form of job is one way of enriching your life as well as keeping a roof over your head and giving you time outside of the home. Another point to consider on a daily basis is the fact that you have chosen to live on ‘your’ island, indeed it is your host country now and you are its guest. Therefore griping about holes in the road, the people or the food is not really conducive to a successful and happy integration into Greek society and indeed if you do feel like this then you would be better off packing up and going home.

Making Real Friends

Once the holiday feeling resides, you need to get out and make some friends; these may be with the local people or other expatriates like yourself. Moving solely within the expat community is claustrophobic in itself and sometimes it can feel like you have no privacy or personal freedom. This is why making friends with local Greek people is always a good idea – they are more likely to accept you for who you are and not where you have come from and what you have done. Without good language skills misunderstandings will occur and these may cause some confusion regarding times, events, places and in general chatter. And, the more you experience of the real Greek culture, the more accepting and tolerant you will become and in time you will become accepted for all your funny habits, warts and all!