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Greece is piercing blue skies, sun-drenched beaches, fantastic cuisine and alive with culture. With the Aegean lapping at its shores and thousands of stunning islands, it’s an unsurprisingly popular destination for expats. Located at the crossroads between Europe, Africa and Western Asia, Greece which is known officially as the Hellenic Republic, offers stretches of sandy beaches, picturesque white buildings and a warm climate.
Greece experiences a traditional Mediterranean climate with summers that are hot and dry and winters that are sometimes cold and wet.
The temperature during summer can reach scorching highs of 40°C but there’s a strong northern wind called the “Meltemi” which usually sweeps through the east coast of Greece during July and August and this offers a welcome relief to the heat.
The Greeks are extremely proud of their culture and are so passionate about their country. The culture is rich and vibrant, and tradition, religion, music, language, food and wine are at the heart of the country and is the foundation for those who wish to understand the country today. Religion is important in Greek culture and is an essential part of everyday life. Easter is the biggest and most important holiday and is usually celebrated with extended family feasts. The Greeks are known for their hospitality and laid-back attitude, they like to create new relationships without a sense of formality. The whole culture in Greece is centred on the dinner table and they often gather in large family groups daily for meals that can last for hours.
Modern Greek is widely spoken throughout the country. It’s a combination of Ancient Greek which is regarded to be the oldest European language, and regional dialects.
The Greek language is one of the most important elements of Greek culture. Greek is the official language in two countries, Greece and Cyprus and a recognised minority language in seven other countries. The Indo-European language spoken primarily in Greece has a well-documented history that spans approximated 34 centuries. Today the language is spoken by 13.2 million people across Greece, Albania, Cyprus and worldwide.
Travel is well organised in Greece even if some locations are hard to reach. The most popular form of transport in Greece is a ferry, which both residents and visitors use to travel to the Greek islands. Athens is the only city with a subway system in Greece but if you are visiting the city this is a cheap and easy way to get around. Trains are also available in Greece and the most popular train journey that most people make is from Athens to Thessaloniki. Northern Greece and Central Greece can also be reached easily by the rail network. The buses also connect Athens to many towns on the mainland and taxis are readily available in Athens and at most popular spots in the Greek islands.
Expats living in Greece are entitled the same treatment as the residents of the country. IKA, which is the social security insurance organisation, provides free health care to insured members who will then be given a medical booklet. This booklet must be taken to all hospital and doctors’ visits as proof that the patient is entitled to free health care. Employees must have worked for at least 50 days in the previous year or intend to in the preceding year to apply. Emergency healthcare is free regardless of nationality but if an expat isn’t employed in the country with a medical booklet, they will have to pay for public health insurance and their medical bills. Patients with IKA must pay 25% of the total cost for medicines and pensioners must pay 10%. Generally, healthcare and facilities in Greece have been of high quality but the recent cut with government health spending has led to many Greek citizens taking out private health insurance for a more comprehensive cover. Expats travelling to the country may also want to look into international healthcare insurance.
Greece is part of the European Union and its money currency is Euro, which replaced the Drachma in 2002. The country doesn’t accept any other currency and it’s advised that currency is changed at a bank or official exchange shop. It’s advised to carry at least a little bit of cash, although most shops, hotels and restaurants accept credit cards some shops in small towns might not.
The Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs is the overseeing authority for education in Greece, where schooling is compulsory from 6 to 15-years-old and public schooling is free of charge. The Greek education system is divided into three levels stages; primary (dimotiko) and secondary (gymnasio) school and senior high school (lykeion). Greece also has private schools and has one of the highest private school attendance figures in Europe. There are also several international schools in Greece, most of them situated in Athens. At these schools, which are favoured by expats, children are offered foreign or international curricula, typically taught in the language of their country of origin.
The Greek adore eating out and it’s one of their favourite pastimes. Small platters of savoury appetisers and a selection of tasty mezes are traditional informal snacks that the Greek’s enjoy.
Greek cuisine is a Mediterranean cuisine, which makes wide use of vegetables, olive oil, fish, meat and wine. The food tends to be very simple and never usually involves sauces but is full of flavours and makes the most of fresh local produce, olive oil and charcoal grills.
More of the mainstream tourist destinations such as Athens, Santorini and Mykonos have introduced fusion cuisine, which involves lighter dishes with more subtle flavours and artistic presentation.
Some of Greeks traditional dishes include:
The Greeks love to drink, Ouzo is perhaps Greece’s most renowned liquor and it’s one of their favourites. If you prefer something a little less strong Tsai, better known as tea is one of the most consumed beverages in Greece and is either served hot or cold.
Greece is a very safe country to travel to, it is unlikely that you will experience any crime or violence but like in most other countries you need to be aware of petty crime on the streets. Whilst the risk of natural disasters and terrorism is low the risk of scams in top tourist destinations is at a medium. Look out for street vendours trying to rip you off and always double-check the change you receive.
Greece is endless islands and ancient ruins some of the most spectacular you’ll see. There’s an abundance of stunning places to explore in Greece, you most certainly won’t get bored. Here are just a few of the must-see destinations.
Athens is the country’s ancient capital, home to the Acropolis, perhaps one of Greece’s most famous monuments. It’s a contemporary city with a vibrant nightlife and a plethora of history. There are some areas of the city that are only accessible by pedestrians such as the circuitous lanes of the Plaka neighbourhood that has plentiful cafes and traditional tavernas.
With bounteous whitewashed houses clinging to the cliffs above an underwater crater and some of the most incredible views in Greece, it’s no surprise that Santorini is one of Greece’s most visited islands. It has two main towns, Fira, which is the commercial heart with a lively bar scene and Oia, which is famous for its breath-taking sunsets.
Mykonos is another one of Greece’s most well-known islands. It’s a favourite holiday destination of many due to its perfect beaches and animated summer atmosphere. It’s home to massive dance clubs that attract some of the world’s most renowned DJ’s but if you’re looking for more low-key adventures, there’s plenty of iconic landmarks and waterfront bars and restaurants for you to enjoy.
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