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Living in Greece

The first thing that comes to mind when people think of Greece these days is probably the financial crisis. Expats living in Greece, however, know that the country still has a lot to recommend it. Read our Expat Guide on life in Greece for info on Greece’s history, culture, cuisine and everyday life.

At a Glance:

  • Greece has recently experienced political turmoil and had three elections in 2015 alone.

  • Its public infrastructure (especially the healthcare system) is unfortunately in bad shape due to the financial crisis.

  • For your own safety, you should keep in mind that there are a lot of strikes and demonstrations in the center of Athens.

Greece: An Introduction

Although located at the crossroads between the east and west, Greece, rather than being a mix of European and Middle Eastern cultures, has its own distinctive character. There are nearly eleven million people living in Greece. This country on the Mediterranean Sea enjoys a temperate climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Eighty percent of the country is covered in mountains, leaving only a limited amount of arable land.

The people living in Greece are known for their warmth and hospitality. A great majority of Greeks (88.1%) are members of the Greek Orthodox Church. After being largely ethnically homogenous for centuries, Greece is now gradually becoming a multicultural country, with an estimated one fifth of its workforce claiming foreign descent. As an expat living in Greece, you will receive a premier seat at the table to experience its unique culture and charm.

Ancient Greece

Even those not living in Greece will know of its long history, which stretches back to prehistoric times, with the first traces of human settlement dating to the Stone Age. Greece, with its mainland and over 1,000 islands, was center stage in world history for many centuries due to its strategic position on the Mediterranean Sea. The dates of the flourishing Minoan civilization on Greece’s largest island, Crete, from 2700 to 1500 BCE, partially overlap with those of the Mycenaean civilization on the country proper, from 1900 to 1100 BCE.

The famous civilization of ancient Greece emerged in the first millennium BCE, and enjoyed its Golden Age from about 500 to 300 BCE. Many of the ideas developed during this time, regarding democracy, philosophy, medicine, the arts, and more remain influential today.

Expats living in Greece will have time to visit many of the relics of these bygone ages. After Ancient Greece fell to the Romans in 146 BCE, it became a part of the Roman Empire, then the Byzantine Empire, and finally the Ottoman Empire, before finally gaining its independence in 1830.

Modern Greece

Throughout the rest of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Greece added more, mainly Greek-speaking, islands and territories to its possessions. During World War II, life in Greece was disrupted when it was first invaded by Italy in 1940 and then occupied by Germany from 1941 to 1944. Many Greeks starved to death during the occupation, and a fierce counter-occupation movement also took many lives.

Adding to the strife, at the end of WWII, a civil war erupted between the Communists and anti-Communists, which lasted until 1949. Greece subsequently joined NATO in 1952. A military coup seized power in 1967 and the country was governed by a military dictatorship for the next seven years. In 1974, a parliamentary republic was established and the monarchy was abolished.

Politics in Greece

Political life in Greece is structured around general elections, which take place every four years unless the government is dissolved earlier. The prime minister is the head of the government, and the president, who serves a five-year term and is elected by the parliament, is the head of state.

Greece has a multi-party system, although prior to the 2012 elections, the Greek electorate was about evenly split between the liberal-conservative New Democracy party and the social-democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement. In the 2012 election, seven political parties (among them the left-wing coalition party Syriza, which finished second) won enough votes to gain seats in parliament, reflecting the widespread effect the economic crisis has had on all areas of life in Greece. The coalition formed in 2012 was formed from three parties, New Democracy, PASOK, and DIMAR, with the former in the ascendancy and the others as junior partners. However, in mid-2013 DIMAR left the parliament in protest due to the closure of a public broadcaster, resulting in PASOK taking a greater role in government.

Major upheavals happened in Greek politics in the course of 2015 while the country was on the brink of bankruptcy. Firstly, a legislative election was held in January 2015 (earlier than expected because the parliament failed to elect a president in December 2014), and a coalition led by Syriza and Alexis Tsipras emerged as the winner. This coalition organized a referendum to see if the Greeks agreed with the debt bailout negotiated with the European Union, and the result was an overwhelming no.

The outcome of the referendum pushed the Greek government to continue negotiations with the EU, which led to a final agreement, accepted by both parties in August 2015. However, Syriza politicians were divided on the question, which led to the resignation of Alexis Tsipras. Thus, new elections were held in September of the same year, and the result was another victory of the Syriza-led coalition.


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Rajat Bhatnagar

"It is really good to speak and hear Hindi from time to time. With InterNations I got to know compatriots in Athens and Thessaloniki."

Amelie Barreau

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