Greece

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Discovering Life 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.
Dyed red eggs and this special cake called tsourekia are traditional Easter foods in Greece.

The Mediterranean Diet

Greece is famous for its agricultural products, including olive oil, olives, wine, cheese, and saffron. Recent studies have indicated that the Mediterranean Diet practiced in Greece increases longevity and decreases the risk of heart disease and diseases of the digestive system. This diet consists of olive oil, cereals, legumes, fresh fruits, and vegetables, a moderate amount of fish and wine, as well as small quantities of meat and dairy products.

The Mediterranean Diet is not only a way of eating, but rather a way of life, based on social interaction and communal meals. As such it forms the foundation of Greek culture. Since November 2010, the Mediterranean Diet has been classed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Greece, together with Italy, Spain, and Morocco.

Greek Culture

Orthodox Easter, or Pascha, is the most important religious holiday in Greece. It is celebrated with candlelight processions, fireworks and drinking, dancing and feasting in the countryside. There are many traditions during Holy Week leading up to Easter as well. As might be expected, food is a central part of all these festivities.

Christmas celebrations in Greece last for twelve days, from Christmas Day to Epiphany. Traditionally, small boats, known as karavaki, were decorated instead of trees, and nowadays, this practice is being revived. Another delightful Christmas tradition is that of the kallikantzari, or Christmas elves. These little hobgoblins emerge from beneath the earth’s surface for the twelve days of Christmas to sneak into Greek homes and scare the inhabitants. Various rituals exist to keep them away.

Everyday Life in Greece

Shops are generally open from 9:00 to 15:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, and from 10:00 to 14:00 and 17:00 to 20:30 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. In the winter, bigger supermarkets are open from 8:00 to 20:00 from Monday to Friday and from 8:00 to 18:00 on Saturdays. In the summer, they stay open for about an hour longer in the evenings.

Although these opening hours may seem strange and inconvenient to expats living in Greece, the situation seems ready to change. Under pressure from creditors, the government passed laws in mid-2014 to deregulate the market, allowing shops to open on Sundays in ten tourist regions. However, the move was heavily criticized by three important interest groups in Greek politics — the Orthodox Church, who deems it a sin to work on the day of rest, the unions who say it will further the exploitation of the workers, and the smalltime shopkeepers who, once the lifeblood of the economy, argue that it favors big business. Protests have followed the laws through parliament and after its promulgation. It has nonetheless been implemented, and it is now common to see shops open on Sunday in touristic areas.

Post offices are usually open from 7:30 to 14:00 from Monday to Friday. Some post offices in bigger cities have longer hours. The post office on Syntagma Square in central Athens, for example, is open from 7:30 to 20:00 on Monday to Friday, from 7:30 to 14:00 on Saturday, and from 9:00 to 13:30 on Sunday. In Thessaloniki, several post offices are open past 14:00, but only the Central Post Office is open on Saturdays, from 7:30 to 14.00, and Sundays, from 9:00 to 13:30. 

Opening a Bank Account in Greece

In order to open a bank account in Greece, you need to be in possession of your taxpayer identification number (Αριθμός Φορολογικού Μητρώου). You also need to bring your passport to open a bank account. In addition, you have to provide your home address; a utility bill is generally enough. Also, if you work in Greece, the bank needs the address of your workplace: to provide the information you can bring your pay slip or your employment contract.

Banks are generally open from 8:00 to 14:30 from Monday to Thursday and between 8:00 and 14:00 on Friday. Banks in malls are often open until 21:00 and also have business hours on Saturdays.

As of March 2012, banks can ask for your most recent income tax return (ekkatharistiko) in addition to your passport before performing any kind of financial transaction. This serves as a proof of income as well as showing that you paid your taxes.

Transportation Infrastructure in Greece

Greece has four main international airports, the largest of which is Eleftherios Veniselos International Airport, located 33km northeast of Athens. The other international airports are located outside of Thessaloniki, Corfu, and Rhodes. There are also good train connections with many major European destinations, though, in early 2016, the refugee crisis at the border to Macedonia led to difficulties on that route. Regular ferry transit also connects Greece with Italy and Turkey.

Within Greece, in addition to the rail network, long-distance bus lines connect most major cities. Ferries are the best way to get to the many Greek islands. The main ports in Attica on the mainland are Piraeus (Athens) and Rafina. Domestic flights are operated by a number of carriers, the largest of which are Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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."

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