Rebecca: Leaving Cairo, the UK and back to Greece
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Greece, etc.
I’m Rebecca Hall, otherwise known as Bex. I am a British girl who now lives in Greece, since September 2008. I teach English to young kids and maintain my site LeavingCairo in my spare time. I love living in Greece, despite its problems.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging in 2010 after I spent the summer in Cairo, Egypt teaching English. I was going to stay, but missed Greece so much I came back, hence the title Leaving Cairo, the UK and back to Greece. I wanted to share with people my adventurous travels and what life is like in Greece—islands to visit as well as featuring author and expat interviews.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
In 2012, I started a League of Expat Writers series whereby people share their experiences about life as an expat abroad—not necessarily just in Greece. It’s designed to reach out to all expats and show them they’re not alone in their experiences. I also love my Travel Writers and Film Creators section where I have interviewed authors who write fiction & non-fiction about Greece or life abroad. This then developed into interviewing film directors who have chosen Greece as the location for their films. I love getting to hear about people’s motivations and lives and share it with my followers.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Greece differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
It’s weird because I actually feel more at home in Greece than I do in my country of birth! I always maintain that our birth country doesn’t have to be the one we’re most at home in. This is true for me with Greece. One thing I do find, though—being away from my ‘home’ country (the UK) actually makes me appreciate it more: the way things WORK, i.e. there are procedures that are followed. The police are very polite too and call you “Madam”—rest assured that does not happen in Greece!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Greece? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I wouldn’t change a thing. I have travelled a fair amount, both for work and pleasure and have learnt that nothing is ever as you expect it, hence I tried to have no expectations whatsoever when I secured my job here. I just came, excited at what was on offer for me and what to expect.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Yes—and I have shared this a lot with other expat websites too: being spat on by old Greek women is often a compliment! They do it if they like you and it’s to ward off the ‘evil eye’ i.e. jealousy from others.
Also, being called “doll” (koukla) a lot—either by old people, or taxi drivers. In Greece, this is a real compliment—but in the UK, if a random taxi driver or old person in the street stopped you to chat and called you ‘doll’ (literal translation), they’d probably be had up for harassment.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Greece?
- Try to learn a smattering of the language—even if it’s only “Hello” (yasas). Greeks appreciate the effort.
- Don’t assume that because grown men kiss (on the cheek) and hug a lot, that they are gay. Greece is a very tactile nation and personal space is a zero (did you know there is no Greek work for ‘privacy’?)
- Don’t be offended if a taxi driver picking you up from the airport wants to know how much you earn or what you think of the politics in your country (and Greece). See above re: the concept of privacy.
How is the expat community in Greece? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I am lucky: I have an excellent mix of expat and Greek friends—preferring, actually, the company of my Greek friends. After all, I am in a foreign country, it only seems right to integrate. I have joined an expat page on Facebook and regularly write articles for an expat website in Athens, hence I have met a whole cross-section of people. A lot of expats are married to Greeks, so this is good for the mixture of friends.
How would you summarize your expat life in Greece in a single, catchy sentence?
Greece offers me huge ups and downs…but I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else that offers such kindness from its people.