The Top Ten Things I Love About Living In Greece
Each year on my anniversary of moving from San Francisco to Athens I post the top 10 things I love about living in Greece. Here it goes for Feb 2018–>
1) Athens street art. I love that there is graffiti everywhere in Athens. It’s edgy and colorful and gives the city so much character. If you want blank, clean grey walls, there are plenty of Northern European cities to choose from. Me? I prefer Athens. 😉
2) Greek words that don’t have a direct English translation. There are lots- like meraki/μεράκι (the essence of yourself that you put into your work), filoxenia/φιλοξενία (to offer generous hospitality to strangers), filotimo/φιλοτιμό (doing the right thing without expecting anything in return). I also like that Greek has three words for love (agape/ ἀγάπη, eros/ έρως and filia/ φιλία). They say that language follows the culture…
3) The sense of time in Greece. I teach a “Rise and Shine” yoga class that starts at 11:00 am on Sunday morning. The name isn’t meant to be a joke, and both my students and I struggle to make it on time. Thanks Greece—you make an honest woman of me. ❤️
4) Christmas in Athens. Syntagma Square is joyful with a brightly lit tree and a colorful fountain, Citylink is super festive and alley next to Little Kook is so over the top it is hard to describe… You might not think of Greece for the winter, but you should….
5) There is a certain charm to the fact Greece is so offline… With one of my apartments, I must go in person to pay the shared building expenses, which never total more than 15 euros per month. The building manager is an elderly man in his 70s who uses a walker to get around. When I arrive, no matter the time, his apartment is spotless, and he is perfectly dressed. His desk has a gigantic ledger book with a million little notes of payments probably going back decades. Sometimes he is alone, sometimes he is having coffee with another elderly friend, but he always asks me about my life, my family and if everything is ok for me here in Greece. The whole transaction takes about 20 minutes, and honestly, there is something really touching about it. Something that would never happen if we just used Paypal.
6) Street food! Downtown Athens has become like the United Nations of inexpensive food. There is Street Wok, Falafellas, Grexico, Vegan Nation and Pink Flamingo Dim Sum just to name a few…
7) The colors. The grass on Filopappou Hill becomes the most vivid shade of green in the winter. Some Athens sunsets make the buildings turn this beautiful pink hue. During the summer, the sea becomes this brilliant crystal blue. And when the Parthenon lights up at night, it becomes a shade of yellow that is magical.
8) In Greece, time is shared, and outcomes are sold. With my two Airbnb apartments, I’ve had countless repair people come to fix things. They only charge me if they can actually fix the problem, otherwise the visit is free. Same goes with veterinarians—if I take with my dog to the vet but they decide nothing is wrong, the visit is free. It is amazing, and very different from my life in San Francisco.
9) Greek taxis. Taxis in Greece are extremely cheap and easy to hail. I call it the Yellow Line because for just a little bit more than the price a metro ticket, you can effortlessly get across town. And the taxi drivers themselves are a whole experience. Maybe I will never have a car again…
10) Each year I discover new places. Last year, it was Sifnos, the most delicious island in Greece, where I will return this year to host a yoga holiday. The island has several hot spots like Apollonia (named after Apollo), a really colorful downtown with festival bars and clubs, Artemonas (named after Artemis), a village with great tavernas and art galleries and Platis Gialos, a beachside village with excellent restaurants. And it’s a new year so we’ll see what adventures 2018 holds… 🙂
I really recommend everyone post an annual list of what they love about where they live. A hidden benefit is it keeps your mind on the lookout all year long for things you like about where you live. So nice! ☀️☀️☀️
Top Ten Things, February 2017:
- While I continue to struggle with the language, I have now found a Greek school I truly love. It is the basement of a church building, and my classmates are from everywhere in the world—Afghanistan, Russia, Portugal, Moldova, Bulgaria, and beyond. The best thing about the school is the teacher, Yannis Kappa, who is very sensitive and careful with us so despite the fact I flush red with embarrassment at least once per lesson, I leave class feeling very nice. The second best thing about the school is that it is free and a 10 minute walk from my house. Amazing.
- My new puppy is a special Greek breed called the Hellenikos Poimenikos (Greek Shepherd). They are bred to fight bears and are known for being very loyal, tough, independent, strong-willed and a bit stubborn. She, in particular, is also very joyous. 🙂
- Getting things repaired in Greece is very inexpensive. I had my boots from last winter resoled, cleaned and had two holes repaired for 5 euros. The boots were ready the next day, and the shoe repairman even sewed a rose pattern into the hole patch—so nice!
- It turns out the mountains in Greece are just as beautiful as the islands. This last year I discovered Meteora. Its views literally take my breath away.
- I have found a Krav Maga studio I love. The teacher, Michalis Kafetzis is very charismatic and inspiring, and I didn’t realize how much I would like being part of a team. Plus, I am getting very strong…
- Greek Easter. Even though I’m not religious, I love going to church at midnight with my Easter candle and then having the special dinner afterwards. Part of the fun is that it feels like all of Greece is celebrating together. 🙂
- Despite the economic situation, the city remains very vibrant. It has places like the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, companies like Forky.com and Taxibeat, and restaurants like Sushi Mou (whose chef was named one of the top 100 chefs in the world). Greece, it seems, is staging a comeback. 😉
- The coffee culture. Coffee and its consumption are a huge part of the social fabric and keep the city lively. At all hours of the day, the cafes are filled, and they even have coffee delivery all over Athens—on scooters and on foot with these special silver trays.
- After five years in Athens, I now have local friends who have known me for most of that time. Having a shared history with people I live with is worth more than I can explain and was the thing I missed the most when I first moved from San Francisco.
- For the roughly what I paid for my last car in San Francisco, I was able to buy a small apartment near Acropolis. It is on Airbnb, so if you are coming to Athens, you can stay in it. 🙂
And now, the lists from the last 5 years..
- Koukaki has been named one of the 10 trendiest neighborhoods in the world: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/jan/11/worlds-coolest-neighbourhoods-airbnb-rentals-bangkok-japank-kuala-lumpur
- It is totally normal to book a doctor or manicure appointment at 9:00 pm…
- In less than 2 hours and with under 100 euros, I can easily change cultures, languages, currencies, and cuisines.
- It’s easy to be emotional in Greece. I’m very uncomfortable crying in public but the few times I’ve done it here, everyone leans in–way in–to see what’s wrong, how can they help, etc. There is no possible way to get away with “I’m fine.” They don’t accept that at all…And it feels so nice. 🙂
- I am 4,000 miles away from the US Presidential Election.
- Greek merchants are very flexible. In instances when I haven’t had enough cash with me, they’ve let me buy groceries, pet food, get my nails done and have medical appointments with a casual wave of the hand—“you can pay next time!“ Once they even let me rent a car without my driver’s license…impressive. dear greece, you remind me that all things are possible…
- Even though I have visited maybe a dozen Greek islands, I still feel like I’ve just scratched the surface. There are so many islands you can stay interested for years and years…
- I can go to the laiki (outdoor market) and buy all the fresh fruit and vegetables I need for a week for less than 25 euros. And it’s fun.
- I now know enough people that I randomly bump into friends when I’m out on the street. That might not seem like a big deal, but when you start from zero, it’s huge.
- The pace of life I have here has allowed me time to write a book. I’m very grateful for that and I’m not sure I would have been able to do it in my more fast-paced San Francisco life.
September 2015 ( this was a mid year post)
1) All over my neighborhood, the shopkeepers leave food and water out for the stray dogs and cats.
2) The entrance to Filopappou Hill is pretty much what I imagine the entrance to heaven must look like.
3) Grilled octopus, horta with lemon, loukoumades, cheese saganaki, Greek yogurt, beet greens with olive oil, fresh grilled sea bream, just to name a few….
4) While living in an unstable country was never a goal of mine, an unintended consequence is that it makes me feel very alive. I don’t just read the news, I can step outside to see what’s happening…
5) What I pay for rent to have an apartment with a roof deck and a view of Acropolis in Athens would get me a tiny basement studio in the Tenderloin in San Francisco.
7) I have a Greek name, a Greek name day, and a village to celebrate it in.
8) Delphi—it’s so beautiful there and I love the energy.
9) Greece has been named the most flirtatious country in the world… ☺ http://greece.greekreporter.com/…/greece-the-most-flirtati…/
10) The next six months. Because life here is always an adventure…
Actually, I can’t stop at 10 so I will add one more…
11) Except when I travel back to the US, I haven’t used a dryer for my clothes in three years. I don’t know why I like that fact so much, but I do.
And my top lists from before….so I guess we’re at the top 31 things I love about living in Greece.
My Top 10 from Feb 2015
1) It turns out heaven is a place on earth. It is in Greece, and it is called “Mykonos.”
2) I haven’t had a car for three years, and I haven’t missed it at all.
3) The mailman knows my travel schedule and where to leave packages when I’m away, without me ever saying a word. It’s part of the neighborhood web of information.
5) A woman who was my landlord for a total of 3.5 months over three years ago regularly sends me food she cooks for me. She lives on Chios Island where it can’t possibly be cheap to send food to Athens but she does it because she thinks about me and wants to make sure I’m well fed.
6) Ioanna Kourbela www.ioannakourbela.com/
7) I see very elderly people out at bars and cafes late at night. They are part of the social fabric and actively socialize just like everyone else.
8) Each time I’ve needed help (and in three years, there have been many times….), there have been a thousand hands outstretched to help me. I find the Greek people to be amazingly kind and generous with their time. This goes especially for my neighbors, who have become like my family.
9) While we don’t know what is going to happen with the new government, hope is in the air…so far…well– never a dull moment.
10) Greek summer 2015–because every summer seems to have its own story. ☺
My Top 10 from February 2013:
The top 10 things I love about living in Greece…
1) When I buy vegetables from the market, they have still have dirt on them.
2) When I take a cab home at night, 9 times out of 10 the cab driver waits into I’m in the door to drive away.
3) Because 7:00 pm is still considered afternoon…
4) At least once a day, I see a motorcycle or scooter driving the wrong way down the street. And no one seems at all concerned.
5) Something about the way the sunlight hits the landscape here makes the whole place seem magical.
6) My neighbors have become my friends and know and care about the details of my daily life.
7) Coffee with a friend lasts two or three hours, and I have never once talked about stock options or liquidity events.
8) When I walk down the street, I’m greeted with γεια σου κουκλα μου, γεια σου αγαπη, γεια σου ομορφη (hello darling, hello love, hello beautiful) by old men and women.
9) Shortly after meeting someone, I am often invited to their country or island home for holidays.
10) Greek summer.
And since I have now in aggregate posted 51 things I love about living in Greece, I will post one thing that is not my favorite, just to keep it balanced:
The Greek medical system….
Going to see a doctor in Greece can be like going to see the Oracle of Delphi. They speak in riddles and rhymes that leave you confused and doubtful about what to do next.
The Oracle: “Go, return not die in war.”
My doctor: “You must be strong. We need more tests.”
But… what does that mean? I’m pretty sure being strong is a character trait or maybe a physical trait, but definitely not a medical diagnosis. And that doesn’t leave me a lot of room to understand the actual condition. In some cases, I’ve been able to press and eventually get a diagnosis. Other times, after going in circles, I’ve given up and just sent the results to a US doctor who tells me what is happening. Which brings up the other mystifying thing about Greek medicine: you are given all of your medical records to carry around with you.
Before moving to Greece, I don’t think I had ever touched a medical record of my own. They were stored in some central location and transferred directly from doctor to doctor if I needed another opinion. But here, everyone hands you the test you just took. This means I have a pile of MRIs and X-rays of body parts sitting in my apartment. It feels creepy to keep them in the house but it also feels wrong to throw them away. The middle ground I reached was to put them in sealed envelopes and hide them in a cabinet. Which is still creepy but the best I could do…I’m just grateful I’m healthy.
Many doctors here are great so I don’t want to generalize.. but every now and then…Pythia—is that you speaking? 🙂
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