After two amazing years, time has come to move to a different city. I am saying goodbye to a stunning historical city, to a culture I still don’t understand, to noises that just never stop, to a job that made me lose faith in humanity sometimes, to colleagues who will forever have a special place in my heart, to a work environment so international I can never look at my own country the same again, to the openhearted Greek people, to a kitchen that only exist of completely cooked meat and tomatoes, to my morning run across the coastline, to celebrating life, I am saying goodbye to an experience, a home, a lesson and it will become one of the greatest memories I have.
When I took my flight to Athens two years ago, I could never expect all of this. Of course I knew working and living in a different country would learn me stuff and give me new experiences. However, Greece is also an European country and not even a four hour flight. I had traveled a lot before and I had seen differences in culture and habits of people even within Europe. Never had I thought that these small difference could have such a huge impact once you actually live and work there.
I cannot say there was not even one moment I wanted to go back or at least leave this country. But the positive experiences Greece still had to offer me always convinced me to stay. After leaving Athens Ben and I are going to travel through Greece. We are not able to see literally everything we wanted, but we will certainly try. I am very excited to start this huge last trip through Greece. After this trip we have come to a point that it is time for something new. So after two years of living in Athens I want to share my top 6 memories of this amazing city with you.
The openhearted Greek people and their culture
These people are so openhearted, they want to share their life story with you, their suffers, their happiness, their culture, their food, everything. In the beginning I really had to get used to this, as I am not used to sharing so much of yourself with other people. Still I know I am not that kind of person able to do so, but I do admire the Greeks for this. Yes, it can be annoying, but sometimes I wished I was more like that.
I honestly would describe Greeks as a bit crazy, they have this huge temperament and they don’t care what anyone thinks of them. While in the Netherlands we have this massive social pressure to behave like all the other, in Greece I felt free to do whatever I wanted. But on the other hand this sometimes leads to dangerous situations especially in traffic where I feel like no one is following any rules either.
Then there is this relaxed behavior of the Greeks. You hear it everywhere: easy, no stress. You see it everywhere too, it can take an hour to get some yoghurt from the supermarket, just because you have to wait that long for the people in front of you. It took me 3 full days to complete my tax declaration, as nothing here is organized and no one really willing to help me. At one point I was going crazy yelling I would go back to the Netherlands, where doing my tax declaration only took me fifteen minutes! I must say that this experience probably did make me a better person. I can be kind of a control freak and stress out easily. Keeping that behavior here would probably give me a heart attack at some point. I really hope to take this lesson with me and stay a bit more relaxed in the future.
The experience at bakery, restaurant and smaller shops is completely different anyway. Not that they are fast, they definitely take the time to do their job. But on most occasions the people here are very helpful and kind. They also tried to learn me the Greek language, advised which food I should really try and also learned me about their traditions.
Oh dear lord, I love the Greek sites. Ben and I spend a lot of our Sundays strolling through the city exploring yet another site. Honestly, visiting an historical site is much more fun when you live close to it, knowing you have plenty of time to discover and learn from the visit. The obvious favorite is the Acropolis, which I absolutely adore. I think I have visited the Acropolis at least 5 times and its museum even more. A visit to the Acropolis is not only interesting for those who are willing to learn more and actually see parts of history, the place offers some impressive views and a nice walks through nature beside it’s incredible monuments and sites. I am not going into details as I have already dedicated a whole blog on this stunning monument
But beside the Acropolis there are some much more historical sites to admire. Most of them not even half as popular as the Acropolis and thanks to that also half as crowded. Beside the Acropolis I would say the Ancient Agora and the Archaeological Site of Lykeion are my favorites, as walking through these sites feels liking walking through a beautiful garden with historical treasures. Also both sites informs its visitors widely with information about the historical meaning of the location. It can all be found in my blog about the sites of Athens.
Greeks know how to celebrate their life. You may think that because of the current economic situation they would lock there self in their houses and life their lives sober, but you couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t say that the Greeks are wasting their money on celebrations and food, but they just know how to create memorable moments.
The night life was not what I expected and what I was used to. No, Greek people spend their weekends in the tavernas, sharing huge tables filled with food and drinks listening to Greek life music. Going out for food is pretty cheap, which makes it possible for the Greeks to continue this lifestyle. Even if they are not able to go to an tavern, they will invite all their friends and families at their homes. I have made many walks through several neighbourhoods at different times of the year, but there is always the smell of grilled meat and the noise of people talking and laughing and having a good time. Hospitable as they are, I have been invited to several of these occasions.
I might have said sometimes that those people need to work a bit more or a bit harder, but I secretly hope that Dutch people can be more like this. I think a lot of western European countries are way to individual and materialistic. We might not have an economic crisis, but we spend way to much time pleasing our bosses, working extra hours and being on our own.
Maybe the Greeks can learn from us how to spend money, but we can definitely learn from them how to celebrate life.
My dear colleagues
I started working in a huge call enter. As you probably can imagine, this was never the job I was dreaming of. Also I still get surprised by the rudeness of people who are contacting us for help every day. Furthermore the work environment may not as it should be and a reason for many to quit the job before even finishing one year. However, I must say that this job really learned me appreciate the freedom we have to take initiative in our jobs and be honest with our colleagues and managers in the Netherlands.
Also this job gave me the opportunity to live in Greece for a while and work in a very international environment. I had colleagues from all over Europe, Turkey and Tunisia. I have learned so much from all these different people, they absolutely changed my point of view on certain situations.
And then there is the Dutch team, the smallest team of our department, but probably the most present one. If you move from your country to a different country all by yourself and start having your life there, it is impossible not to create a certain binding with your close colleagues that come from the same country. You help each other surviving the tax declarations, the health insurance requests and the public transport trips. You complain about the weird and unknown situations in Greece, but on the same time about well-known situations and habits from the country you come from. There is this kind of love hate relation with the country you come from and the country you live right know that only they can understand.
These Duchies really made it worth staying in Greece and keeping the job.
Opportunities to escape
Horrible as the job can be and noise as Athens can be, you just need to escape it all sometimes. Athens doesn’t have much to offer itself, but it has the perfect location to make trips to the islands, the mainland cities, the famous sites and the relaxing beaches. From Piraeus port ferries leave to all Greek island. When possible Ben and I traveled to the islands further away, but when we only had a weekend we preferred to go to the nearby island like Aegina, Agistri and Hydra.
Some islands are accessible by plane, which can be faster. Especially booking with Ryan Air can be pretty cheap to. Beside the islands, Ben and I also took a flight to Thessaloniki, Greeks second biggest city and maybe even more likable than Athens.
Something I also appreciated a lot are the organized bus tours. There are several organisations that offer you a bus trip from Athens to all kind of destinations like Sounion, Delphi, Corfu, Zakynthos, Meteora and lots more. There are schedules available online and the prices are pretty low. A returning ticket to Sounion for example has a price of 12 euro, which you have to buy in the bus itself.
The magical coastline of Piraeus
I am going to miss my morning runs so much! It is a real blessing living only 5 minutes from the beautiful coastline of Piraeus. It’s not that it has beautiful beaches or the most beautiful boulevard, it is most of all the view that makes it so wonderful to walk across the coastline. From Piraeus you can see the whole coast line with the amazing an huge city laying behind it. At some points you can see the acropolis and the Lycabettus hill reaching high above the rest of the city. Especially during the morning and the evening the view is just magic.
However, time has come to start a new adventure. Within a few weeks we will leave Athens and eventually Greece. I am leaving this beautiful country with mixed feelings, I am going to miss this place for sure. On the other hand I am looking forward to be a bit closer with my family and friends again for a while. New plans are already made and I will never stop traveling.
This experience of living in a completely different country for two years is one of the best things I did in my life, and it will forever have a special place in my heart.
For people who are interested in a journey like this, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to answer your questions and also I can help you getting a job that might not be the best job ever, but surely is a job that give you opportunities.