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I was born and raised in Germany to a German mother and a Turk from Bulgaria who left his home country due to the lack of individual freedoms under the Communist regime. This background always made me different from the rest of the students at my high school in a medium-sized town in the north of Germany. I never felt fully at home and knew from an early age that I wanted to leave Germany.
As a young girl, I was in love with all things French, and by the time I graduated high school, my goal was to move to France within the next five years.
Within three years of my high school graduation, I was indeed living somewhere else with, not in France, but rather the closest alternative – Quebec, Canada, specifically, the wonderful city of Montreal. I went to McGill University, which was, at the time, ranked as the 13th best university in the world, and I met people from all over the world. Finally, I did not feel left out among the rest of the students. I wasn’t too German for one side and not German enough for the other. I was simply one of many international students in a bilingual, multicultural city. However, despite the fact that I really loved Montreal, I never felt like I could live there “forever.”
Having moved back to Germany, I was unhappier than before after all the amazing experiences I had had in Montreal. The desire to move elsewhere became stronger but manifested itself mainly in traveling within Europe. I quickly understood that every time I found myself in another country I felt more at home and at ease than in Germany. Eventually, I had to make a decision: Would I keep on waiting for the ideal opportunity that would take me to the ideal place, or would I simply go where life would take me? After being offered a higher position at my job, I decided to not only reject the offer but actually quit and simply see where I would find a new opportunity. I received several job offers in different countries, out of which Greece was the most appealing even though I had never traveled there. I thought the Mediterranean climate would be much more enjoyable, and I knew that if things didn’t work out for me I could always leave again. That was a little over two years ago. Since then I have seen both the good and the bad aspects of life in Greece, but I have never even for a second regretted my decision.
So what is life in Greece like?
If you're from a Western country, chances are you will be making a lot more money here than the average Greek citizen. Rent is extremely cheap here in Athens, so despite the high prices in groceries, as an expat, you will probably be able to afford a pretty comfortable lifestyle.
The weather is incredible. After the cool, humid summers and frosty winters in Germany and the warm, but humid summers and snowy and windy winters in Montreal, I really enjoy the climate here in Athens. I have to say that in January and February I do start to get a mild case of "winter depression," but at least I know the good weather will be back soon, as opposed to Germany where even the summers tend to be rainy.
Another incredible experience in Athens is walking around downtown and constantly passing by sites built several thousands of years ago. Being aware of walking the same streets that some of the world's greatest philosophers have walked in ancient times is a priceless experience.
And even if you ever get tired of the noise of the city, there are so many travel opportunities. There are hundreds of beautiful Greek islands to visit by boat or plane.
Now, of course, there are also some negative sides to the Greek experience.
The healthcare system is horrible. There is no other word for it and no need to explain it in detail.
Pollution and trash are everywhere. Greek people are not environmentally-minded. The Green Party started to become a huge influence in German politics as far back as the 1980s, so I grew up with the idea of having a certain environmental responsibility. Throwing trash on the street is completely out of the question for me, but over here it's commonplace.
In general, Greek society is simply not aware of the idea that when millions of people live together in the same city, everyone has to do their part in making things work. I take the bike to work, and while most people have heard of the difficulties of driving in Greece, what is even more perplexing is the fact that people walk on the few bike lanes that exist and don't make the slightest attempt at letting bikes pass. Same goes for getting on and off elevators and escalators. People will stand in front of elevator doors and get angry at you for struggling to get out. This, in particular, has been having a negative effect on me, and I have noticed that I am slowly adapting to this behavior - not in a good way. Even in those negative situations, however, I never regret having moved here. I don't have my identity questioned here in the way I did in Germany, and this is making my life easier and more enjoyable.
Half Bulgarian Turk, half German living life as an expat in Greece.