It’s important to understand how to access essential services and information prior to moving to Greece.

 

When you move to another country, or make plans to spend a lot of time there, you will need to consider how you will access all of the essential services you enjoy back home. Here is a brief run-down of everything you need to consider.

Healthcare

Greeks are among the healthiest people in the world and enjoy – and we do mean enjoy – the longest lives. A recent OECD report showed that Greek people with even the lowest income enjoy better health than the wealthiest in many countries. The OECD surveyed 36 countries and while across the board, 60 percent of lower-income people reported themselves as in ‘good’ or ‘very good’ health, in Greece it was 75 percent.

The lowest income Greeks enjoy better health than the wealthiest in many countries

 

doctor-in-surgery-examining-young-girl

Organising your healthcare needs to be top of you to do list

 

Part of that is down to the Mediterranean diet that has been proven to be healthy, and warm weather, but it is also because most Greeks take their health seriously. After all, they did invent the art of medicine and give us the Hippocratic Oath. You’ll notice the large number of pharmacies in any Greek town or city (identified by the illuminated green crosses), but Greece also has the highest number of doctors per head of the population too, more than twice as many as in Britain. Greece beats the UK for most health outcomes:

Health outcomes

 

Greece United Kingdom
Health expenditure (2013) 9.8% of GDP 9.1% of GDP
Population per doctor 162 355
Obesity in adults 25.1% 29.8%
Hospital beds per population 4.8 per 1,000 2.9 per 1,000
Life expectancy men 77.83 78.37
Life expectancy women 83.2 82.83
Total population living with HIV 12,500 126,700
Maternal mortality per 100,000 births 3 9
Breast cancer mortality per 100,000 population 19.3 23.2
Prostate cancer mortality per 100,000 16.3 23.3

 

Anyone – whether European or not – requiring medical help in Greece should receive basic care free of charge even if uninsured, albeit with a €1 charge for prescriptions. This was a key pledge to migrants by the government during the migrant crisis.

Anyone – whether European or not – requiring medical help in Greece should receive basic care free of charge even if uninsured, albeit with a €1 charge for prescriptions. This was a key pledge to migrants by the government during the migrant crisis.

British people visiting Greece, in any case, can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for medical services just as if they were Greek. You can get your EHIC free of charge via the ehic.org.uk website. British pensioners living in Greece need to apply to the UK Pension Service to get the form they need (an S1 form) by calling 0191 218 7777.

Those below retirement age and staying for the long-term should be paying into the state health system to use services, just like with national insurance. They do this via their Citizens Service Centre, known as the KEP. The body responsible for health is the National Organisation for Healthcare (EOPPY), like Britain’s DHSS. Contact your local EOPPY office online at eopyy.gov.gr to find out how to register with a doctor.

The Brexit vote is bound to complicate matters, and many expats are already choosing private healthcare arrangements. You can expect to pay around €500 for a family of four per month or €800 for a retired couple. Bear in mind that if you are taken ill out on an island you will end up in a Greek state hospital emergency room anyway, as most private hospitals are only in big cities.

Maybe another cause of people staying healthy in the Mediterranean is that while the health services look after your medical needs, your family is expected to keep you clean and fed, coming in each day to look after you. You won’t be left unwatched and unfed if you are in Greece without family, of course, but you may want to take out health insurance that covers you for a medical flight back to the UK.

Travel

Public transport

Greece has a good, inexpensive bus service compared to the UK. You can expect a one way ticket within most cities and between towns to cost little more than €1, despite petrol and diesel prices being similar to the UK. The rail system is limited to the mainland and has been severely hit by austerity cuts. In villages and islands the taxi is and always has been the most common form of transport – the local hero in The Durrells is the taxi driver Spiros – and the best place to ask is the local cafeneon. You can expect to pay €3 as a starting tariff, a little cheaper than the UK. New taxi services such as Uber have arrived in Athens and other cities and are sure to reach the islands eventually.

In villages and islands, the taxi is the most common form of transport

Ferries

Greece has the greatest ferry fleet in the world; hundreds of vessels travelling to hundreds of islands every day of the year. The catamarans and hydrofoil services are faster than ferries but more subject to disruption from the weather. Travelling by boat can seem positively archaic for many British visitors, used to getting everywhere by jet, but part of the appeal of the Greek lifestyle is in taking things a little slower, adopting a more relaxed attitude to life and enjoy the sensations and scenery of sea travel.

For an idea of prices and times, a ferry from Athens (Rafina) to Mykonos takes around five hours and costs €30, while a hydrofoil or catamaran takes just over two hours and costs €50.

 

Arriving in Greece.

Your arrival in Greece? Here’s where it all starts!

 

Flights

Flights to Greece are plentiful in summer, but sparse in winter. While Spain has year round flights from every corner of Britain to every corner of Spain, outside of high summer, you may struggle to reach anywhere in Greece directly, except Athens and Thessaloniki. The airlines have expressed frustration with the situation but say that unless hotel owners are willing to open longer in the season there is little point in them flying tourists in which is a shame if you wish to enjoy a warm February weekend in your Corfu home.

A new investment programme from the EU is pouring hundreds of millions into Greece’s regional airports

That situation may be changing. Ryanair has opened a new base in Corfu and says that Greece is a big growth area for it. There is also a new programme of investment in regional airports led by the EU Commission which, along with new German management of 14 regional airports, will see hundreds of millions of euros going on upgraded airports, including in Milos, Syros, Naxos, Paros, Mykonos, Samos, Santorini, Kos, Chios, Corfu, Kephalonia, Zakynthos and Chania.

Learning the language

Greek is significantly different to English compared to most European languages, with its own alphabet being the first barrier. According to one US government estimate it takes native English speakers an average of 44 weeks or 1,110 class hours to learn Greek proficiently, a little longer than Spanish, French or German (25 weeks and 600 class hours).

By learning Greek you will undoubtedly make more and better friends in Greece

By learning Greek, you will undoubtedly make more and better friends in Greece, it will be easier make visiting doctors and hairdressers less stressful – probably saving money – and will enable you to deal with the authorities much more easily. Some of the easiest ways to learn Greek are:

Online learning: There are both free services via YouTube, or you can buy tuition via services like Skype.

Multimedia: There’s no shortage of CD/book/online combination systems to learn Greek. The most well known are Rosetta Stone and Michel Thomas, comprehensive and proven to work but costing £100. BBC Languages also have fun ways of learning Greek.

Books: Don’t forget the old style textbooks which we all struggled through at school. You get to see the gradual build-up of vocabulary, verb endings and tenses and they are available for almost nothing via Amazon.

Language holidays: Learning in situ has many advantages, not least of which is being able to do some house-hunting while you’re there. Various private companies and educational organisations such as Cactus Languages and the Alexandria Institute offer courses in Greece throughout the year.

Removals

If you’re setting up a new household in Greece you will want to take some treasured possessions with you. Maybe you will take everything you own if you’re going permanently. Going by sea, to take the contents of a small apartment door to door from the UK to Greece, including packing and unpacking, costs around £1,500 to £2,500 and usually takes from eight weeks. Moving a similar volume of stuff by air costs two to three times more, but gets there in a day or two. By road from central Britain to central Greece is 3,300 kilometres, with around 30 hours driving time. Shorter routes are available via Italy if you include a sea crossing, but they are no quicker or cheaper.

Hiring a ‘man with a van’ is a simple and controllable option but you’re normally paying him or her to come back empty

Hiring a ‘man with a van’ is a simple and controllable option and you may even take a place in the van too, but remember that you will normally be paying him or her to take his van back empty. Large removal companies taking yours as a part-load will take longer and need booking earlier as they pick up several peoples’ stuff along the way, but they subsidise the trip by sharing driver, ferry and fuel costs and by bringing someone else’s possessions back from Greece. The more flexible you are the cheaper will be your quote, and you should get at least three quotes in writing.

The British Association of Removers (BAR), International Association of Movers (IAM) and Overseas Moving Network International (OMNI) are good places to find a reliable and insured removals company, although it is usually advisable to insure your possessions yourself, which will be one or two percent of the value of the goods. You should aim to book several months in advance in order to get the best deal.

Education

Education in Greece is generally good despite the country’s problems. Although austerity cuts mean that schools may be short of textbooks, buildings might be unkempt and school trips few and far between, Greek teachers have made great efforts to ensure that their children’s futures don’t suffer.

School in Greece starts a year later than in the UK, with children attending primary school – Demotiko – from age six, although as in the UK most children will attend some sort of voluntary kindergarten from at least the age of four. Primary school goes on to year six, after which they attend secondary school, known as Gymnasio in the first three years and Lykeion in the following three.

Most schools classes start at 8.15am and continue until 1.30pm to 2pm

The school year is much like the UK one, with three terms, but in most schools, classes start at 8.15am and continue until 1.30pm-2pm. English language is a compulsory subject with at least two hours of tuition per week.

 

Greek teachers with school children.

School starts aged six, but most kids attend kindergarten before that

 

There are many private schools in Greece, indeed, it has one of the highest percentages of private pupils in Europe. Many have suffered lower numbers in the financial crisis. There are international schools giving lessons entirely in English, but only really in the main cities, especially Athens. On most islands, therefore, and even in Crete, your children will be educated entirely in Greek.

Home schooling is technically illegal in Greece, as it is in many European countries. If you can demonstrate that your child is learning to a proper curriculum and being looked after properly, however, you are unlikely to get into trouble. What the authorities do not want is English speaking children who cannot cope at school being left by their parents to run wild, as has, unfortunately, sometimes been the case.

If you are staying in Greece for more than three months you should obtain a residence certificate from the police or aliens’ bureau.

Residency

Until the result of the Brexit negotiations is known there is no guarantee that UK nationals will be allowed to live and work in Greece. We were certainly allowed to live there before we joined the European Union, however, so the expectation is that we will be in the future too. If you are staying in Greece for more than three months, you should obtain a residence certificate from the police or “aliens’ bureau”, which may well require you to travel to a regional capital. There, you must provide evidence of identity, where you will be living, that you have sufficient income to live on without being a burden to the Greek state, and that you have a health insurance or social insurance number.

Certain occupations, especially involving childcare or catering, require a medical certificate, while self-employed people will need to have this confirmed by the tax authorities.

The government has imposed VAT on language schools, raising the opportunity to teach English privately.

Working

As Brexit negotiations begin, the rules under which British people may work in Greece remain in doubt. For those who do need to earn a living and wish to start a business, Greece came 60th out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s “ease of doing business” report. This is calculated from such factors as how easy it is to buy property, obtain planning permission and enforce contracts. Greece was noted by the World Bank for being one of the biggest improvers in 2015.

Opportunities for self-employment include:

Property: Many expats have used their homes to make money. Possibilities include buying in a tourist hotspot, enjoying the quiet Greek lifestyle in the off season and renting it out for maximum profit in the heat of summer. Accommodation sharing sites such as Airbnb and its many imitators have made informal property rental much easier, letting out a room in your home for example, or the whole property. Another traditional money spinner for expats has been looking after each others’ homes and holiday rentals, including key holding, cleaning between arrivals and welcoming guests.

English teaching: Many Greeks see their future outside the country and learning high-quality conversational or business English is vital. The government recently imposed VAT on language schools, raising the opportunity to teach English privately.

Hospitality: If you can’t speak the local language well enough to get a job, many new arrivals in a country get to work in the universal language of food and hospitality. There’s no shortage of hotels up for sale, even though tourism has been increasing. The British have traditionally been the biggest tourist market in Greece and being a fellow countryman can have certain advantages when you’re trying to attract and welcome guests. Although Greece has generally stayed free of the “full English breakfast served here” type of establishments that you see in Spain, there will always be a market for that in some areas.

Download the Greece Buying Guide today

The Greece Buying Guide takes you through each stage of the property buying process, with practical recommendations from our experts who have been through the process themselves. The guide will help you to:


  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

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