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A Complete Guide to Living in Greece as an American Expat

Live in Greece

Sunny skies, crystal clear waters and white-washed houses speckled against an idyllic island. It’s the image that comes to mind when considering a move to Greece and it’s a reality you can achieve with a little bit of planning, paperwork and an open mind ready to navigate the ups and downs of moving abroad. 

 

Although many instantly think of summertime beach adventures, life in Greece, especially if you live in Athens, comes with its fair share of mundane realities: traffic, errands, bureaucracy and the like. But what makes living in Greece appealing is a combination of culture and natural beauty that is welcoming and accessible.

Despite having navigated a challenging decade in the shadow of the financial crisis, the ethos of hospitality runs deep in Greece. If you ask for directions, don’t be surprised if someone insists that you follow them so that they make sure you get to the right turn. Or if a little comment about the tastiness of a dish gets you a seat at their table to enjoy shared dishes over a glass of ouzo. It’s these small hospitable quirks that win you over to the Greek way of life—even outshining that brilliant Mediterranean climate. 

 

And before you let language be a barrier—don’t.  Tourism is Greece’s biggest industry and English is widely spoken and generally welcomed in Greece. People here are proud to show off even limited skills to make English-speakers feel welcome and at ease. Even street signs include phonetic English lettering in many parts of the country. If Greece is calling keep reading to learn all you need to know about moving to Greece as an American!

How to move to Greece

Luckily U.S. citizens have options when it comes to moving to Greece. Once you’ve made the decision that Greece is where you want to be, your first stop will be the Greek Embassy or Consulate closest to where you live. Officials can help you with your visa requirements so you can make your dream of living in Greece a reality. It’s best to communicate both via email and via phone with Embassy and Consulate personnel since they change assignments from one office to another and you want to have guidance in writing when possible. 

It is important to note that all visa paperwork MUST be done in the United States before you travel to Greece, and the consulate is your administrative base for these efforts. 

Visas for Greece

There are a number of visa options that might be a match for you when you are considering staying in Greece for longer than a 3-month tourist visa:

 

  • Student visa: If studying in Greece, your letter of acceptance and enrollment will be the foundational documentation. Both the Consulate and the school you will be attending in Greece typically are able to aid in the process.

     

  • Work visa: There are also visas for those in specific industries, such as teachers, archeologists (of course), writers and hospitality trades, the latter of which are very much in demand as Greece’s tourism has bounced back significantly after the pandemic.

     

  • Retirement visa: The Golden Visa is the best known option for those looking to establish residency and are able to  purchase property over $250,000 in value. If you are looking for something more economical, there is an alternative for those that can demonstrate financial independence.

To learn more about all your visa options for Greece— and 16 other countries in Europe—get your copy of the digital book: I’m Outta Here: An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe.

book cover of an american's ultimate visa guide to living in Europe

Cost of living in Greece

The overall cost of living in Greece is relatively affordable; an average family can live comfortably with an income of €2,500/month. In terms of accommodation, expect to spend 50% less if not more than in the U.S. Depending on where you live, average housing can range from €500-€1,000/month. Living in the suburbs comes in at the higher side of the range. Groceries are on par with Europe and the U.S. Eating out, entertainment, and transportation are all very affordable. Utilities are where you may feel a hit, most notably in your electric bill- in general electricity in Europe is more expensive than the U.S.

Best places to live in Greece

Best known for islands like Mykonos and Santorini, there’s more to Greece than white-washed bliss in the sun! Here are some of the best places to consider when moving to Greece long-term.

Athens

For urban-dwellers, Athens is a bustling capital that stretches out like a quilt of unique neighborhoods. While living in the center is an option, most expats are located in the northern suburbs, such as Chalandri, Filothei, Marousi or Kifissia, or the southern suburbs of Faliro, Glyfada and Voula. The northern areas are a bit greener, while the southern towns offer proximity to beaches.

Nafplio and Thessaloniki

For history buffs, smaller—yet just as historic—cities like Nafplio and Thessaloniki serve as gateways to archaeological excursions that connect you to the times of Agamemnon and Alexander the Great, respectively. 

Arachova and Delphi

For snowbirds the ski chalets  and stone-walled villages of Arachova and Delphi provide a majestic backdrop for your ski or snowboarding adventures. 

Trikala

For the outdoor-inclined, there’s a network of rivers, streams and mountain trails on the mainland, such as those near Trikala, that offer a perfect home base for adventurous excursions. 

Coastal towns and islands

For those drawn to Greece for sun and sea, there’s a coastal town or island to match your personality – whether you want solitude and seclusion (Lemnos), non-stop nightlife (Mykonos) or even places that refuse modernity and prohibit cars (Hydra and Spetses).

Living in Greece pros and cons

Many of the things that make Greece charming—the antiquity, a strong culture and laid-back lifestyle—can also become a source of frustration, especially when compared to what we may used to when living in the United States.

Pros of living in Greece as an American expat:

  • Proximity to natural landscapes, such as beaches, mountains, and islands that are as close as an hour’s drive or boat ride from Athens.
  • A generally English-friendly country with many Greeks under the age of 50 knowing at least conversational English.
  • Balanced appreciation to slow down and enjoy parts of life we sometimes rush through: a cup of coffee, lunch, and especially time with friends and family.
  • Relatively low cost of living, especially now that the U.S. dollar has gotten stronger against the Euro.
  • Family-friendly culture that is very accommodating to children.
santorini oia

Cons of living in Greece as an American expat:

  • Underlying culture of bureaucracy (although digitization brought on by the pandemic is helping in addressing this a bit).
  • Timelines and deadlines are more flexible for Greeks than we are used to in the States. It is not uncommon for things to get delayed for a few days, and this is amplified in the wake of global supply chain issues, which Greeks can’t really control.
  • Summertime destinations, like islands and coastal towns, quiet down significantly between October and April. Most jobs are based in Athens, which may not be the escape from the hustle and bustle you are looking for.

Health insurance in Greece

Public healthcare is not easily accessible for expats, with the exception of provisions made  during the Pandemic to ensure that everybody could get  access to vaccinations and testing, when it was mandatory. Most visa options will require you to have private health insurance prior to arriving in Greece. 

In general, healthcare in Greece is much more affordable than in the United States—with some plans starting as low as €45 a month! In fact, medical tourism is beginning to grow, especially in the area of IVF.

For more information on healthcare and options check out I’m Outta Here! An Americans Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe

Living in Greece as an American

When all is said and done, living in Greece as an American expat allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds. My family and I moved to Greece in the summer of 2021 from the U.S. after we realized that we wanted to enjoy time with each other and not return to the stressed out, hurried pace we lived at before the pandemic. 

Having grown up in land-locked Dallas, I knew I would love being so close to Greek beaches, but I never imagined that the thing I love most about living in Greece would be about my son. 

A year into it, I can say that the thing I love most about living here is how much life in Greece flexes to support families. We live in one of the most far-flung Athenian suburbs, which feels more like a small town. Here, it is not uncommon to see children playing in the square in the evenings or for restaurants to have full playgrounds to allow parents to savor that kilo of wine—yes, it comes in kilos—while the kids play with new friends. With such a family friendly approach, it also feels safer here, which lets me enjoy my child’s adventures a bit more rather than worrying. That alone is worth this journey!

Moving to Greece

If you are anything like me, you have carried the dream to move to Greece around with you for a while now. Take it from me, it is time to seize the moment. No place is perfect, but if Greece sounds like something you want to consider for your next chapter, take the steps today to make your dream a reality. Life’s too short to only see the Greek isles while on vacation!

If you’re interested in other international destinations to move to check out our guides to living in SpainPortugalFranceItaly, the NetherlandsGermanyIreland, Iceland, Mexico, and Colombia.

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