Living in Greece: How to Move to the Greek Islands



For Jim Allen, the decision to live in Greece was easy. His wife, Mara, was born in Athens, and the couple already owned a small home two blocks from the beach on the island of Rhodes. The location couldn’t be easier, allowing them to walk the shoreline daily. Says the retired police officer, “The colors of the Aegean Sea — the infinite shades of blue and green — I never tire of them.”

What jobs can I find?

Unless you’re an E.U. citizen, it’s going to be difficult. Unemployment is still staggeringly high, exceeding 30 percent among young people.

“Tourism is the only sector that would likely hire Americans because they speak English, the lingua franca,” says Allen.

What’s it like to live in Greece?

“To retire, Greece is pretty cheap,” says Allen. The couple avoids income tax because they’re not working in the country. And they don’t shop a lot, which helps them elude shopping taxes.

“We came here to simplify and declutter,” says Allen. “In New York, we were paying $12,000 a year for property and school taxes. And in Greece, we’re finding that retirement on roughly $36,000 a year is more than doable. We’re not denying ourselves at all. We go out to eat two times a week or so — and the Greeks don’t know how to make a bad meal.”

Where do I buy groceries?

Groceries cost roughly 10 percent more than in the States. “As for availability, we don’t feel deprived,” says Allen. “Sure, the stores here don’t have an aisle with an infinite number of potato chip or soda varieties, but they do have that kind of stuff. The things I really savor, like cheese, Greece does really well. And the quality is actually a skosh better. The only thing I am missing is Edy’s ice cream. I would do two days’ hard labor for a bowl, but it just doesn’t exist here.”

How do I bring pets to the island?

“I wouldn’t recommend bringing pets to the Greek islands, unless they’re really domesticated,” he says. There’s a highly infectious skin disease called Kala-Azar that attacks an animal’s liver, spleen and marrow.

But if you have your heart set on bringing your pet, know that they must be micro-chipped, have a health certificate and proof of having been vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before traveling.

What are the health care options?

“Healthcare was one of the things we initially had big concerns about,” says Allen. “It’s notoriously bad here. However, there’s a way to get around that easily. You buy private insurance and bypass the government system. Then it’s fantastic.”

Allen suffered a stroke two years ago, and made finding a cardiologist in Rhodes a priority. His first visit lasted an hour, and included EKG and Echo tests, and cost roughly 50 Euro.

Shortly thereafter, his wife had to see a dermatologist, and her three visits to have a small bit removed also cost 50 Euro.

He adds, “In the States, they charge you for a biopsy — no ifs, ands or buts as they don’t want to expose themselves to negligence — but here, the doctor knew by looking that it was fine, and so we avoided that expense.”

Will online retailers deliver?

They will, but shipping can be prohibitively expensive from the States, costing up to four times as much. One way around that is that most of the bigger American companies have European distributors, which the couple found when buying seeds from Burpee.

How do I move my belongings?

“In our case, it was easy,” Allen says. They used a company based in Astoria, Queens, called Hermes International Movers, which charges $72 for a box measuring 24x18x18 and with no limit on weight.

“It was extremely convenient and not terribly expensive,” says Allen. “The downside was that we had to wait three months for our items to travel by boat.”



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