A very widespread opinion about the greek diaspora, is that we chose the easy way, which is to leave Greece and the crisis it’s in and settle abroad. People who stil live in Greece, think of us as people who are doing very well, people who have perfect jobs and perfect lives.
My goal with this piece, is not so much to answer to these people, as I understand well that partial knowledge leads to false conclusions. I want merely to express how it’s been for me and maybe offer a different perspective. Living abroad, might not be exactly what you think.
Is my life comfortable? Define comfortable. Yes, the state takes very good care of me. Yes, I have a job and I live a decent life, but if you think that I am rich, you’re far from the truth. Some of the things Greeks take for given, are very much a luxury around here and my way of life is quite different that what it used to be.
If you take a taxi when you’re tired and enjoy being outside most days in cafes and taverns, the moving to central or Northen Europe, might not be easy for you. If you are a lady who likes to have her hair and nails done on a monthly basis, then living in a country where the cost of living takes up most of your income, is probably not the thing to do.
And then there’s the things that you simply can’t find abroad. If you live in Greece and think I am living la dolce vita because I have everything you have, plus a steady job, plus money, you are leaving crucial factors out of the equation.
My life, is your life, plus a steady job, plus some more financial independence, minus the sun, minus the opportunity to hang outdoors (with a few exceptions during the summer), minus all the familiar ways of having fun. Forget about open air cinema, visits to the beach for a swim, going to events and concerts all the time. Forget about taverns, greek food, meeting your friends in a casual way and on a regular basis.
My life is your life, minus fitting in. Here I am an immigrant- call me an expat if you will, it doesnt change the reality of it. I am the foreigner here and I had to adapt to a new culture, a culture quite different to the greek one. Not to mention how annoying it is to realize that all your mail is addressed to someone with a name similar to yours like Elini, or Eline, but not quite Eleni.
You might be living abroad and still have some of the things I’m mentioning above, depending on where you live. Maybe the cultural differences weren’t big for you, or maybe it’s warm where you are. Maybe your bank got your name right from the get go!
Regardless of where you live however, I know you’re missing one very important thing as much as I do. Family and friends. No longer having my family and friends close, has undoubtedly been the greatest price to pay for me.
You know how support from the people dearest to you makes everything better? Imagine gradually losing contact with the people that used to be close to you, simply as an effect of the distance between you, while you’re giving one of the greatest fights to build a new life and could actually use all the support you could get.
Imagine struggling to fit into this new world and not being fully able to share it with family, because they’re far away and feel helpless. You might be going through a hardship but you don’t want them to worry, because they cannot meet you and do something with you to make you forget. They cannot hug you and offer you comfort in the way they used to.
This process, has been equally hard, as it has been rewarding for me and I’ve scored some serious adult points since I moved here. Moreover, all the love I found here, not only from my husband but also from my new family and friends has been worth it.
I have to admit though, I still find myself making a frape and putting on greek webradio, or making lousy gyros at home- which I baptize for the real thing and imagine I’m somewhere in Exarheia, or at a tavern by the sea, when I actually am all alone in my greekness.