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Monday, January 16, 2006 

Knowing When to Hold or Fold

It could be worse but it could also be a lot better.

For the past several weeks, I've been attending parties and dinners for Christmas, New Year's, birthdays and name days. As much as I love to go to these events, socialize and have some fun with my friends, the 'party' atmosphere was missing. The same people, music and food were present but at each and every event, the mood soured when the conversation turned to everyone's plans for the New Year.

It's no secret that the cost of living, inflation and unemployment are increasing in Greece while our salaries (for those of us still employed) are barely keeping up. For the first time in 5 years, our stores suffered a 25% decrease in sales. Two relatives of one of our friends ended up shutting down their businesses after 30 years in operation. Those who are employed complain of working longer hours with no increase in salary. Recent university graduates who came home from abroad for Christmas said they wouldn't be returning to Greece to live and work because it's just not worth it. I don't really blame them since the salaries they'd receive here pale in comparison to what they're getting in Finland, Germany and the US. One 42 year-old woman who lost her executive position last year said it took her 8 months to find another job...as a legal secretary for a law firm. She considered herself lucky to find it. One thing's for sure, this present economic climate is affecting everyone across the board...from graduates to employees to business owners.

With all these tales of woe, it's no wonder that as the night wore on, many of them asked me what I'm still doing in Greece. They said if they had half the chance to leave, they would. This comes as a surprise to me since 8 years ago, these were the very same people telling me that Greeks who left Greece during the Junta were cowards. At that time, I told them cowards don't leave the country and family they know and love to move thousands of miles away to create new lives for themselves. Cowards don't abandon everything they've ever known to exchange it for the mere possibility of a better life elsewhere...struggling with a new language and culture without the support of their immediate family. Those words fell on deaf ears then and now, they are asking me how difficult it would be for them to emigrate to Canada. I was asked this question so much over the holidays, I figure the Canadian Dept. of Immigration should be paying me a salary for all the work I did on their behalf.

As much as I would hate to leave such a beautiful country as Greece and all the wonderful experiences I've had here, I would be lying if I said that I haven't considered going back to Canada. It's a decision I don't take lightly because I would have gone after the first 6 months when I found it the most difficult to be here. But I have my son's future to consider and with things as they are, I don't see much of a future for him in Greece. If only I had some faith in the current government's ability to turn this country around but with 37 government appointees fired or resigned (Markoyiannakis was #37) due to incompetence and corruption, the signs don't look positive.

I liken my dilemma to a game of poker. Should I continue to bet on the 'two pair' I was dealt in Greece or should I fold and find a game in Canada where a four of a kind or flush may await me. I never mastered the art of knowing when to hold my cards and when to fold so I guess it becomes that much more difficult for me to know if staying here and weathering the storm will prove to be the right choice. I can't speak for all Greeks, but for me, I'm playing the waiting game and hoping against all odds that the worst is over and better times are ahead.

The Delphic Oracle answered this question long time ago... ;-)

Seriously now, you do what you've got to do. However, keep two things in mind :

a. Mothers are (over)cautious and (paranoidly) worried about their offspring's fate by instinct, it's only natural;

b. Different people are ready to suffer different types of 'slings and arrows' in order to keep / earn / achieve what they hold dear most. Some would exchange the fabulous social security and egalitarianism of Canada for the Greek society / landscape / sun / what have you, willing to suffer what seems to be a very difficult living. Others (like, ehm, me) would give up Greek society / landscape / sun / what have you any time for a more open / cultured / urban society and life (which would not necessarily lead one's steps to Canada, either)...

In other words: what is your kid's take on all that?

SeaWitch, I hear your words and feel your angst through those words. The country you left 8 years ago no longer exists I'm afraid and for many reasons including the ones I always harp about and which definitely are major contributing factors to this current situation. The economies of the west are teetering as well and many here are having trouble finding jobs as they are in Europe. The economic "good times" are only superficial and based on consumer debt. No economy can be sustained on debt, or more accurately ridiculous amounts of debt that is absolutely necessary to maintain the deception.

I'm being quite serious when I say that the potential for civil unrest of never seen before proportions is a possibility within our lifetimes. I believe you said you are from the east coast of Canada, which is a better choice than moving to Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver. Not for economic reasons but for safety reasons. You have a tough decision to make, though one that is quite important and should not be made out of despair. You need to "research" just where you would be going and what you plan on doing. There's something to be said about becoming a modest consumer. Many people will have to learn to become that in the future.

Best of luck to you and your family in whatever decision you make. I'm always available as a sounding board if need be.

I have been checking for your new post for the past few days. It paid off. Another excellent topic that once again touches upon something that's been on my mind ever since my visit to NYC a few weeks ago for Christmas. Unfortunately I haven't decided whether the States would be the best place to live or if it's the case of 'greener on the other side'. That is, when I'm there I think about how great it is in Greece (then again it's usually me thinking of vacationing in Greece and not living here all year round) and when I'm here I think about how it might be time to move back. The decision process becomes even more complicated when the decision affects not just you (but a spouse or spouse-to-be or a family in your case).

Hm, a decision as momentous as yours can not be exercised lightly. A number of factors need to be considered, age group, gender, health, business, children, schooling,climate, etc, etc. Members of my family had emigrated to Brazil, and fifteen years later they came back, alleging that" they could not get used to the water and the air.

The economic situatin in Greece will grow worse and worse,just as in the rest of the EU. It does not help to blame the govt., the govt is an instrument pursuing its own interests and generally those of of the well to do . Once you see the faces,pantomimes, lying eloquence, of government functionaries,( in every country, not only in Greece) it makes one wish to be somewhere else. We are in for a rough ride and no charlatan from govt. will be able to talk himself out of it. Official figures cite there is very little inflation. Lies, my calculations are that prices across the board have moved up 25% since 2003.

I don't know if leaving for other shores is going to help. I have friends in the USA, in the IT industry, casualties of Enron, who are still out at large hunting for jobs. These are qualified people. They have indicated to me, they wish to move out because they also want their children to grow up in "a safer environment" ( whatever they meant by that)The overall picture is grim since Silicon valley is not what it used to be, and most of the IT jobs have and are being outsourced to the East. Over and above that they have to contend with competition from "slaves from India and the East", who are prepared to work twice as many hours, dipping their fingers in a bowl of rice only, for a quarter of the ruling wage. I have other friends in England who are complaining that the country and its economy looks different from yesteryears, and where can they go ? Australia, South Africa ?. I told them "go whereve you you'll find just as bad".
When I visited friends in Germany I found them wrapped up in a gloomy mood, and they had the insolence to ask me to spend more money "because the German economy needs it". When I pointed to them that they looked affluent and prosperous it was not long to find out that their prosperity and affluence was "borrowed" ,everything they owned was on credit ; plus they were suffering from anxiety levels and popping sleeping pills to sleep better at night because they were fearful of being laid off. Another friend of mine has set a new record in shuttling back and forth between Greece and Uruguay. Having moved there in the 40's, he had nostalgia to return, which he did in the late fifties. Then he felt nostalgia for the place he left behind and moved there in 1962. In Uruguay things turned out sour for him and returned to Greece in 1969.
Left Greece again in 1979, and came back a last time in 1993. Now he wants to move again, but age is against him, health problems have restricted his lifestyle.

What I am trying to say is that ( under no circumstances you need to interpret my comment as advice) to make a move a person or a family must have a goal, and objective. I,personally, would not move due to economic considerations, I know of another dozen who would.
If one is going to move for purely economical reason, that is decision to be made cognizant of the fact that economic prosperity it's a fickle commodity and it has a time and a place and then it vanishes. The age of emigrating blinfolded to the new world "to make the America" no longer exists. It is hard, very hard everywhere for the middle classes.
What we are witnessing in Greece today is being repeated in exact circumstances, although in varying degrees, in numerous households throughout the EU, USA, South America and every other country in the world.
I wish you good luck ( in the casino of life we all need it) and the wisdom of a right decision, which like everything else in life we only find out whether it was right or wrong, much later.

I was in the US last month. It didn't seem like the grass is particularly greener. All my old friends are freaked out about money and work.

In the early 90s things were very different. One friend was making a killing as a web designer, another actually bought a Manhattan apartment with the money she made colouring comic books, another was a lawyer working for a high-flying dot com, another was a teacher at a community college and getting by just fine. You couldn't really do any of those things in Greece at the time. The grass was greener then for sure.

Now, the web designer is a handyman, he puts up shelves and changes light bulbs for single women and old people. The comic book colourist is surviving only because she sold her apartment at the height of the real estate boom for 4 times what she paid for it. The lawyer ended up firing everybody in the dot com before firing himself, now he's in e-security and wondering about a second mortgage. The teacher turned 40 and saw her colleagues were all in their 50s, working 70 hour weeks for a part-time wage, no benefits, no pension; so she latched onto a man pulling six figures (it was pretty calculated).

They all said the same thing. There aren't any job-jobs, everything is part-time (salary, not hours). No benefits, no pension, health insurance is a luxury. They're really worried about being 70 - old, sick and broke. Like their parents.

And that's just my middle class friends, they live in the city. My 'working class' friends in the country are even darker. They've been on the meaningful end of all the factory closings, the downsizing, the outsourcing. They said there's no manufacturing in America anymore, it's all been moved to China and Mexico. Nothing at all is made in the USA. (Well, one guy said he had a brother who had a pretty good job at a weapons plant. There are still quite a few of those.) What are these guys going to do? Manage a Wendy's?

Things kind of suck in Greece at the moment (did you know the ministry of culture isn't even paying the wages of museum workers?). Personally I think this country has been thoroughly trashed, and lord knows the daily rudeness quotient isn't improving. But 'over there' isn't too hot either.

zardoz says:

Thought i'd participate with my two cents of experience ,
but i've been covered by all the persons before me .
xmmm just the same ...



Greece was never too hot. And it will never really be too hot as a land of economic opportunity. But when the rest of the developed world is going through what is going through now, places like Greece figure slightly better in the overall picture for one ironic reason: their size (small) and relative lack of sophistication protect them to a certain degree from the deep crises that hit places like the US, Germany, France etcetera. Expectations in Greece were always low (if you had your head sitting right) and aims were set accordingly. You cannot lose what you never had: there aren't any global industries to relocate and strand thousands of workers; and there aren't rich benefits to be cut down and finally extinguished. And in Greece, unless you are really down and out, there's always one last resort in the support system of family and close friends that simply doesn't exist in developed societies, the US first and foremost on the list.

At the end of the day, if you are to relocate for economic reasons at an age not in your 20s, and with a family, the receiving situation must be completely locked down beforehand: good job, guaranteed income, benefits, all should be in black and white and waiting for you to go begin collecting them. The only people I know who are fixing their sights on the US right now are kids of my friends just starting college (in the US) and some highly mobile professionals in the medical industry whose jobs would be endangered only when medicine as a whole folds. The rest of us -- including myself -- are hankering down, keeping our fingers crossed, and hoping for better days... which Mr. Karamanlis won't be delivering.

Hmm this seems to be a favourite post-holiday topic for those of us who hail from abroad. I work with mostly ex-pats and the discussion for the last few days has centred on it, so I'd like to set the record straight on one thing: I moved here from Canada only two years ago, and the economy and working conditions are definitely better there. I don't know what's going on in the states, but everyone I know in Canada is gainfully employed and making at least four times as much as I am - including those working at "joe jobs" that require no qualifications, special skills, or creativity, which mine does. and yes it makes me rather ill to think about this, but I try not to dwell on it because, despite all the negatives, I have no intention of returning to Canada. Don't get me wrong, I do think it is a great country (besides the weather), and, contrary to what seems to be the general impression, I never found safety a problem (and I come from Montreal, and for many years lived around the corner from one of the worst neighbourhoods there). BUT quite simply my temperament is far better suited to Greece. I could go on and on about what I don't like about Canada and do like about Greece (and perhaps I will on my blog) but your feeling about how well you fit with a place is entirely subjective and has little to do with logical things like the state of the economy. However, it is something to keep in mind when considering moving back there. Seawitch, you said your first six months here were hard (and so were mine) but imagine re-adjusting to a country where people get nervous if you sit too close to them on the bus, and call a sickeningly fake "have a nice day" whenever you leave their establishment. Might be harder than you think. Of course, you're considering returning for your kid's future, so I suppose you're willing to make sacrifices, but is it really necessary? If this helps you out at all: my half-brother graduated a year ago from a very small island village's high school that was so bad I can't even begin to describe it. As far as I can tell, he barely got an education and was, understandably, very negative about schooling in general. Needless to say, his future did not look bright. On the other hand, he enjoys reading on his own time and knows more about philosphy than most universtiy graduates. SO we somehow got it through to his surly teenaged brain that he needed to do some further education SOMEWHERE, and he has just returned from his first semested doing a sound making/engineering computer thingy course in England. And loved it. And was not at a disadvantage to any of the other students as a result of his (non) education. And this seems to be the case for a lot of islanders I know. Once they get to England or wherever and realise it's not anything like what they've come from, they get right into it and turn themselves around. And England at least (not sure about Canada but anyway) makes many allowances and has scholarship programs for kids from Greece, knowing (I guess) what it's like here. And if your kid does something along those lines, she/he (?) can then CHOOSE for her/himself whether to stay abroad or work in Greece. All this to say that just because the school system and economy here may leave something to be desired, that does not mean that your entire kid's life will be ruined as a result of it. Nor would an upbringing in Canada at the best schools ensure success. As loxias rightly pointed out, how does your kid feel about it? Because, if you grow up happy and confident and your parents teach you important life skills etc, you should be able to do OK for yourself, or at least be happy with what you have, whatever situation you find yourself in. But if you don't have that - if let's say moving to Canada resulted in your kid having a hard time making friends, adjusting, and losing confidence - that could have far more negative consequences.

Based on what I'm reading in regards to the American economy, it sounds like the commenters are blue staters. Yes, if you live in a city with rent control, a high cost of living, or where businesses were forced into near bankruptcy by unions, you are probably hurting economically.

However, if you want to live somewhere where $50,000 a year buys you a nice home and keeps you living comfortably, move to a red state (I'm in Ohio myself). The taxes are low, the cost of living is lower, and new jobs of all sorts continue to open up. Hyundai and Toyota build new plants in the midwest, without unions. You can have a good job with decent benefits and not worry about going on strike or relying on seniority to move ahead.
For a small business owner like yourself, business taxes tend to be lower.

The dot.com boom was a bubble. Writing HTML and creating some animated GIFs and charging $100 an hour as a "web designer" is not feasible any more. Give up on those days coming back, learn new skills, and see that the US economy is still strong, flexible, and ready for anyone willing to earn their salary.

EC you are always so gloomy.
Scarfalonious, this is what is beautiful about the US. People reinvent themselves and life goes on. The economy bootstraps itself in the process and creates wealth by employing remorseless but fair competition.
Viewaskew, no offense about Ohio but it may turn Blue next time. Time to bail out?

Depends on how many dogs and corpses the Democrats manage to get to vote for them. I know they are really trying to get our the rapist and murderer vote in Florida.

If you're planning to fold, you'd better get a move on it. Your son (if I'm not mistaken you mentioned one child) is still in grade school. The younger he gets adjusted to a different school environment, friends, languages the better for him. Puberty and high school is not a good combo for major transitions.
I got a lot of "why did you ever come here to Greece" and "boy, are you lucky you left the States" over the years from both sides (Greeks and Americans). The bottom line is that the "grass is NOT always greener on the other side". There are problems everywhere. The comments posted above paint a better picture than I could. When all is said and done, counting the pros and cons, the final question is: "Where am I happiest?"
I'm happy here because my family is here. If we ALL moved then I'd be happy there. Home is where the heart is.

I came across this article in this week's 'The New Yorker' (US publication). It might be relevant to our discussion. Talks about an immigrant's struggle to decide whether to stay in the US or return to his homeland.

Link: http://www.newyorker.com/fact

This is what caught my attention:

'The word he uses when discussing why he left Peru is desorden—chaos—the terrible combination of the noise and dirt and street crime of Lima, the volatility of the economy, and the corruption of the government. Lima sapped his faith in any institution outside of his family, he told me, and made life feel unpredictable.'

I'm not saying we should compare Lima to Greece. In the end it's what's important to us, what we are willing sacrifice and what we want out of our life (or our family's).

To leave , stay, or move somewhere else it's a personal matter. One thing is certain about life; an enterprise or a project seldom turns out as envisioned.
The migrants motivation should be purely on economical considerations, otherwise if one is not going to better oneself , rather stay at home where family and countrymen are. Everything in life has a price. Nothing is free. I know of many who have emigrated, financially they have achieved much, but bitterly resent the lonliness and have longing to return , which in the majority of cases it never materializes.

We also fear for our childrens' future and it's one of the main reasons we'd like to move,besides the unemployment rate and the crappy economy, but as someone has already pointed out, the only way we could do that would be to get all our ducks in a row beforehand, and with both of us being over 40 and my husband having no Canadian experience and a degree that requires licensing, the whole procedure would mean starting over and we don't know that we could do that.

This is something I've actually been thinking a lot about lately. Not that we really have a choice in living in the U.S. with my husband endowed to the army here - but I've thought about how I can't get a PhD here, how I won't ever likely have a career here, and is this really the life I want? But I don't want to have a transatlantic relationship with my husband either - and making my life here seems to be a sacrifice I was willing to make to be with him.

I suppose opportunities can be found anywhere, or nowhere. I don't think life is so bad here, but it could get a lot worse. Or better.

To everyone: Thanks so much for taking the time to post such insightful comments on this particular blog. Sorry I couldn't respond to them earlier but the national phone company (OTE) left me high and dry for 4 days without ADSL.

loxias...a) I could very well be overly cautious when it comes to my son's future. However, I can't ignore the fact that the Greek education system is severely lacking
when compared to other EU countries as well as Canada's. If I can give him better opportunities, it is my duty to do so.

As for my son's take on all this...he said he would miss his friends here but would rather go to a school where they have chemistry and biology laboratories so he can do experiments rather than read about them.

ethno...If I wasn't making this decision out of despair, I doubt I'd be making it all. I mean, if things are going pretty good here, then I wouldn't even think about moving. Even if I thought things could improve here, I wouldn't think about moving. The reality of it is that after 8 years here, I really don't see any improvement on any level here. Bribery, bureaucracy and substandard services and education are still the norm. It's very difficult to run a business when everyone from the health fund worker to the tax official demands a bribe from you to process paperwork or to prevent fines for imaginary infractions.

Canada is not Utopia but at least I know that the laws are not subject to the whims of individual civil servants.

Despite all that, you are very right when you say that I need to research what I'll be doing and where I'll be going because moving is not the 'get rich quick scheme' many think it is. Your empathic post was very much appreciated.

john...Good to see you back here again. Greece is a great country for vacation and I highly recommend it. Great food, scenery and beaches. But as you said, visiting a place and living in it are two totally different things. If you're not looking for work or don't need to navigate the government's bureacracy labyrinth, you'd do just fine here. I was thrilled with Greece right up until the day I had to file for my residence permit. Spending day after day waiting in lineups, being shuffled off to some other department to wait in another lineup for yet another paper only to find out that you never even needed that paper or that you need 12 more papers from 6 more offices to get that one is enough to make you head straight for the Departures lineup at the Olympic terminal. LOL

grigoris...You've made many valid points. I wouldn't move from "the frying pan into the fire" by going to a country which is economically worse off than Greece though. I'm considering back to the country where I grew up and where my family is.

The economy isn't the only factor I have considered to make the move. I am so tired of having daily arguments over the most trivial of things (parking spaces, 3 hour waits at the bank, etc.) to more serious matters such as 1000€ monthly phone bills from calls not made by us and equipment charged to us which we never ordered or the bribes I mentioned earlier accomplished.

My life does seem like a casino right now and a bad bet is something I can't afford to do.

scarf...I'm not thiking of moving to the US so some of your concerns don't really affect me such as the health system or manufacturing jobs being moved abroad since I've never worked in manufacturing and don't intend to. I also know that there is no such thing as a "job for life" since I have worked in advertising and know full well that my job existed only as long as the advertising contracts existed.

On another note...I didn't know the museum workers weren't getting paid as well. I heard that many municipality workers weren't getting paid either. The things they don't print in the news, huh?

zardoz...My home is where my husband and son are and if they want to remain in Greece, then my home will be here too.

ted...I'd definitely consider 'hunkering down' too if I did have the support of my family but they're all in Canada.

kassandra...I'd rather a fake "have a nice day" than a real "it's not my fault so shut up" that I hear every time my paperwork gets screwed up or lost here. (IKA, Eurobank (3 times!), the tax office). And I am that person who still gets nervous if strangers come too close to me anyway. LOL

As for my son's education, you're right when you say that even with the worst education and opportunities, kids can still make out OK in life like your brother seems to be doing. I'm not one to leave things to chance though...if I can give him open more doors for future success for him through better education, then I'm going to do it. I know better education won't guarantee success but it certainly increases the chances.

I like moving. I'd move just about anywhere out of curiosity if I could but I can no longer do that since I do have a child and husband to think about which is the main reason that I've lived in one place this long for the first time in my adult life. This is also the first time I've ever considered moving a serious decision for all the reasons that you and others have mentioned on this blog.

view...I can't really speak about the US economy with any degree of confidence since it's been 15 years since i lived there. Back then, I had no problem finding a job with decent pay. My biggest dilemma was choosing which job to take. It was also true then that if you were willing to work and excel at it, then your efforts were recognized by both customer and bosses alike. The US definitely has a more competitive work environment but at least in my experience, that's been to my advantage. It's not a place where you wait for someone to recognize hidden or imaginary abilities. You have to show them.

flubber...I know I have no more than 6 months to make my decision final exactly for the reason you stated...my son's age. The minute I enroll him in gymnasio (junior high), it will be 10 times more difficult to make a move. The grass may not be greener on the other side...but at least they HAVE grass. LOL

Anyway, truth be known, the subject of actually moving (as opposed to imaginary moving which is what I do all the time in my head LOL)wouldn't have even come up if it weren't for husband. Even though education is a big thing for me, I'd find some solution here...whether it's private schooling or more frontistria lessons but my husband feels that our money and his time would be better spent in Canada where he wouldn't have to pay people just to deal with civil service bureacracy and tax & business laws which seem to change every second day.

john...thanks for the link...that paragraph basically sums up how I feel about Greece...chaotic and unpredictable.

anon...I guess I'm just lucky enough to have the option to be able to move if necessary. As an immigrant here, I always feel like I've got 'one foot in, one foot out'.

christina...you just mentioned another reason why I have this sense of urgency to make a decision on staying or going. Both my husband and I are under 40 years old. The longer we wait, the harder it will become for us to adjust in another place. I hadn't even thought of that one! How long would it take for your husband to get re-licensed? Does it involve years or months and a lot of money? It would be really hard on you guys if you were the only one working full time...that would put a big strain on your marriage since your husband has always worked and probably wouldn't know what to do with himself otherwise.

mel...Is there any way you can get your PhD through one of the universities in Thessaloniki? To lose both the opportunities of job and career by living here is a huge sacrifice you've made. Is Thanos here only to fulfill his military obligation or is Greece your permanent and future home now? I don't know if I could have made it this long here without a job. I'm not a "νοικοκυρά" by any stretch of the imagination. I tried that for the first six months here and nearly had a nervous breakdown.

No, I suppose Greece is permanent, but eventually living in the U.S. (or elsewhere) isn't entirely out of the question. But will I be too old to have a career by then?

I don't mind being a housewife, albeit desperate at times. But I miss working at something that fulfills me. But who knows, maybe I never would have found that in America, and maybe someday I will find that here.

I guess I've just been a bit down about being so far away from my "roots" lately, and your post kinda kick-started it again.

Seawitch - well, my husband is a mechanical engineer and would have to get a P.Eng. license in order to work in his field. I think that would involve getting his credentials recognized, taking numerous technical English courses and then an equivalency exam. No idea how long it would take or what it would cost. And then he'd have to look for a job with no Canadian experience...

I have a background teaching ESL but I don't know if I could pull us all through. Vancouver is horrendously expensive these days and it would also be total role reversal for us.

Did Greece participate in the last PISA study? Canada places consistently in the top 5 alongside Finland, Japan etc and good ol' Germany was way down at #21. Our 12 yr old started "Gymnasium" last year and the little one will be starting in 5th grade in August because of education system reforms. We're not at all happy with the schools here.

Very astute and interesting post seawitch (as always) and the comments got me thinking all over again. For me the question is not "if" anymore but where and when. Whatever you decide, you and your family will be fine. You have made a life here (which is no small achievement) and you will do it again if you move. best of everything to you.

I would move back to the U.S. and/or Canada in a heartbeat. In both these countries, hard work is rewarded, there is minimal to zero corruption, and there are many more opportunities for your child and yourself and your husband both professionally and personally. Especially, if you already have family there...I think it is a no brainer. As nice is Greece is, it is a tough place to live unless you are "connected" or independently wealthy. You could probably make enough money in Canada or the U.S. to spend your golden retirement years in Greece anyway. Canada in particular is doing great. With oil at $70 a barrel it is the new Saudi Arabia! I would move to Canada/US and visit Greece like so many Greek Americans and Greek Canadians do. The reason so many of us have not moved back is because we like our lives here and our vacations in Greece. We enjoy the best of both worlds! --Happy Greek in the U.S.!!

Christina...I think if you checked out the Association of P. Eng. for Canada, they'd be ready to help you. Maybe it won't be as bad as you think. As far as your husband learning english, that may take a bit more time because he'd have to know more than just conversational english to do his job. But I think it's worth at least looking into it.

Greece placed even lower on the PISA study...second to last in the EU I think. Maybe even the last place.

diva...Oooo...thanks for the compliment. I wonder if I can use these comments on my CV? LOL Anyway, I'm basically in the same boat as you now. It's no longer a matter of 'if' but when. Thanks for your good wishes. I wish you only the best in whatever you decide to do as well.

mel...I totally understand your predicament mel. I was/am like that myself. I think even if you live in your native country, you'd still be wishing for a fulfilling job. I know I did when I was working, completely un-housewifed, and made a decent salary. I always thought there was something better. At least there I felt I could get it.

But one thing I do know for sure...jobs are more plentiful than finding a good man. And that's why I came over here in the first place.

anonymous...I meet many greek expats here on vacation who say the same thing when I ask them if they're moving back. I do find that the younger generation do and have moved back to Greece but many of them have told me it's nothing like what their parents told them it would be like. They thought they'd be welcomed with open arms and treated with 'special' status over the rest of us immigrants but after a year or two here, they realize that it's a great place to visit but not to make a living.

can't believe i missed this great discussion. i was born and raised in Australia and i've spent quite a bit of time in Greece(i'm from Greek background) and i really didn't like it much, at least not in Athens. this is what i did NOT like:

1.i found the city to be overly crowded, lacking open spaces. this problem seems to be geting worse, esp with the increase in the amount of useless shopping malls built around the city.

2.lack of parking space, problems with banks/post office, basic problems with public services(as mentioned before)

3.lack of employment opportunities, shitty pay, esp compared to where i live.

4. the general 'laid-back' attitude towards work and more serious matters. guess i'm too highly strung to appreciate that. i enjoy having coffees, drinks etc, sitting around talking crap, but that's all i seemed to be doing outside of working hours to pass the time.

5.the general 'unpleasantness' of the city; the look, the smell, the pollution etc. it isn't the prettiest city in the world(the islands are gorgeous though)

6.living in small cramped apartments.(again, space issue)

i put up with all these things for one reason: i fell in love. But over time, i just couldn't handle being there any longer. i'm still trying to convince her to move here with me, but the family commitment thing has proven to be an obstacle, understandly so.

as for the skeptics here about the improvement of the Greek economy, that is obvious. the country is reporting substancial growth each year but what's the basis of this growth? EU funding, low wages etc all contribute to this, and the massive debt certainly isn't going to lead to an improved position of the working man/woman anytime soon. imagine if the wages increased sharply in the not too distant future? inflation risks aside, the companies wouldn't be anywhere near as profitable, which i guess, is the fundamental weakness of the Greek economy. low wages to sustain growth=weak economy. end of story.

But the economy is going through changes now apparently, cutting out red tape, easing private/domestic investment, which should help improve matters. FDI could still be a problem though, as i don't think the corrupt economy is the only reason foreigners are staying away. small size+population=limited growth potential. even Russia has more FDI than Greece, and their economy is as corrupt as they come. there is a reason China attacts such a huge amount of foreign investment--ample land/labour resources. Greece doesn't have this, although their investments in the balkans will eventually pay off. whether americas exploit Greece's expertise for their own gain in the not-to-distant future remains to be seen. anyway, for now, most FDI is directed towards tourism, and the tourist industry is already mature as it is.

But these aforementioned changes could take years to make a noticeable difference. maybe in 10-15 years the economy will be ok, but that doesn't help this up and coming generation, or my 'girlfriend', who is studying in Athens to be a psychologist, a narrow field with limited employment opportunities in almost any country, let alone Greece.

anyway, a lot of great points were made here, and this rant probably comes off less intelligent or coherent as it should because i'm tired from post-grad work :-)

^^also, what's this rubbish about the the universities becoming privatized in order to make them competitive? how, with low wages, are parents going to be able to send their kids to school? no wonder so many of you are thinking about moving. i think it would be a good move, personally. But i can't make that decision for anybody else.

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