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Tips on Residing in Greece

Page history last edited by Philip 12 years, 9 months ago

So you want to live in Thessaloniki? We congratulate you on your excellent taste. But living in Thessaloniki means living in Greece, and that means a big bureaucratic mess. There is a little information about this below; hopefully we will in time be able to build it up into something more helpful. At present, though, this section mostly contains practical tips for setting up one's home and day-to-day life here.  


Finding an apartment


Thessaloniki is a student town, and so plenty of places turn over after exam periods (during the summer, and again around October). Leases can often be signed for as little as a year, and rent is far less than in any major American city (say, from 280–350 euro). Moreover, many landlords will prefer Americans as tenants, supposing that we will be reliable (coming from a country with where the rule of law generally obtains) and that we won't put too much wear-and-tear on apartments. (Student parties aside, it's not unheard of for immigrants from impoverished countries to cram several other families into their own small apartment.) Look nice, and if you are in Greece to study theology, or have studied theology in America, mention this: you will probably seem a more peaceful and responsible prospective tenant because of it.


Utilities are almost never included in one's rent, and tenants are typically responsible for a building fee of perhaps fifteen to thirty euro a month. It is also rare for furniture to be included, and, when it is, it can be so inappropriate to one's needs as to be a burden. (Furniture will also usually raise the rent.) See below for more on this.


In the main, there are three ways to find a place in Thessaloniki:


  • The best way is to inherit. Check before you come to see if there is an American on his or her way out. Sometimes you can simply take over the lease rather than signing a new one (often entailing a rent increase). If the current occupant has kept on good terms with the landlord, his word that you are a responsible person and would make a good tenant will likely mean a lot.


  • Another way is to go to a real-estate office and have an agent show you around. An increasing percentage of offices employ English-speakers. They are scattered around town: often a large portion of their listings are in their vicinity, but each may have listings for anywhere in the city. The agent is actually more of a matchmaker: landlords list properties with him, and he tries to match your needs. He may be empowered to negotiate (and it never hurts to try). For his services, he receives as a fee a percentage of the first month's rent from you and the landlord both. Keep in mind that, while his role might seem a neutral one, he has good reason to favor landlords while doing business: you will leave in a few years, but the property will still be there, needing to be listed with someone.


  • Finally, you can answer ads in newspapers. For this you (or a friend) will need to know some Greek, not only to read the ads but also to speak to landlords, who you should not expect to understand English (particularly if they are elderly). The advantage to answering newspaper ads placed by private people is that you avoid the real-estate-office fee (of course, offices also place ads, but you will often be able to distinguish these).


If you're single, ask around before coming—perhaps you'll find a roommate. This can cut costs dramatically.


Outfitting your home


These tips are not all specific to Greece, but since most people coming here have not lived abroad for long periods, hopefully the general comments will also be of use to some.


  • There will be nothing in your apartment. Unless you are in a special situation, expect any apartment you rent to be entirely empty, without heating units, a refrigerator, a stove, or a washing machine. Often, there will not be lighting fixtures or even bare bulbs. A Greek-reading friend might be able to help you find some of these items used: outgoing students often post flyers listing items they are trying to get rid of. 


  • Inherit. Find out if anyone is leaving when you are arriving, because you might be able to inherit things from them. However, you should only do this if you can guarantee that you will follow through and take possession of the items in a timely fashion. 


  • Buy quality high-use things upfront. If you plan to be here for a few years and can afford to, go get, for example, a nice desk-chair (Ikea, Sata, or even CarreFour) and mattress (Ikea). You'll use these for hours every day, and the longer you wait the harder it'll be to justify it to yourself, since you'll be that much closer to leaving.
  • Fix your horrible water-pressure. If you live in the sort of apartment students often do, you might find yourself with water that exits your shower-head at approximately the speed of drool. A nicer Greek shower-head probably won't help this very much, because products here have built-in flow-constrictors that typically cannot be removed. Most people with normal plumbing don't mind this conservation measure, but, if you are having problems, you should consider getting a shower-head from America. (Fittings are the same in both countries.) Products from the Land of the Free often have removable flow-constrictors; and some are specially designed to ameliorate pressure problems. One distributor is called High Pressure Shower Heads. (Keep in mind that your shower will almost certainly be configured for a hand-held shower-head only.)


  • You may want to get a Brita or other water-filter, or buy bottled water. Water here often has sediment in it, as you'll notice if you do use a filter and look at what's left behind. It's not that it'll make you ill, but it doesn't taste so great. (Though, actually, one American here met an eighteen-year-old with kidney-stones, which her doctor told her came from drinking Greek tap-water all her life.)


Fixing Stuff


  • Speaking of sediment in the water: this can even include little stones and so on. Also, after there has been an outage, the first time you turn on any faucet, expect a blast of water that's actually brown. Every once in a while you should clear out the simple metal-screen filters on your faucets and shower-head, if there are any, and the one in the tubing connected to your washing-machine. If water-pressure problems crop up, this may be the problem: it's remarkable how much can get trapped over time. (Depending on the configuration of your plumbing, a post-water-outage sediment-blast can occur, not just the first time you open each tap afterward, but also the first time you run your washer. To find out, you may want to disconnect the hose from the back of it and try running the water into a bucket for a minute or so.)


  • Greeks repair things that Americans never would: labor costs here are cheap enough to make this economical. So, if a computer speaker dies because the wire's broken, for example, drop by an electronics repair place: it's probably considerably cheaper than buying a new set.


  • Most screws in Europe are Pozidrive screws. These look similar to Phillips-head screws, but they aren't the same: look for diagonal lines etched on them in-between the grooves of the "+"-shaped recess. Though it's possible to use Phillips-head screwdriver on Pozidrive screws, you shouldn't: the screwdriver will tend to slip out of the screw, damaging both of them. (If you try to do the opposite — to use a Pozidrive screwdriver bit on a Phillips-head screw — it's to just not work.) Phillips-head bits are usually marked "PH" or just "P," while Pozidrive bits are marked "PZ" and are typically blunter at the tip then are Phillips-head bits.


Tools for Theology studies


It would be lovely if one had the same resources here as at Western institutions. However, journal and database access — though& inclusive of ATLA, PG, TLG, and much else — is not always reliable. Further, while Aristotle’s libraries have a useful collection of Greek-language theological works, English-language holdings are lacking. This can be inconvenient when looking for Orthodox materials, and it presents an insuperable problem when doing, for example, comparative theology.


To this end, before leaving home, it makes sense to acquire as many public library cards as possible: these give you access to countless electronic resources, including academic journals and e-books. There are reciprocal agreements among jurisdictions, so you can probably get access to the most generous offerings in your state or even region. (It goes without saying that you should gain access to any private resources you’re entitled to!) You also won’t want to neglect Google Books or (when certain volumes or page-ranges are lacking) Amazon’s handy “Look Inside” search feature. (Tip: Use screen-captures to preserve your finds.) If desperate, you can pay for access to Questia ($20/month), which includes the entire Classics of Western Theologysome Orthodox offerings. There’s a one-month free trial, for your one-off needs.


When the University’s electronic resources are available, you can access them off-campus once you have signed up for a University user account. You can do this at the Central Library Building.

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