Even Lockdown Is Better In Athens
- by XpatAthens
- Monday, 18 January 2021
Some call them digital nomads. To others, they are corona refugees or lockdown migrants. In this new era where remote-working is king, Athens has become one of the hottest tickets in Europe to ride out the epidemic and hit reset on your life.
Since we first reported on this emerging trend last summer, Greece’s comparatively manageable infection rates and decisive health protocols have kept this new breed of long-haul visitor coming. And with alluring new tax incentives for any foreigner willing to move their tax base to Greece for 7 years, we predict it’s just the beginning. As 2021 gets off the blocks, it seems that everyone knows someone who’s recently relocated to Athens in search of a more fulfilling existence and a fresh start.
We asked some second wave “corona nomads” to tell us in their own words how Athens has given them the personal and professional lift they were craving and why life is so much sweeter in the Greek capital. Even in lockdown.
The Acropolis Addict
Mégane Bambagha, 29, French: Freelance Digital Marketing Consultant
I chose Athens because I am a city girl who likes to be at the centre of the action and I have a weird obsession with the Acropolis! Its history and energy are so beautiful to me. Years ago, I had a Greek boyfriend who introduced me to the neighbourhood of Koukaki. I fell in love with not just the Acropolis but the whole area and its vibe.
I moved here at the end of August from Montpelier because I know Athens has wonderful weather all year long. Even when it’s winter, it’s not really winter. Back in Montpelier, where my family and friends are, I lived just five minutes from the sea. Things were more relaxed there, and if I’m honest, they were also a bit boring.
My life in France was a lot more predictable. You wake up, you work and maybe once a week, you have dinner with friends. Here, there is so much more to see and do; places to go out. Things like parenthood don’t slow Athenians down; they keep on living.
The fact is you have everything in Athens: amazing people, a vibrant city and nightlife, the monuments and the beach. Everybody speaks English (thank God, because my Greek isn't up to scratch yet). Greek men are real gentlemen and handsome too!
The daily rhythm of working in Athens was intense at first but I've come to love it. You never know how your day is going to end here! My working schedule has definitely changed. I used to get up at 5am. Now my day rarely starts before 10 and I go to bed much later. I don’t have breakfast anymore; I have coffee. I’ve forgotten the idea of making plans. In Athens, you better be ready to have an open house at the last minute; or meet friends for dinner instead of lunch. Greek people are very creative too when it comes to entertaining themselves: you don’t need a lot of money to do that here. Athens is definitely teaching me to balance my personal and work existence better, and to stop more often to enjoy life.
My main clients are small businesses in France but I have Greek clients too now. That was another reason I picked Athens. A lot of smaller Greek companies haven’t yet jumped on the train of digital marketing which is what I do. Greece is so beautiful but not always advertised as well as it could be. I see Athens as full of possibilities and huge potential. People here are eager to try new things and experiment: an attitude we completely lack back in France.
At the moment, I’m subletting the apartment of a friend in Koukaki (Makrygianni), one street down from the Acropolis Museum. I have a little balcony and if I put myself in just the right position, I can see the Parthenon. When I’m not working, you’ll usually find me climbing up on one of the big rocks on Philopappou Hill; admiring the Acropolis and taking a moment to reflect on life.
I’ve made some great new friends; a mix of locals and expatriates. When lockdown lifts, I can’t wait to go clubbing again. I love the beach clubs like Bolivar in Alimos. Last time I went, I took my laptop and spent the whole day lounging by the sea with friends, doing some work—and then clubbing into the night.
I try to live like an Athenian. The mindset and lifestyle is different from the French. There’s more of a community feel here. You build a little daily routine of visiting your local deli and bakery, the markets. Everything just flows. Even in lockdown, the life in Athens is so amazing that I don’t feel locked in. I feel reborn.
A Family Affair
Keita Yamada, 33, Japanese: Customer Support at global remote work facilitator Doist
One day last year, while I was working in Costa Rica, an overseas colleague and I started talking about which one place we could both move to where we could work together and enjoy a better lifestyle during the pandemic. She’s Italian but her boyfriend is Greek. They chose Athens and relocated in July. My ex-wife and daughter are also Greek, so we agreed that with Covid, it would be better for us all to be in Athens too, near her parents, to have the extra family support. We bought a one-way ticket and moved in September. I’m renting an air bnb in Piraeus within walking distance of Marina Zea, with a typically Athenian view of rooftops—and a bit of the sea too. I have no plans to leave Athens anytime soon. Working for a company that promotes more fulfilling ways to work and live, I’m very grateful for my job, because it really doesn’t matter where I am—or which hours I work.
In Costa Rica, we lived with similar restrictions to Greece, but when we first arrived in Athens, things felt freer and more normal. Our daughter was able to go to daycare again and I went to work each day at Impact Hub (a popular co-working space in Psirri). Compared to Costa Rica, Athens has a good bus and train system. That has really helped me to move around and see the city, and travel to work.
Before the lockdown, one of the things I enjoyed most about my new Athens life was walking around the different neighbourhoods after work and trying out restaurants and bars that I liked the look of. I must have been to the Strange Brew Taproom in Koukaki about 4 times, sampling all their local craft beers! Now, during lockdown, I am working from home, but I can still enjoy a walk around the sea and visit open places like Marina Zea and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre parklands.
Going to my local laiki down the street to get fresh fish, fruit and vegetables—and pick up a few new Greek words with locals while I’m there—has become my new routine; and I can still get easy access to take-away souvlaki! I also enjoy watching my daughter engage with her Greek identity and the language, and spend quality time with her grandparents.
When lockdown is over, I want to get back to walking around the city; checking out all the great street art, and exploring the ruins. I’m originally from Miyazaki, in south Japan, and also lived in Tokyo for 3 years where it’s far more crowded and busy than Athens. Tourism is much more advanced here than Tokyo. Everything is available in English: signs, menus in restaurants. That’s an important advantage for the Japanese.
Because so many people speak English, compared to other European cities, getting around Athens and getting to know the city is easy. I have found the locals friendly and happy to help, once you ask questions. Any place you go in Athens they take pride in what they do, and explain things in detail. When I went to get my haircut recently, for example, the barber really threw himself into it. I can see that passion in every aspect of Athenian life.
To read more, please visit This is Athens
Whether you've just arrived in town – or have been here for years – Athens always has new secrets to share! This is Athens is the official guide to this captivating city of ancient energies and booming urban culture. Compiled by a team of specialist local writers, This is Athens brings you an authentic and intimate portrait of a living Athens beyond the guidebooks – along with daily curated listings of all the best events and great weekend inspiration all-year round. From must-know neighbourhoods and emerging art hubs, to gourmet hotspots, cool shopping and the buzziest bars, This is Athens will help you to get the most out of living in Athens!
Thank you This is Athens for your contribution as an XpatAthens Partner.