David and his wife Maria.
When traveling around the world sometimes you come across a place that makes you stop and think “Hey, I could live here!”.
For that reason we always seek out expats abroad to get their stories and figure out what made them leave their homes, and to see how they are enjoying life in a new country. We thought it would be interesting to share some of these stories with you.
Our friend David moved to Athens Greece from the United States. We think his decision worked out rather well. David will be writing a couple of articles for Just A Pack discussing life as an American Expat in Greece. The article below details certain pertinent issues he had to take into account before making his life altering move.
You’re moving where?
So you have been traveling around and you have found a place you would really like to live. Problem being, the place is in a different country. People move to other countries for other reasons, be it financial, a career move or for other personal reasons. I moved for the latter of those reasons and I moved to Greece. Yes, that Greece.
My wife is Greek and I’m American and it became clear that it would be simpler for me to move there than having her join me in the States. We happened to meet on-line completely by accident and after several years of a long-distance relationship we decided to marry.
At the time there really wasn’t much holding me in the States as I had recently quit a career and visiting my handful of relatives required a trip by plane anyway. On the other hand my wife had secure employment and quite a few handfuls of family that she was, and is, very close to. In the end, I just didn’t have the ties to the US that she did to Greece.
There are many things to consider before you make your decision, of course. In my mind, one of the most important things would be the ease or difficulty there is moving to that country with respect to immigration. Depending on the country and your heritage it might be simple to secure a long-term, employment or residency permit. I lucked out as the spouse of a Greek citizen.
I was in Greece for nearly three months, getting settled in and checking out all the awesome things to do in Athens, before I realized I had only a week or two left in which to apply for a residency permit. Personally, I would recommend a great deal more forethought in that respect.
Because I came from the US I did not have to have a medical checkup but collecting the necessary paperwork was very hard and I did have to go through an interview process at which my wife did, essentially, all the speaking. The interview itself was a quick and painless process, mainly due to the fact I was American. Had I been any other nationality there would have been more questions and we would have to work harder to prove that our marriage was for legitimate reasons, in much the same way the US scrutinizes marriages to foreigners.
Obviously language is another serious thing to consider. If the language of your destination country differs from your own, you’re going to have to work on that prior to your arrival or immediately thereafter. I would imagine that were someone moving to a metropolitan area that language lessons in that native language could be had. That was thankfully the case with me because at the time I deplaned to reside here in Greece the entirety of my Greek was a couple dozen words, the majority of which were various items of food.
Once you’ve made the decision, liquidating your unnecessary items and moving the rest is the next major step. I chose not to move much furniture here to help reduce the cost but in retrospect there are a few things I wish I had moved. The total cost was approximately $5000 in 2005. I did move one container that was about 1.3 meters square and probably just over 2 meters tall. It was fully packed and the charge is based not only on volume but also weight. That was before e-readers were popular and now I suppose I could have forgone a few extra boxes of books that, at the time, I felt I absolutely had to have. I solicited bids from a number of carriers and the quotes were wildly disparate. Be sure if they don’t inquire that you tell them you are footing the bill yourself because most of them asked if the company I worked for would be paying. I checked-in at the airport with two suitcases and the remainder of my things arrived by boat approximately six weeks later. The company I had contracted in the States contacted a Greek moving company to handle customs and transport within Greece.
Another thing that may not occur to someone moving to another country but might play a role in its selection, is the history of, and the actions of that country both past and present. It was recently brought to my attention that an immigrant to a new country accepts a certain level of culpability for that country’s past or present actions. If a country has a less than savory history or a disregard for, say, human rights it might influence one’s decision to move there in the first place. I had never consciously thought of this fact but I realized at some point that, in my case, I moved to a country rich in history and tradition and subsequently got saddled with the debt crisis, the impending doom of the EU and the collapse of the global economy.
While this is hardly a comprehensive list of considerations as it pertains to immigrating or becoming an ex-pat, I hope it serves as a good place to start. If it is something you are thinking about, do your homework and remember that no matter how much you prepare, there will be some inevitable culture shock once you’re there.
By David LaBelle
A former golf course super-intendent turned English teacher, David met his wife-to-be by accident on-line. This resulted in his moving from Detroit, Michigan to Athens, Greece where he now lives with their twin boys and three cats.
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