Seven things Greek people miss about home

By Danai Dana

Danai Dana moved to the UK from Thessaloniki in 2007. From blue skies to staying up until sunrise, here she speaks to some fellow expats about the things they miss the most from back home.

Sheltered bays and hidden stretches of sand dominate the coastline of Halkidiki. Photography by Danai Dana.

Sheltered bays and hidden stretches of sand dominate the coastline of Halkidiki. Photography by Danai Dana.

The people

“Everyone is in a constant rush to do things,” says Harris, a masters student from Athens, who has been living in Brighton for the past four years. “I rarely see anyone enjoying a walk, you know just going for a walk. All I see is people running around. In Greece things are a little different, you’d see people relaxing and unwinding in parks, beaches, cafes.”

When you leave the place you’ve lived your whole life, you miss your family, your friends, your community, your surroundings.

“I miss living in a smaller city,” says Vassilis, an undergraduate student who moved to London from Thessaloniki last year. “You go out for a walk and see familiar faces and start talking on the street. In London you’re surrounded by strangers everywhere.”

“When you leave the place you’ve lived your whole life, you miss your family, your friends, your community, your surroundings,” says Evi, who lived in London for ten years, she has since moved back home. “It’s where you are most comfortable.” She adds: “Greeks are usually more genuine, hospitable, friendly and easy-going. It’s easier to make friends and connections. Also, people are usually more caring and eager to help out in anything.”

And of course, everyone mentions family. Vassilis says: “It’s difficult not being around the people you’ve spent your entire life with.”

“I usually cry every time I leave,” says Stella, who’s lived in London for the past five years.

The sun

“The sun isn’t real here,” adds Natalia, a masters student living in London. “You don’t get that burning, warm feeling you get in Greece. And we have the most beautiful sunsets.”

The sea and the environment

“Living by the seaside, you’re able to look at the horizon while walking,” says Vassilis, “and not being surrounded by tall buildings, it’s very relaxing and cleansing.”

“Greece has the most beautiful scenery,” says Natalia. “The waters are clear blue, and because we’re not on an ocean or open sea, the waters are warm. Also, beaches sometimes have their own tavernas and after swimming you can go sit, eat and drink. It’s warm and lovely for families.”

It’s so unique to walk around Greek cities and see sporadic ancient ruins surrounded by modern buildings. The country is a museum.

Halkidiki is home to Aristotle’s birthplace of Stagira, an ancient town with views over the Aegean sea. Photography by Danai Dana.

Halkidiki is home to Aristotle’s birthplace of Stagira, an ancient town with views over the Aegean sea. Photography by Danai Dana.

The food

“I miss the food,” says Harris, “not the recipes in particular, but the locally sourced fresh ingredients. It’s subjective, but the quality of raw materials is better back home.”

On that note, every time she comes back from Greece, my flatmate, Natalia, brings home nuts, dried fruit, herbs, and tons of meat. “It’s cheaper and it’s much better quality”, she always says. I’m not judging, I get to eat it, but after Christmas she brought home four kilograms of meat and one entire kilogram of almonds to stock up for the new year.

We have a big coffee culture in Greece so it’s easy to find good coffee.

The coffee

“Iced coffee is not very big in London,” says Stella. “In Greece it’s one of the most popular coffees. We have a big coffee culture in Greece so it’s easy to find good coffee, sit down with friends, drink the same coffee for five hours; the Greek way.”

The nightlife

“Unlike London, in Greece it’s very cheap to go out,” says Stella. “There are so many bars and clubs, no entrance fees, and a pint for two euros.”

“Bars and clubs in Greece are open until very late,” adds Natalia. “We’re talking like 3 or 4am for bars and dawn for clubs. London nights finish too early.”

Smoking indoors

“I mean yeah it can get smelly,” says Natalia, “but it’s so nice to not have to go out into the cold to have a cigarette.”

Things we don’t miss

“The bureaucracy in Greece is very complicated,” says Evi. “People can be rude, life isn’t as organised and smooth as it is in the UK, there is a lack of processes, regulations and customer services. It sometimes takes a long time to sort something out.”

“London has so many different things to do,” says Natalia. “You can do something different everyday, galleries, events, parks, food markets. In Greece there’s not as much going on, it can get boring after a while.”

“Even though I smoke, I actually don’t like smoking indoors,” says Stella. “You get home and your whole body smells smoky. Another thing that bothers me in Greece is that most restaurants, bars or clubs are cash only. Also, London has the best public transport and I miss that when I’m not here.”

Tourists and Greeks alike head to the island of Kefalonia every year for the sparkling seas and white sandy beaches. Photography by Danai Dana.

Tourists and Greeks alike head to the island of Kefalonia every year for the sparkling seas and white sandy beaches. Photography by Danai Dana.