By Rebecca Hall
There’s been much speculation as to whether Greece is a safe country to visit. Negative press images do not help. In fact, I wrote a whole piece about the ignorance of the international press on my website. Insurance companies are also jumping onto the bandwagon, as UK based provider WorldFirst highlight with their article about where you stand with your insurance in case of being caught up in a riot.
Reports of Greeks queuing up for free food, medical shortages and basic life on a precipice of despair paints the image of a developing nation, or at least one on the verge of collapse: rioting locals, tear gas happy policemen and instability. And yet, the irony (a Greek word) is that life carries on pretty much as normal.
As a British expat in her late 30’s, I first came to Greece to teach English in 2008. I didn’t know what to expect really: sunshine and warmth certainly – and if I’m honest, that was my main motivation. I intended to spend just one year here, gain experience and move further afield. And yet, 4 years later I still find myself here. No, I am not married nor have a Greek boyfriend. The love of my life is, in fact, Elada – or Greece. Her history, culture and people have all tugged and kept a hold of my heartstrings. In Greece itself I have “found my Ithaca.” Byron would be proud of me.
Never have I come across such a hospitable race of people: even in Central Athens people greet me warmly – issuing a “Kalimera!” with a heartfelt love of life, albeit tinged with a hint of weariness these days. I feel safer in Athens than I do in, say, a local UK provincial town! You don’t get the drunks, for a start. I don’t feel threatened. There is still respect shown by the young towards the elderly. In fact, on the metro the other day a group of rather loud, bubble gum snapping teenage girls got on and immediately put their feet up on the seat opposite. An old lady sitting next to them gently tapped them on the knee and asked them to put their feet down, which they did, immediately with a “Signomi Kirya” (“Sorry Lady” – a term of respect). Can you see that happening in your capital city in the West? I thought not.
Aside from the sense of community and warmth of the people there are, of course, the islands. They are beyond explanation – but I have tried through my blog and with the aid of pictures to convey this beauty and ‘sell’ them.
So, should you still visit Greece? It’s like seeing the London Riots reported on the news last August and asking if you should still visit London. There is an element of risk – wherever you go on holiday in the world. Christ, if you visit Australia you could receive a bite from a spider that’ll kill you! Does that stop you considering Australia as a holiday destination?
Let me assure you…riots are NOT an everyday occurrence, we are NOT starving and people will welcome you with open arms – probably literally if you let them into your heart and soul.
I include here links to the islands I’ve visited and hope I can convince you that Greece is far from the barbaric country that it has had the misfortune to be portrayed as.
I look forward to seeing you in my adopted country!
About Rebecca: Bex is an EFL teacher, the wrong side of 35 who has travelled and taught in different countries around the world. Greece, however, is the one country that has captured her heart and soul. Her adventures and love of this country are documented through her popular blog Leaving Cairo, the UK and back to Greece.