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Life in Greece: my experience

 
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teacheringreece



Joined: 05 Feb 2005
Posts: 79

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 9:23 am    Post subject: Life in Greece: my experience Reply with quote

There are a lot of posts in this section and the job information journal section about teaching in Greece, and as far as I can see they mainly fall into two categories: i) people who came to Greece and had a bad time, and are using the forum to let off steam; ii) people who came for a year, and had a good time, but don't have a huge amount to share in terms of detailed experience. I'm now in my third year here and thought I'd write some of my experiences/thoughts.

I spent a year teaching in a small/medium Greek town, on the coast. Since then I've been living in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. I'll organise my thoughts into various sections.

Pay/Conditions

Don't come to Greece expecting to earn a large amount of money. If you go through one of the agencies, you'll probably end up getting 500-700 euro per month (with most jobs at the lower end of this range), with a free flat. This at first sounds low, and it is. But then again it isn't. If you come to Greece, expecting to be able to continue to live the kind of lifestyle you had in the UK, USA etc., then you'll struggle. For example, drinks at bars tend to be very expensive (here in Thessaloniki, 6 euro for a small bottle of beer is normal in the trendy places on and around the sea front), so if you're used to drinking four or five drinks every Friday and Saturday night, you're going to have trouble. So in that sense the wages are low. However, if you take the trouble to look around you, and see how the Greeks live their lives, you'll see that they're content to sit for four or five hours at a bar and just drink one drink. There's no pressure to buy another, you can sit as long as you like (in fact, if you sit long enough into the night, you might be lucky enough to find the bar staff bringing around free shots for every customer). You won't get drunk of course, but then again that's why you don't see Greeks staggering around being sick, shouting, urinating in public etc. like you do in some other countries.

The cinema here costs around 6/7 euro. If I go to a taverna, I expect to get stuffed for about 10 euro per head maximum, including wine. This is about what I would expect to pay for a burger, chips, and a drink at a fast food restaurant (and not be full), so I tend to either go to tavernas or eat at home. There's also gyros, souvlaki and so on, which I personally don't eat, which I think costs around 2 euro a serving. So, if you want to eat out for lunch every day, like an office worker in London might do, the wages are a little low. If you're willing to make yourself a salad/sandwich etc. at home, you won't have a problem. Fruit and vegetables are, despite recent increases, still cheap, and, most importantly, full of flavour.

A great many things in Greece have to be imported, making them expensive. Toiletries, for example, are often more experience than the UK, and obviously in relation to wages this is a big expense. However, a bit of shopping around either in foreign supermarkets like Dia/Lidl, or at small independent shops that sell toiletries, can save a lot of money. Clothes are also expensive, so you need to bring everything you think you’ll need, especially for the winter. CDs are also very expensive, but there are plenty of people selling pirate copies for 5 euro per CD.

Travelling around Greece is comparatively cheap, but mostly involves long-distance coach journeys, as the train network isn't at all extensive. I haven't ever had to pay more than 45 euro a night for a double hotel room, unless I wanted somewhere a bit more upmarket.

In winter, Greece is cold. Not particularly cold, but the problem is that the buildings aren't really made for it, and often don't have central heating, so you sometimes feel that you haven’t warmed up all day. Flats tend to have individual electric or paraffin heaters in some rooms, and these are expensive to run. Other flats have radiators in every room, but these switch on and off with the whole apartment block - i.e. you have no control over when the heating is on/off. Even this is expensive. The newer apartment blocks do have individual heating, normally electric.

Generally, living in Greece on a teacher's salary needs a bit of a readjustment, that's all. The average wage in Greece for a Greek is around 600 euro. A teacher gets around the same, with a free flat, and presumably no kids to feed etc. If the Greeks can survive, there's no reason why an EFL teacher can't. But I repeat: you can't expect to be able to do all the same things you did in the UK/USA etc. in Greece on a teacher's wage.

Work

Private language schools (frontistiria) are generally small and privately owned. There are now a growing number of chain schools, one of which I currently work for, but I don't think they are actively involved in recruiting from overseas. The "normal", privately owned frontistiria vary a great deal. An important point to bear in mind is that most owners opened their school when they finished school/university: they haven't worked their way up through different companies, haven't attended management training sessions, they don't have a degree in Business Economics etc. etc. In short, they've been at the top of their own business for a long time, and are used to doing things in their own way. Don't expect flexibility; don't expect a great deal of organisation; don't expect that they're going to want immediately adopt all the ideas you learnt in your four-week long TEFL course; don't expect, in fact, that they will be willing to do things your way at all. But why should you expect that? If you got an office job at home, would you expect to immediately transform office procedure upon arrival? Or would you keep your head down and get on with it? It's also worth remembering that the schools that can afford to bring in a foreign teacher tend to be the more successful ones - they have a system that works, whatever its limitations, and will want you to keep to it.

Students tend to be 10-18 years old. They are, in the main, studying English to get a qualification. Accept this, and understand this. Don't expect a huge amount of enthusiasm and don't expect them to be fascinated by you or your home country. You probably won't be the first native speaker they've encountered, so they won't see you as being particularly special. Most students do very long hours, both at school and private schools (where they go for extra lessons in many subjects, not just languages). While your day will probably start at 4/5pm, they'll have started state school at 9am, and will be tired and bored. However, they are generally co-operative (particularly if you do things in the ways they’re used to), respectful, witty, and warm.

In terms of teaching methods, depending on the school you may not be able to use all the "communicative" techniques that you learnt on your TEFL course. Instead, you'll have to be quite strict, going through course books, old exam papers, etc. I actually have worked in a school in Greece that used a more communicative approach, and concluded the following. Students who learn in a strict, "old-fashioned" environment, tend to make less mistakes in grammar and writing. Students who learn in a more communicative classroom are better at speaking and smile a bit more. There's no huge difference, so don't be disillusioned if your boss doesn't want you to spend half the lesson on pair work instead of grammar exercises. Having said that, I have been successful in introducing a few new approaches/techniques in places I've worked in. However, remember that you have to earn respect first, and do everything in consultation with your boss. If you turn up and start complaining and shouting your head off about how the teaching should be different, you won't get a very favourable response. If, though, you keep your head down for the first few months, showing that you are contentious, hard-working and responsible, then you may find your boss is willing to listen to a few new ideas.

Other opportunities

Most frontistiria don't offer much or even anything in terms of training etc. As I said, most that you are likely to deal with will have developed a technique which, however imperfect, is successful. However, in larger cities there are seminars, teaching training organisations, conferences etc., if that's what you want. I would personally say that what a teacher needs to learn most in Greece are classroom management skills, ways of dealing with different coursebooks, as much about the different exams as possible, and Greek.

Aside from teaching you might be able to get into publishing work, but will probably need to be in Athens or Thessaloniki in order to make contacts, as this is the way to get on in Greece.

Places

I wouldn't recommend big cities (i.e. Athens and Thessaloniki) in Greece as a first destination, unless you've spent some time in one before, or have a very good idea of what they're like. Generally the agencies send people to towns, which is fine for a year. Just do some research first. There are plenty of not particularly nice places in Greece, so look in guide books, search the internet etc. for as much information as possible. I would say that in a town with a population of less than 20,000 you might get bored and unhappy in winter, unless it's a particularly pretty town, by the sea etc. Buy a DVD player, get some books in, and prepare for a few winter months of staying in and spending time on your own.

The Greeks/Greek ways

Again, just don't expect things to be the same as home. Greeks are very warm, human people, if not especially outwardly friendly at first. The best way to make friends is to make lots of invitations, starting with the teachers from your school. Having everyone round for food is a good way to break the ice, and you're guaranteed to get invitations in return. You might then meet some other friends of theirs, and friends of theirs etc. etc. and things just snowball. Just don't expect everyone to go out of their way to be your friend - remember you're probably just the latest in a long line of native speakers who've turned up in their school. Alternatively, you can always seek out the native speakers in your area, but making at least a few Greek friends really pays off in so many ways, not just for your social life. Don't be afraid to ask people for help - Greeks go to extraordinary lengths to help even complete strangers if they have a problem. Just remember to do something in return - buy some cakes, make them some food etc.

Things in Greece tend to take a long time to get done. This is not always due to disorganisation (although it often is), but often to overly-complex organisation. All you can really do is put up with it. Complaining will not make you feel better. Remember that 12 million Greeks manage to get through it somehow.

In conclusion, Greece is an absolutely fantastic place to live, even on a teacher's wage, but you have to be prepared for boring winters, teaching methods that you might not approve of or be used to, and not having as much money as you're used to. If you can adjust to this, though, you can have a very varied and fulfilling life here.
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need4travel



Joined: 21 Jan 2005
Posts: 4
Location: Denver, CO, USA

PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 4:20 pm    Post subject: a post you SHOULD read if wanting to teach in Greece Reply with quote

I'd just like to say thank you. I recently returned from a year of TEFL in Greece, and though my experience fell somewhere in between your two categories of posts in this forum, it's a relief to see someone willing to take the time to lay down what Greece is like in a fairly objective manner. Good on you, and good luck to you~~
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Tiger Beer



Joined: 08 Feb 2003
Posts: 761
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

great post!

just the kinda stuff that i look for on threads.
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Insubordination



Joined: 07 Nov 2007
Posts: 387
Location: Sydney

PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2007 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post. I know it was made in 2005 but maybe someone will have some insight.

Quote:
Students tend to be 10-18 years old. They are, in the main, studying English to get a qualification. Accept this, and understand this. Don't expect a huge amount of enthusiasm and don't expect them to be fascinated by you or your home country


I don't enjoy teaching kids and teenagers as much as adults. Is there much of a market to teach adults exclusively?
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Haft



Joined: 23 Jun 2007
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 3:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do the hours for teaching wind down in the summer as much as they do most everywhere else? What are these agencies that you go through? It almost sounds like some kind of temp worker arrangement, is there a preexisting post for this?
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lovehappens



Joined: 16 Dec 2008
Posts: 53
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 6:38 pm    Post subject: good information! Reply with quote

I sure appreciate the time and thought you put into this post. I have been looking around the world at where and what to do and find that some boards on here are so informative and others (like in Italy) the same 3 people are living on the boards giving bad news.
Your thoughtful post is refreshing. My partner is in Italy at the moment but we are also considering Greece. Really one can only give the information and allow others to discover what works and doesn't. This is exactly what you have done. So again thanks.
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lovehappens



Joined: 16 Dec 2008
Posts: 53
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 6:46 pm    Post subject: wops just saw the date of this post Reply with quote

oh well good withstands time
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ESL Hobo



Joined: 23 Oct 2008
Posts: 262

PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was in Greece for a couple of weeks, a few summers ago.
I really enjoyed my time. Whenever possible, I would make a nice comment and the people there really brightened up and warmed up to me.

I like your balanced view of things. It's a lot like teaching teenagers in Taiwan. Everything revolves around taking a test and schools have their own tried and true methods.

Why rock the boat when you can sail smoothly through and enjoy the ride?
I'd love to go back and teach there someday.
Thanks for your post
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DoubleDutch



Joined: 01 Apr 2009
Posts: 51
Location: China

PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do you have any agencies you can recommend?
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Mrguay84



Joined: 03 Dec 2009
Posts: 125

PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2009 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice post. A Breath of fresh air.
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GoGreece



Joined: 23 Nov 2010
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 4:14 pm    Post subject: Life in Greece Reply with quote

teacheringreece-Are you still there?
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Mrguay84



Joined: 03 Dec 2009
Posts: 125

PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 1:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Earth calling Greece.
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ReachingOut



Joined: 12 Aug 2011
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi! I'm a teacher who spent 15 years teaching in Greece and I can say that the information given in the original post is accurate and still valid 6 years later in 2011, though I think that the salaries for a full time job are a bit higher.

However, about three years ago the Greek government changed the law and it has become a lot harder to obtain the teacher's license needed to work legally in Greece. You need to pass a Greek language B1 exam and have a University degree in a subject directly related to the subject being taught, a TEFL or TESOL Certificate is no longer enough but an education or English literature degree are probably ok. If your native language is not English and you hold a Proficiency or C2 level certificate, you will be granted a license to work in a frontistirio. Some frontistirio will take on teachers with degrees and TESL or TESOL certificates without going through the process of applying for a teacher's license, which means, of course, that you are employed illegally.

Recently the economic crisis has affected the country badly and things have got a lot more expensive. The government is also facing huge debts. Consequently VAT and other taxes have gone up considerably and a lot of people have had to accept salary freezes or cuts. This means that people have to cut back on spending and don't have as much spare cash as they used to for things like private tuition. As English is regarded as a necessity by most Greeks, most of the "frontistiria" or private schools are going strong and are less affected by the crisis and there are still plenty of jobs to be found - just not as much private tuition. I don't know any agencies, but the Athens News is always advertising ELT jobs in the classified section in the Athens area.

http://www.athensnews.gr/

Here is another useful site offering advice

http://www.eslbase.com/advice/greece
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