From the UK to Greece: Kritsa, at the heart of it all
Hello, I’m Yvonne and together with my husband, Alan bought a refurbished house in Kritsa on the Greek island of Crete in 2001. We enjoy several long trips per year to Kritsa totaling circa five months, the rest of the time we live in a small flat in Wiltshire, UK. We certainly feel we have the best of both worlds.
1. Why did you move abroad?
Alan had a job requiring split shifts so often watched afternoon TV. He always enjoyed a show called ‘A Home In The Sun,’ and enthused about the opportunities abroad. Even though we’d only had one holiday in Crete, he was particularly keen on Greece.
We decided to spend vacations on Greek islands until we found the ‘right’ one. Our first trip was to Cos at the end of the summer season. Here we met a waiter who was looking forward to going home. A few questions later, we realized many popular holiday islands virtually close in the winter. With this in mind, our next trip was to Crete, the largest island. We booked exploratory days out with various estate agents to understand what sort of property was available for our budget. Although we’ been determined to be hardheaded and stick to research we succumbed and bought our house during that trip.
2. How do you make a living?
Soon after we bought the Crete house, my ‘safe’ Human Resources job became redundant. Once we’d stopped panicking we sold our UK house to buy a modest apartment, and I worked for ten years as a contractor with trips to Crete between each piece of work.
It was always important to make a good provision for our later years, so when I hit successful patches, we saved as much as possible and eventually bought a small ‘buy to let’ apartment. This sensible step, added to my good judgment in marrying Alan who is ten years my senior, allowed me to stop work a couple of years after he retired.
Now I’m never bored and wonder how I found time to work.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
When we started to spend more time in Crete there was a boom in internet cafes so while Alan sipped iced coffee I caught up with emails and internet forums. This was pre Facebook and smart phones so instant communication wasn’t so important.
Now we have internet in the house, blogging, Facebook, Skype, and emails are all very easy, making communication with friends and family part of everyday life. As my mum doesn’t use the internet I use a wonderful service provided by touchnote.com to send her postcards created from my own photos to keep her up to date.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Crete?
You mean apart from the weather, the beaches, the food, the history… For me it’s being able to enjoy the best of Crete out of season when it’s cool enough for long walks in the mountains, through gorges or along deserted beaches.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Crete?
I’ve not invested time and effort to learn the language properly so often need to call on the services of others to help move through layers of bureaucracy.
6. What do you miss most?
Instant access to family, especially when my mum is unwell and the burden falls on my sister. However, being in the UK wouldn’t make her well so I do what I can while in the UK. As for mum, she’s the first to say we should enjoy life while we can.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Our Cretan neighbors and village business owners have a warm and welcoming attitude towards expats. A knock at the door usually results in gifts of local produce, and as ‘guests’ we’re often pushed forward in the refreshment queue at village festivals.
Fellow expats seem very open to striking up conversations that often lead to friendships. I’ve found it is easy to make the first step such as, ‘shall we meet for coffee?’
Now we spend much more time in Crete we’ve joined a local expat association to benefit from a wider range of activities and insights.
Blogging and Facebook now plays an important part as I’ve met up with several people I’ve got to know ‘virtually’; it really helps to know you already have things in common.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I can’t comprehend the attitude towards road safety. Three up on a motorbike, no helmets, riding in flip-flops, dogs and children transported in the foot well of motorbikes (scooters), cars driven recklessly. Ugh!
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
A common misconception is that Greeks are lazy. Much of their work is seasonal so they have long periods of time when they are not attending a job. However, many people have more than one job and in peak season most work hours we’d not put up with in addition to attending smallholdings etc.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living in Greece is lower than the UK even though it has risen considerably over the past few years. Buying seasonal produce from the market, using solar power and buying currency/flights when the market is favorable all helps to keep costs down.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Shock, horror…You will get older! Don’t let that thought blight your life, just make a contingency plan for the day life abroad loses its appeal or your health means you can’t cope with the lifestyle.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
There is an enthralling true story of a Kritsa lass who fought Ottoman oppression back in 1823, disguised as a young man. I was very excited to discover her family home is just around the corner from mine. She still holds an important place in the village psyche and an annual memorial service commemorates her heroic actions. When my research into her life developed into an adventure novel, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa, I created a blog as a way of publicizing the book.
I’ve now extended the remit of the blog, and will continue to create a source of information about Kritsa, Crete, and Greece, and I welcome the oportunity to answer questions and share information.
Yvonne's blog, Kritsa, at the heart of it all
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