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Sun, Oct 02, 2022

Welcome to Crete1

Aha Greece! So you dreaming of living in Crete and become a Brit in
Let me say here and now, we DID live in the European Union. For forty plus years in fact. No more from December 31, 2020.Yet we still say: Come on over... But that does mean some major changes if you are a Brit to come to Greece to live work or play for a longer stay (over 3 months).  The Greeks in general still just love the Brits for historical reasons. Crete flew the British Flag in the 1890s!! Yes we jointly governed it for a while. 
Despite the economic downturns 2008 and after, and in 2021 the dreaded Covid, Crete is still an attractive hotspot for Brit Ex-Pats! For anyone wishing to be buying a property in Crete, there is no better time than now with endless choice. Plenty of local real estate agents still exist even after Covid, although fewer than before. But hey, if you are not thinking on purchasing a property overseas, still keep reading and plan for visiting Crete with view to renting a home. That is still straight forward for under 3 months and especially AirBnB's. More than that you need residence papers.


Greece is a civilised country.

The "system" here in Crete is very relaxed. Rules are rigid, but lightly enforced until someone snitches, then the police must act. This is generally the case and just the way it works. It means the police do not get overly worked, and life is somewhat peaceful. No concerns about safety for the kids or even for the oldies. You can let them out without a leash even. Make sure your dog is on one though. Roaming dogs are not appreciated in villages. Just watch out when driving, above all else, for a traffic cop having a bad day, usually on a motor bike. If you are stopped, then speak clearly, in slow deliberate English and do not speak out of turn. If you are over the booze limit, you are in deep crapola if you are stopped and breathalised! A word of caution here. No fun antics in public.  No "Mooning" when intensely happy. One guy in Malia a happy 20 something some years ago 'mooned' and offended a Cretan lady. She became a local heroine for her actions. Suffice to say and leave to your imagination how the young Brit is coping with the aftermath. Luckily kept all his bits. Just saying.. respect that Greeks. They have their own social values which just may differ from yours.

Working now needs a visa for any Brit without residency. Also note that to work in a restaurant, bar, or a  pub. Where food is handled you will need to get a health clearance paper from the local health authority. The conditions are strict. Outside of the tourist sector, making an income can be very difficult unless you are creative and/or willing to undertake tasks, things you would not likely do back home. If you are fiercely competitive aim for the moon and do your own endeavour. But get an accountant for solid advice. Greek bureaucracy is a minefield. Everyone needs an accountant in filing an annual tax return anyway. They are affordable, compared to UK.

Everyday Greeks, to this day never use personal cheque books. Ask around, you'll know why. Crete tries to still be a cash society but losing the battle with both the tax man, credit cards and online payments like everywhere else, it seems.

If you are over 65 years old, you definitely then are in the seniors category. Financial requirements can be more demanding than before. Perhaps taking your UK pension, State Pension, or other income may not meet the threshold to obtain a long term visa and a residence permit. The Greek Embassy in London has all the information. The good news if you do retire in Crete/Greece, in declaring any taxable income in your annual Tax Return, the UK and Greece continue to have a Double Taxation Agreement between them. So avoid being double taxed.

Being 65yo+ and retired, also means something more in Greece, especially in healthcare. If, in the event you need hospital support and a registered resident it is OK, and contributed into social security you should be able to just go to the prefecture hospital, passport in hand, and an E121 if you have it. Or better still get the local "IKA" Social Security book as soon as possible that waves you into the public hospital bureaucracy at the reception desk. It is recommended that you carry a private insurance policy as well.

In Greek public hospitals, you go, not to an Accident & Emergency Department (A & E) initially - they don't have them usually, but to "Pathology". Just follow the crowd after you check in with hospital reception. Most medical terms in English are taken from Greek. Therefore, you will soon fathom out the hospital signs. Many doctors did their internships in Britain, North America or South Africa. While they speak English with regional accents to match, back up staff may not.

You do not have to satisfy your neighbours and / or Brit or Irish friends' inquisitiveness (nor new found acquaintances) with your medical history or any other confidential matters... Crete can be like a sieve where confidentiality is concerned. But that also means you soon become part of the 'greater community'. Go to any government office and you will know what I mean about privacy. Keep stumm on anything you do not want bandied about. Yet, officially, Greece has one of the best privacy laws in Europe and at state level respects them.

And, just in case you are a little confused, Greece drives on the right, with left hand drive - the opposite to the UK and Ireland. At times it does get confusing - when too much of the local strong stuff, raki (distilled grape must) gets consumed.

This is the simple message I give to all of you dreaming of living in Greece. Leave your UK and Irish "mindset", well, in the UK and Ireland , as you leave British and Irish shores. That applies to any and intending Ex-Pats in Greece. 

In fact, the best way to move to Crete happily, is adjust to local time (I do not mean GMT+2) I mean, just slide in and blend -- go with the flow. Adjust to the slower pace. Follow the paper trail, if you have to. It is not just foreigners who have to face it and do it. Greeks bemoan the bureaucracy all the time. Do not rush any decisions, unless a government official is on your tail. Then think long and hard before acting upon it.

Get to know the Greeks, they are generally a great and caring lot, especially in a village. The way it is here, is the way it is.

Be warned, the island of Crete is Cretan first and Greek second.

As for living in Crete all year. You'll find Creta is very, v-e-r-y quiet for the most part in winter. That is a great time of year to pursue those pastimes you never have had enough time for before, such as bird watching, painting, and other pleasurable pursuits including hiking, riding or just being close to nature. The list is as long as your imagination. There is nothing quite like the smell of a real log fire either using Olive and Carob woods. So in winter, be active and set yourself things to do. You'll be fine.

And an oh-by-the-way, the cost of living is cheaper than UK in most respects. Day to day life, if spent in a measured way, like shopping at the local market on market day, can be very cheap for example buying bagfulls of fresh produce.

Final word, post Brexit, the Greek regulations have tightened up for residence for British nationals, mainly under the insistence of Brussels.  Yet, in my opinion, Greece's weather is still better than Northern Europe with many days of famed Mediterranean sunshine. Combine that fact with those more traditional, family and spiritual values and Crete, especially Crete is a winning combination.  And most importantly the state leaves you alone. No nanny state here. That is a recipe for a sustainable uncontroversial life where the motto, "live and let live", lives on.  Brits, definitely, come on over.

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