Greece: The perfect FIRE destination?

Upbeat music.

Freshly served cold coffee.

Sun’s shining.

People walking past.

Can you picture me writing this post in Greece?

laptop coffee time
I know.  My screen screams CLEAN ME!

So here I am, writing about Greece as a potential place to live.

You don’t necessarily need to be financially independent to move to Greece. But working remotely or covering at least some living costs from elsewhere would solve many issues.

I have always been a big fan of the Greek / Mediterranean way of living. Obviously, I am biased!

But I present my arguments so you can make your own judgement.

Greece would make for a great place to live, particularly so if you are Financially Independent. Families included.

Here are the main pros and cons before I dive deeper:

Warm climate
Low cost of living
Fun (entertainment, activities, all sports)
Great food
Family-friendly
People can speak basic English
Easy to make friends and connect with the international community
Too hot in the summer!
Hard to do business
Slow internet (varies in places)
International school costs for families

Living in Greece is Fun!

What’s FIRE life without fun?

It doesn’t matter what sort of person you are. You will find something fun to do in Greece all year round.

From sports to activities, nightlife or art, Greece is just fun.

Sailing in greece

Are you a sports person? You can do sea sports: windsurfing, sailing, kite, (or just sunbathing 😉).

Sure the weather attracts people to beach holidays.

But Greece can be fun in the winter too. Skiing, hiking or just relaxing at the chalet.

Do you enjoy family trips to small villages in the mountains? That’s on the menu too.

Metsovo in the winter
Metsovo in the winter

Do you like history or mythology? Visit Knossos, Europe’s oldest city, or the ancient theatre of Epidavros.

Not to mention the all-time classics: Basically the entire Athens (incl. Acropolis), Delphi and Meteora.

Pick any place in Greece and you will find ancient monuments from thousands of years ago.

Weather, obviously!

The mild climate uplifts my mood. That’s probably not the same for everyone. But when the sun is out I am definitely happier.

Greek view in the sun

London weather has changed too, for the better. I’m not rooting for climate change, but I can’t help but observe how much warmer and sunnier London has become.

Now, although Greece is warm, beware that it gets TOO warm for some. Almost unbearable in the summer.

35 or even 40 degrees are not unheard of. Turn on the A/C and wait. It can get hectic.

Right now in spring, it’s perfect. Here is a sunny morning at 25 degrees in the city centre of Patras. A town ~3 hours drive from Athens.

patras city center
A regular morning in Patras city centre

Fun is driven by the people. Greek people crave having a good time. There’s always a reason to go out, which explains why the hospitality industry is always on fire!

Low Cost of Living

Now before this blog turns into a travel or lifestyle blog, time to talk about the usual subject: Money!

Crisis Cheesepie

The “Crisis Cheesepie”, 0,60 € poster I stumbled upon was half a joke.

The 2010s was one of the toughest decades for the country. Austerity, high taxes and a hostile business environment.

The quality of life worsened for many. House prices crashed big time. Can’t go wrong with bricks and mortar..? Ask those Greeks who are still in negative equity.

Greece is a country where the average income is much lower than in the UK. The cost of living is much lower too.

When it comes to spending, everyone is different. This is why instead of telling you how I see prices through my own lens, I better talk data.

Spending in Greece vs the UK

Numbeo and Nomadlist are some great sources.

Comparing the two capitals, living in Athens costs HALF what London costs.

Now you might say, London is crazy expensive anyway! How does Greece’s cost of living compare to the UK as a whole?

Consumer prices including rent in Greece are 31.52% lower than in the United Kingdom.

Therefore, I see Greece as a potential FI destination if you want to bring your FI date much closer. Long live geo-arbitrage!

If your income comes mainly from investments then choosing a city with a lower cost of living can easily cut your spending in half.

Here are some data comparing London to Athens:

LondonAthens
Rental Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre£3,346£688 (819 €)-80%
Rental Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre£2,156£670 (800 €)-68%
Meal for 2 people, mid-range restaurant, three-course£61.00£39.50 (47.00 €)-35%
One-way Ticket (Local Transport)£2.52£1.01 (1.20 €)-60%
Gym monthly£43.49£27.21 (32 €)-37%
International Primary School, Yearly for 1 Child£18,246£6,885 (8,194 €)-62%

Groceries are a mixed bag and it really depends on what you buy.

Fruits and veggies are cheaper in Greece but milk, chicken, eggs and cheese are actually more expensive. I think your pantry would cost less in the UK.

Transport is good only in Athens. Even there, you’re probably better off using a taxi (cheaper than Uber) or owning a car like most people.

I still cannot comprehend how expensive childcare is in the UK, particularly in London. Both Greece and UK offer free schooling.

But if your child does not speak Greek, an international school is your only choice. Ok, maybe homeschooling too.

When comparing private childcare, London schooling costs £18,246 on average compared to £6,885 (8,194€) for Athens.

All these are averages. If you want to dig deeper, here is the full-scale data comparison of London vs Athens or the UK vs Greece.

Great Food!

I could probably post more than 100 Greek food pics.

greek tavern food

Food in Greece is GREAT!

It’s because the primary ingredients (e.g. tomatoes, peppers, meat) are local, fresh and tasty.

But at the same time, Mediterranean cuisine offers a huge variety of recipes.

Stuffed veggies with rice, souvlaki, gyros, Moussaka, Pastitsio (Greek lasagna), local fish and seafood (calamari, octopus, small fish), courgette balls, greek salad, bougatsa, stuffed grapevine leaves, I could go on.

Truth be told, Greece is probably not the place for a foodie though. I mean, you can find the odd sushi or falafel place but that’s as “exotic” as it gets.

Also, eating out misses the “fine dining” aspect that you’ll find in places like London / NYC. But you are compensated (and then some) with taste and view.

Cooking

Stuffed vegetables
Stuffed tomatoes and peppers with rice

The typical FIRE person also cooks at home. This fits well within the “Web of Goals” philosophy. This is a powerful strategy which I first read in the Early Retirement Extreme book (a tough read!).

The idea is that you set certain goals. Your activities can be structured around those goals in order to find synergies between goals.

For example, if your goal is to become wealthier and healthier, cooking works better than takeaway food.

That’s because cooking at home is cheaper and usually healthier. You can even consider it light exercise.

Then being healthier has the nice side effect that your health costs will also be lower, therefore strengthening the wealth goal. That’s the “web of goals” strategy in a nutshell.

Time to close this huge parenthesis – but yeah in Greece you can easily cook or learn to cook.

You have the option to buy local produce from the farmer’s market (“Λαϊκή αγορά”). Once a week, local producers sell directly to consumers.

You can basically sort out your week’s veggies and fruits from this place at great prices too. Some markets offer fish and other local products like nuts and honey.

Laiki agora
Λαϊκή αγορά – The local farmer’s market

Night Owl Friendly

Are you a night owl? Do you enjoy staying up late working or browsing Reddit til the morning? Then Greece is the perfect place for you.

Food places deliver takeaway way past midnight. Bars and restaurants are open until late.

Honourable mention: You will never wait 45 minutes for a takeaway delivery. Max 15′ 😉

Greece is very friendly to the night owl types. I’m certainly not one but having been there in my early 20s, I can attest.

This comes at a cost though. Noise. Greece is noisy at night and during the day too. Yes, it depends on the neighbourhood, city etc.

But on average, you will hear more motorcycles, alarms going off and dog-barking in Greece than in the UK.

Negativism

This might sound a bit controversial. I’m not sure if people in Greece are actually happier than those in the UK.

The income side of things hurts for sure. Greek income has less purchasing power, therefore you end up with fewer savings or less stuff to buy/do.

Chasing clients for payments is mentally taxing!

But income aside, there is a constant fear and dissatisfaction in the country.

The news has one goal. To spread terror which grabs attention. This applies in other countries too, but in Greece, this is more evident.

Perhaps it’s a cultural thing. Most households watch the TV news at least twice a day.

When I was a kid, I remember having lunch over bad events on the TV. Every single day.

This has not changed and it becomes a point of discussion when you meet people outside.

Please change my mind and tell me it’s just my own experience. But sadly, I doubt it!

Not Business-Friendly

Ask any self-employed person in Greece what’s stopping them from advancing the business.

During my recent trip there, I asked local professionals.

Theodor told me about bureaucracy, high taxes and an ever-changing regulatory framework.

You basically need an accountant for any odd little detail out there.

If you think knowing the tax framework in the UK is hard work, Greece will make it look like child’s play.

tax headache in Greece

I’ve asked 2 accountant friends who are more involved with local businesses. One works at a big hotel chain managing their affairs. The other one operates an accountancy office managing small businesses and individuals.

The amount of tax changes taking place every few months is unbelievable… The tax system is ever-changing in arbitrary ways.

As a result, strategic business planning becomes much harder. And it’s not just that. You have to go back and forth with an accountant to stay compliant with the current regulations.

If your LTD company and your clients are based abroad, then you should be able to dodge most of the Greek tax fun.

Also, thankfully, things are changing for the better in the field of digital tax reporting. It is moving in the right direction. Greece is not, however, close to the destination. Miles behind if we compare the Greek tax system with the UK one.

Businesses thrive in a stable environment that is business-friendly. To give you an example, a new business in Greece needs to pre-pay the VAT for the NEXT year upfront! This kills entrepreneurship.

Investment income enjoys favourable treatment

Even though taxes are high in Greece, let’s give credit where credit is due.

First of all, income from capital is actually treated somewhat favourably.

Dividends, in particular, are taxed at a rate of just 5%. Interest at a rate of 15%. Capital gains at 15% too.

So living on dividends in Greece is very lucrative from a tax point of view.

There are no ISAs, however, and very few private pensions. This reminds me that I am actually spoiled in the UK with all these ISAs and personal allowances!

Further reading on the Greek tax system here and here.

International Schools

If you homeschool, feel free to skip this section!

If you decide to move to Greece with young kids, then what school will you choose?

Greece in spring with kids

Assuming you’re not from Greece, you would probably choose an international school where all courses are taught in English.

Options include British schools such as St Lawrence and St Catherine’s British schools.

But international schools are:

  1. Private (so not free!)
  2. Limited in two cities, Athens and Thessaloniki

International schools in Greece cost between £7,000 – £10,000 per year. That’s a considerable amount! Unless you were planning to go private anyway, in which case they are much cheaper than in the UK.

If you are interested, this platform offers a nice school comparison.

But the cost is somewhat expected. You have to pay for such a private education.

The location aspect is the most worrying. International schools are only located in Athens or Thessaloniki.

Although you could live in Athens, if you want to go to Crete or Rhodes, then the options are very limited.

Is Greece your next Chapter?

You should definitely consider Greece as a place to live, even if you don’t speak the language.

The low cost of living, the fun and the weather are worth a shot!

Local salaries and the business mentality are the two main issues. Better find a way around them.

I have not lived in Greece for more than 10 years. Even if we decide to go back, a test drive of 1-2 years before putting down roots will make or break the case.

What about other places? Have you considered making such a bold move?

Any other place I should look at?

As always, thanks for reading!

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    5 thoughts on “Greece: The perfect FIRE destination?”

    1. Nice article Micheal! One can always dream of escaping London one day 😉

      Spain is probably very similar to Greece in many aspects you mentioned which is why Spain is on our horizon for when we finally FIRE 🤟

      There are downsides to living in those places though which may be hard to stomach after many years of living in the UK. So it will be interesting to see who eventually makes the move!

      Reply
      • Very good point, Ila. I forgot to mention that after so many years living in the UK I may find it harder to adjust. This should be factored in when/if we make a move! There are certain things I am more tolerant of, like queuing. But then I’m less tolerant of rudeness, for instance.

        Time will tell I guess! Spain looks similar to Greece. A couple of friends moved to Malaga and have been working remotely!

        Reply
        • Malaga is actually our favourite destination too! Would love to hear your friend’s experiences, good and bad and why they chose Malaga themselves.

          We also have some friends who moved to Spain over the lockdown so we know it’s not all roses when you start living like a true local.

          The key thing for us will be to test it out before making any big moves. Something like part-time living in the UK (summer/spring time and Christmas :), rest abroad could work quite well > doing that, you can still be UK resident and don’t have to worry about the new Brexit restrictions on the EU movement, increase in income taxes and various registrations/bureaucracy, extreme temperatures over summer in hot destinations etc.

          But maybe it’s all pipe dream – time will tell 🙂

          Reply
          • From what he tells me about Malaga, the main selling points are the better weather and the fact they bought a new £400k property that would cost north of £1m in London! I’m sure there are downsides too. I should catch up with them at some point.

            Splitting the time between the UK and abroad could work well, indeed. We did it for some time during covid. Here’s what caught me by surprise. Because we couldn’t put roots down in either place, psychologically, this felt a bit unsettling. Kind of living in limbo, but it might be just us!

            Reply
            • That is an interesting perspective and useful insight. Thanks for sharing that.
              In every case, that kind of lifestyle is very far away for us. So for now we just have to wait and see what the future holds.

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    Hi! I’m Michael and I love writing about different ways to earn, save and invest our money. Coffee addict :)

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