Why Athens is becoming a magnet for young expats
There was a time, not so long ago, when announcing you had decided to move to Athens would be met with disbelief by locals. But those days are long gone. Athens is a truly cosmopolitan city now and everybody knows it.
“Athens is increasingly international and it’s becoming a real melting pot,” explains Chris Kossaifi, the Lebanese publicist of Carwan Gallery, a new arrival to Piraeus. “We learn a lot from each other: French, Lebanese, English, Greek or whoever; everyone brings new tastes and attitudes to the city, an added value.”
Foreigners long overlooked the Greek capital in favor of the islands. But since the worst years of the Greek economic crisis, Athens has seen an ever-growing stream of foreigners drawn here.
First, it was young artists and creatives, lured by the prospect of cheap rent, available space and a lively and largely rules-free experience of urban life. But as the green shoots of an economic recovery started to sprout and word of an Athens creative and cultural renaissance spread, a more diverse group of foreigners began to arrive to plant their own roots in the city.
The emergence of a start-up scene has been one of the most promising signs of Greece’s post-crisis economic recovery. Greek-owned start-ups now have a market capitalization of €3.5 billion – remarkable when you consider the tech sector was non-existent a decade ago. After years of talking about brain drain, today tech joins Greece’s traditional staple industries of shipping and tourism in thinking about how to attract top talent from around the world in order to help them grow.
There were fears that COVID-19 would bring all this good news to an end. But due to locking down early in March, Greece kept cases remarkably low and emerged from the first lockdown with its international reputation enhanced. Although the economic damage is severe and ongoing, the pandemic appears to have done little to diminish the allure of life in Athens for foreigners. In fact, with workers in a variety of industries forced to work from home due to the pandemic, many have decided to embrace the possibilities of remote working from Athens, formerly the preserve of creative freelancers.
With the country now in the grips of a powerful second-wave of the virus and under a second lockdown, the first days of the Greek Revolution’s 200th anniversary year look set to be challenging. But for the foreign-born new Athenians, hopes are bright for the future of Athens and of Greece in 2021 – and beyond.
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