Aha Greece! So you dreaming of living in Crete and become a Brit in Crete.gr?
Let me say here and now, we live in the European Union. That means something in Greece. Come on over...
If you are a UK or Irish national, or from any of the other 25 EU states, you have the right to be living in Crete or living anywhere in Greece for that matter that is not off limits - such as a military zone or restricted area. Despite the economic downturn, 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. For new property developments, "A Place in the Sun Live" Overseas Property Exhibition in March in ExCel London or in September in Birmingham are great places to start your homework. But hey, if you are not thinking on purchasing a property overseas, still keep reading and plan for visiting Crete with view to the home rental market.
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 over 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. 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 breathalized! P.S. No "Mooning" when intensely happy. One guy in Malia in August 2009 dropped his whatevers and drew the wrathe of an offended Cretan lady. She has become a local heroine for her actions. Suffice to say the young Brit is coping with the aftermath and lucky he has kept all his bits. Just..
Working in restaurants, bars pubs etc -- where food is handled you will need to get a health clearance paper from the local health authority. Outside of the tourist sector, making an income can be very difficult unless you are creative and/or willing to do things you would not do back home.
Never use personal cheque books. Ask around, you'll know why.
If you are over 60 years old, you definitely then are in the seniors category. If you are taking your UK pension then you must register as a resident. A tax thing. You do not want to be double taxed.
Being 60+ and retired also means something in Greece, especially in healthcare. If, in the event you need hospital support and a registered resident it is OK 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 past public hospital bureaucracy.
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 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 Greecee. Leave your UK and Irish "mindset", well, in the UK and Ireland , as you leave British and Irish shores. That applies to all 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 fce 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.
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.