And Shopping in Greece
For Brit and Irish Ex-pats
1. Revised Greece Residency Rules
First and foremost, the cost of day-to-day living in Crete for ex-pats is 'cheaper', not 'cheap' compared to almost anywhere else in Western Europe. Secondly, the daily lifestyle can be quite different to the way of life in the UK and Eire caused by the basic cultural difference: the Cretan concept and use of "time". Along with the rest of Greece outside of Athens, today means "maybe tomorrow"; tomorrow can be "a week to 10 days", and ten days is often a polite way of saying "never". Yet when a Greek wants something it can be very fast indeed.
Is it easy to live and work in Crete?
Working and business life in Crete tends to be structured around the tourist industry in summer. Basically, that means from Easter until the end of October. The rest of the year is devoted to agriculture and farming. Chania and Heraklion, the two most populated towns on the Island of Crete offer urban living and all the supporting infrastructure. Yet, Cretan lifestyle values seem to be consistent whether you are in towns of villages.
Can I get Internet and Broadband?
Yes you can get high speed services -- if there are enough telephone lines in your area. Cretan Greeks are part of today's modern Europe and fast catching up with state-of-the-art online banking, using the Internet for social contact, new media and communicating via broadband, wi-fi and mobile services. Greece overall has a high penetration of handheld phone users with virtually 100 per cent geographic coverage of the country. Broadband is improving, if more slowly, even reaching every school under a government educational directive.
Is it modern in Crete? Does Cretan Living include Today's Modern Tech stuff?
Against a background of long traditions in Cretan society, modern technology advances enable foreigners and Ex-Pats to bring all the attributes of their present lifestyle when coming to reside on Crete. One of the best answers to the question: "What have you been doing all day?" from a Cretan neighbour, is to respond with "Sto Computer" - on the computer. They may not understand anything about the IT generation but it puts their mind at rest that you are using your day productively and not just being an idle "rich" foreign resident in their village.
What is Shopping in Crete like?
In the past 10 years there has been a shopping revolution with the introduction of high turnover supermarkets. Today, Crete's Supermarket chains include: Carrefour, Europe's largest super market group - with a hypermarketin Heraklion The same group includes budget chain, Dia which has Spanish product lines, as well as Champion, in joint venture with the family-owned, Marinopoulos Group. Then, there is Lidl with its German oriented product line. The locally Cretan-owned,Xalkiadakis, Chalkiadakis (Ariadne / Spar) has many store outlets across Crete. In Western Crete, around Chania, is the "seen everywhere" INKA Supermarket chain, part of the General Consumers Federation of Greece (INKA). INKA, with a wide selection of daily necessities you find in any supermarket, also carries a wide selection of local produce from the area especially the wines and cheeses.
Does Crete have Local Co-op Stores?
There are other regional "co-operative" super markets owned and operated by local prefectorial associations - another throw back to Greece's socialist days. They stock fresh, organic and packaged items from local farms and market gardens. These outlets are open all year, and not oriented to the tourist economy. It is noticeable that prices edge up in the summer months, and come down again for the winter when there are many promotional offers. The co-ops are fast being absorbed into the larger supermarket chains - the Ariadne Supermarket brand for example.
How can we get things in the Tourist Resorts? Are there Corner Stores?
Many mini-marts, mini supermarkets and mum and dad outlets only cater to the visitors during the long Summer Tourist Season. They have one advantage: they generally open longer hours and can sell postage stamps. The disadvantage: most close in winter. The price for a convenience/mini store on a street corner in the holiday areas means convenience comes at a price. But there again, essentials like an English newspaper, a cold beer, or sweets for the kids are readily available. Liberalised shop opening hours in Greece has also meant the big supermarket chains in resort areas open stores 24/7 in the peak summer months periods. For example: Chalkiadakis in Malia.
Is there a Makro in Crete? (also known as Metro Cash and Carry)
There is a Makro in Heraklion but you need to bring along a Makro Card to shop there. If you are resident in Greece and start a business, Makro is a key store to use as they are geared up to giving the required official VAT (A.F.M.) receipts for purchases. Makro Greece accepts Makro Cards from Britain and eleswhere in Europe. They make it easy. Drop by the enquiry counter at the store where they will issue a "day pass" as you enter. This can be a simple piece of handwritten paper that you give to the cashier on check out.
Watch the price tags they are usually quoted without VAT, so you have to add that on top to obtain the final price you will need to pay the cashier. You add 13 per cent on food and associated produce and 23 per cent for everything else. (The latest increase in VAT from 11 per cent to 13 per cent on food was effective July 1, 2011).
You can buy most things from any of Crete's main shopping areas. Prices for household items are comparable to the UK. Some things are cheaper, some things (imported items usually) are more expensive. It is six of one and half a dozen of the other in choices. Shop around for the best deals. If you are a keen DIY person, hardware items are expensive, paints especially.
Which British Retail Outlets are there? In Heraklion?
In Heraklion, Crete's capital city there is an "M&S" - Marks and Spencer's, a Virgin Megastore, The Body Shop and Next Clothing. Vodafone (previously - Panafon) shops are everywhere. Some of the designer clothes shops are fabulous (if you're into that sort of thing). In winter it's difficult to get more unusual things locally in Crete if you don't live in a city, so get stocked up for the winter. Greece's "Winter Sales" season takes place right after Epiphany - January 6. Summer sales run for six weeks from July 15 to August 31.
Do they have Starbucks?
Starbucks.gr Coffee opened four storefronts in Heraklion and one in Chania in partnership with Marinopoulos Bros S.A. offering wi-fi hotspot Internet connections with help from Marinopoulos through the Trustive Wireless support network. Starbucks is the second multinational after Macdonalds which has opened fast food Crete based outlets in Heraklion, Malia, Hersonissos and Rethymno.
Is Sweden's IKEA found in Crete ?
IKEA - the household furnishings and interior design kit supplier has yet to make an appearance on Crete (as of July 2011). The nearest store is in Athens close to the International Airport. IKEA has an online shopping catalogue for Greece and will arrange mail order deliveries to Crete addresses, handled via IKEA's English language website for Greece.
Can I lose weight in Crete with "The Cretan Diet"
The answer is yes if you follow our advice: try to leave some of your UK and Irish eating habits such as fast foods behind and consume fresh Cretan fresh fruits, fish and vegetables whenever possible to take full advantage of the famous healthy Cretan Diet. A gyros once in awhile is acceptable, made as it is from fresh local produce. If your food regime permits it, copy the Cretans, ensure you include copious amounts of Olive Oil in your diet from the island's famous Olive Trees - (Olea europaea L) and Lemons (Citrus limonum L). ...Survey findings on the famous Cretan Diet here.
| More on the Crete Lifestyle
1. The Cretan Diet - Live Longer on it!
The traditional markets, and market days. The freshness and choice of local produce is one of Crete's finest natural assets.
Other Useful Reference Pages on Ex-pat Living in Crete:
Schools for Foreign Children
Being part of the EU, Greece through state organisations has sponsored Schools for Foreign Children, including the EU, European School Heraklion. A true experience of bringing the kids over in "Making the Leap with Kids".
Public Utilities - Electricity and water. Explanation of billing.
Living in Winter is Different
Crete - you know the weather is good that is why you come to Southern Greece but Crete also has a winter climate and its house heating implications.
Healthcare and Medical Services
Essential reading, including the private Cretan Medicare Centres.
Retaining language and customs yet making foreigners feel inclusive along with choices in local TV Viewing.
Cost of Living 2011 Update
More important direct feedback from those experiencing settling in Greece or who have been there awhile. In the chatter, they mention the differences in supermarket prices and where to obtain favourite goodies, edibles and household products from "back home". All in all, it is a good barometer of the cost of living when on a fixed monthly income when resident in Greece.
Save Water When Staying on A Greek Island
Water is a scarce resource that dwindles each year. Our helpful page on conservation of water lists a number of invaluable tips, ones that are common sense in reality. These tips show how easy it is to make the water that you use go further without investment or extra effort. The tips go a long way to help keep your garden and plants well watered thus ensuring they are green and healthy in a Mediterranean setting.
Stores and Supermarkets Grocery Shopping
From small village stores, to large supermarket chains, like Carrefour and Lidl, Crete has it all. A Quick guide to what is available.
Citizens Advice Bureaus in Greece (K.E.P.)
Your short cut to the Ministries and who is responsible for what.