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Preface Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:26 AM

Greek legend tells that Titans battling Olympian gods once hurled giant rocks at Zeus in an attempt to knock him out of the sky. Their missiles piled up to become the mountains which blanket Greece, and stray boulders splashed into the sea to form the islands that serve as steppingstones across the Aegean.

In the past 25 years, Greece has witnessed significant economic development, but on the few fertile plains and many rocky slopes of this tip of the Balkan Peninsula, farmers herd sheep or tend olive groves, wheat fields, and vineyards, as did their ancestors for thousands of years. Each province preserves its traditional costume, brightening the festivals held in the small, square-dominated villages. Throughout the storied isles of Greece — some 400 lie in the Aegean and Ionian Seas and account for a fifth of the nation’s area — the white of house and church glints against the blue of sky, and men go down to the sea for sponges and fish. This seafaring tradition gives Greece the world’s largest merchant tonnage — more than half of it registered under foreign flags for tax reasons.

During the Bronze Age (3000–1200 BC) a maritime civilization flourished. By 800 BC Greece was undergoing a cultural and military revival, with the evolution of city-states, the most powerful of which were Athens and Sparta. This period was followed by an era of great prosperity known as the classical or Golden Age. During this time, a tradition of democracy was ushered in. The classical age came to an end with the Peloponnesian Wars (431–404 AD) in which the militaristic Spartans defeated the Athenians.

Greece became a part of the Byzantine Empire in 395 AD. By the 12th century, the Crusades were underway and Byzantine power was much reduced by invasions.

For 25 centuries a crossroads between Europe and Asia to both merchant and conqueror, Greece did not achieve political unity until rebellion brought independence after 400 years of Turkish rule in 1830. The Acropolis in Athens stands as an enduring monument to the “glory that was Greece,” fountainhead of Western culture and democracy. Below its marble ruins, glass-faced offices serve shipping, tourism, and flourishing light industries in a country that still must import much of its food, machinery, and raw materials.

The arts have been integral to Greek life since ancient times. In summer, Greek dramas are staged in the ancient theaters where they were originally performed. Greek literature’s ancient heritage spans poetry, drama, philosophical and historical treatises, and travelogues. Western civilization’s mania for logic and “ideas” can be traced directly back to ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and the West’s sciences, arts, and politics are also deeply indebted to classical Greece.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 4/29/2004 11:27 AM

Greece, a rugged country of mountains and islands, is bordered on the north by Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Federal Republic of Macedonia, and Albania; on the east by Turkey and the Aegean Sea; and on the south and west by the Mediterranean and Ionian Seas. The land area, including the islands, is 50,270 square miles (about the size of Alabama). Only 25% of the land is arable, and much of that is dry and rocky. Greece is 2 hours east (ahead) of Greenwich mean time and at about the same latitude as New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.

Greece has mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers.

Athens daytime summer temperature averages 90°F and often exceeds 100°F for periods in July–August. Humidity is low and the heat is tempered by sea breezes. Summer evenings are comfortable outdoors. Spring and fall temperatures are pleasant, and winter temperatures are 30°F–55°F. Snow flurries occur, particularly in the northern suburbs, but seldom accumulate. Air pollution is a major problem in Athens throughout the year, but the climate is otherwise healthy.

Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, experiences high temperatures and humidity from the end of May until the end of September. Summer heat is sometimes tempered by late morning and early evening breezes. July and August nights can be uncomfortably warm. In winter, periods of mild, sunny, and spring-like weather are interspersed with uncomfortable cold periods. Thessaloniki has periods of chilly and damp weather, with considerable rainfall and occasional snow. Temperatures often fall below freezing in winter. Although snow does not linger, the city has been struck by blizzards. One feature of Thessaloniki’s climate is the vardari, a strong northwesterly wind that appears suddenly and irregularly from the area of the Axios (Vardar) River Valley.

Population Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:13 PM

Greece’s population is about 10.9 million. Metropolitan Athens, including Piraeus, has about 4,500,000 people, and greater Thessaloniki 1 million. Other population centers are the cities of Patras, Volos, Iraklion, Kavala (see Special Information), Larisa, Kalamata, and Tripolis. Most of the remainder of Greece is sparsely populated. About 28% of the population is agricultural, a percentage that is declining with greater economic development and increasing urbanization.

Greeks claim continuity with ancient Greeks, whose language achieved its first written form in Mycenaean times 14 centuries before Christ. The modern Greek language, “Dimotiki,” maintains most of the vocabulary and some of the grammar of ancient Greek. “Katharevousa,” a 19th century attempt to eliminate foreign influences and return the language to its classical roots, has been almost completely phased out since 1974 as a language of culture and administration.

During Byzantine and Ottoman times, Greece received Slavic, Albanian, Turkish, Gypsy, and other population inflows. From the 1821 War of Independence up until the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne with Turkey, Greece was in the process of expansion and tried to incorporate the Greeks of the region, particularly of Asia Minor, into one state. Once regarded as one of the most ethnically homogeneous societies in Europe, Greece has seen a massive influx of immigrants, mostly from neighboring Albania and mostly illegal, since the end of the Cold War. Statistics indicate that immigrants now account for at least 10 percent of the population, a figure likely to increase in the future. Other immigrant groups include Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians and Filipinos.

The only officially recognized minority is a Muslim population (130,000 persons) concentrated in Western Thrace, though most Gypsies and many Vlach, Slav, and Albanian speakers continue to use their traditional languages at home. Urban Greeks strongly encourage their children to learn foreign languages. Most leading shops, hotels, and restaurants in Athens and Thessaloniki employ clerks who speak English. This is not the case outside major tourist centers, however, where some knowledge of Greek makes life easier and more rewarding. The Greek Orthodox Church is the predominant religion in Greece, professed by 97% of the population. The Church is self-governing under the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece and has historic ties to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. There are approximately 65,000 U.S. citizens registered in the Athens consular district. Of those, 41,000 are registered in the greater Athens area, including 3,246 in Pireaus. Many Greek Americans are retired in Greece, and several multinational corporations who have local or Middle Eastern operations based in Athens employ U.S. citizens. Athens and the rest of Greece have a steady flow of U.S. tourists each year.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:23 PM

Greece’s current constitution dates to the restoration of democracy following the 1967–74 military dictatorship (junta). The 1975 constitution establishes Greece as a parliamentary democracy, the Hellenic Republic, with the President as its largely ceremonial head of state. The Prime Minister, as head of government, is responsible to a 300-seat Parliament of the Hellenes elected every 4 years by a system of reinforced proportional representation. Greece has an independent judiciary along European models. The constitution guarantees a wide range of civil liberties.

The largest political party in Greece’s parliament is the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), which won 43.79% of the popular vote in the April 2000 general election and has 157 seats in Parliament. PASOK leader Constantine Simitis is Prime Minister. Since winning its first election in 1981, PASOK has governed the country continuously except for a brief period between 1990–1993. The largest opposition party, the center-right New Democracy Party (ND), holds 122 parliamentary seats after winning 42.74% of the vote in April 2000. Three smaller parties, each of which received at least 3 percent of the popular vote in the last election, together hold the remaining 21 seats. The current President of the Republic, Constantine Stephanopoulos, an independent conservative politician widely respected across the political spectrum, was elected by Parliament to a second 5-year term in May 2000.

Entering the European Union’s Economic and Monetary Union was a key priority for the current PASOK government. Greece entered the EMU on January 1, 2001, after satisfying the economic criteria in the Maastricht Treaty for acceptable performance on inflation, budget deficit, and government debt. Greece has been a member of the European Union since 1981, and Greek policy on most international issues follows the EU consensus. Greece is also a member of NATO, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Western European Union, and the United Nations.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:25 PM

Greece has rich cultural roots, and a continuing literary, artistic, and musical life. Modern writers carry on the heritage and tradition of the giants of ancient and recent Greek letters. The writings of Nikos Kazantzakis and other Nobel Prize laureates, George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis, are available in English.

Although Greek art suffered neglect during the centuries when Greece was under foreign domination, art is again flourishing with works from the primitive through realism to extreme avant-garde. Athens has scores of active and interesting commercial galleries, as well as other urban art centers.

Greek museums are also numerous, from the world class Cycladic Art Museum to the assortment of masterpieces in the National Archaeological Museum (due to re-open in time for the 2004 Olympics). Other important museums in Athens include the Benaki Museum, the Folk Art Museum, the Byzantine Museum, and the Goulandris Natural History Museum.

Folk art and handicrafts survive in Greece, but, as a result of commercialization and tourism, it is difficult to distinguish between fakes and the genuine article. Greek popular music can be heard on numerous radio stations around the clock, as well as at frequent public concerts and in nightclubs. Many Americans fall under the spell of more exotic music featuring the “bouzouki,” a stringed instrument, heard not only on the radio, but also in “bouzouki clubs,” where performances usually start at midnight. Rebetika (1920s slum music) has experienced a revival throughout the country. Folk dancing can sometimes be seen in the Greek countryside, especially on holidays, and city dwellers may spontaneously break into traditional dances at parties and other social functions. In the Plaka district of Athens, several tavernas have live dance shows, as well as some other more authentic folk music nightclubs.

Athens has many theaters. Most performances are in modern Greek. Occasionally, foreign touring companies perform in English. The Karagiozi shadow puppet theater, with oriental and Turkish antecedents, is also worth seeing.

The Hellenic Festival, held every year in June and July, features performing arts ranging from Greek tragedy to modern dance and rock groups, often with internationally famous groups or stars from the U.S .and Europe. Cultural centers of interest to the English-speaking community are the Hellenic American Union (HAU), the British Council, and the Athens Center. Their programs, which normally extend from October through May, include concerts, films, exhibits, lectures, and panel discussions.

Athens has several libraries, most of which are noncirculating, e.g., the National Library of Greece, the Parliament Library, and the Athens Municipal Library. The Embassy hosts an Information Resource Center, which is a non-circulating facility designed for explaining US politics, culture and society to Greeks.

Some of the lending libraries open to the public are the following:

Hellenic-American Union
22 Massalias Street, Athens

British Council Library
Kolonaki Square, Athens, 363–3215

French Institute Library
31 Sina Street, Athens, 362–4301

Goethe Institute Library
14-16 Omirou Street, Athens 522–9294.

National Research Foundation Library (periodicals only)
48 Vas. Konstantinou Ave., Athens, 722–9811

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:29 PM

Since Greece’s entry into the European Union (EU) in 1981, the Greek economy has been transformed, from agriculture to services and from emigration to immigration. Greece joined the EU Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) on January 1, 2001. The Euro was introduced on January 1, 2002, replacing the drachma, the world’s oldest continuously circulating currency.

In 2002, the Greek population was approximately 11 million, and the Greek GDP was $132 billion. Services (including tourism) accounted for 69 percent of GDP with industry, construction, electricity and mining totaling 23 percent of GDP. Agricultural output accounted for 8 percent of the total GDP.

Shipping is a major economic activity. Nine percent of the world’s commercial shipping is Greek-owned, making the Greek commercial fleet the largest in the world. As of May 2003, the Greek flag flies on 929 ships with a total gross registered tonnage of 34.7 million tons. Another 2,426 ships of a total gross registered tonnage of 69.1 million tons are controlled by Greek shipping interests.

Greece’s most important industries in terms of production and employment are: food processing, tobacco, textiles, chemicals (including refineries), nonmetallic minerals (cement), telecommunication equipment, metallurgy, aerospace and military equipment, pharmaceuticals and shipbuilding.

Greece is a leading world producer of bentonite, magnesite, amd perlite, as well as an important European producer of bauxite, cement, ferrochromium, emery and marble. A plant processing bauxite into alumina, then into aluminum, is operated by the French firm Pechiney on the Gulf of Corinth.

U.S. investment in Greece is estimated at $2 billion, representing almost a third of all foreign investment. Major U.S. investments include: Hyatt Hotels ($155.6 million), Crown Cork and Seal ($110 million), Searle ($94.6 million), Abbott Laboratories ($83 million), Philip Morris Group ($73.1 million), Pepsico foods and beverages ($71.1 million) and IBM ($70.9 million).

Greece is undertaking a vast number of major construction and infrastructure projects in order to host the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The projects directly related to the Games include the construction of eleven new sports facilities, a five-stadium complex, and an Olympic Village. In addition, Greece is implementing an ambitious tourism infrastructure program focused on hotel development and operation, marina and port development, museum development and management and development of archeological sites in Athens and Olympia. The Greek State is also pursuing a number of ongoing projects including: construction of peripheral roads in Athens; development of metro systems in Athens and Thessaloniki and of a tram system in Athens; upgrading of the highway network; modernization of the main north-south railway; a 1.5 mile bridge linking Rion and Antirrion at the western end of the Gulf of Corinth; and wastewater treatment plants for the cities of Athens, Iraklion, Volos, and Larissa.

Greece’s low level of investment over more than a decade has kept its industrial base relatively small to meet domestic demand. As a result, imports are three times bigger than exports. The merchandise trade deficit has, however, been offset by income from tourism and shipping and net inflows from the European Union.

In 2002, imports totaled $31 billion and exports $10.3 billion. The 14 other countries currently in the EU account for 52.2 percent of the Greek import market. US exports to Greece in 2002 totaled 1.15 billion dollars, while imports from Greece were 546 million dollars. Major Greek exports to the U.S. are: cement, vegetables, bauxite and aluminum, tobacco, fruits and petroleum products. The EU remains Greece’s major market, absorbing 43.2 percent of Greek exports. The other European countries and Asia are the second and third largest markets. In 2002, the U.S. absorbed 5.3 percent of Greek exports.

Greece’s labor force is estimated at 4.4 million people. Greek labor unions play an important role in determining wages, fringe benefits and working conditions. Unemployment is officially projected to drop to 9.6 percent of the labor force in 2003, from the 10 percent recorded in 2002. However, unemployment of women and young people ages 15–24 is among the highest in the European Union. Although emigration has dramatically decreased over the last three decades, more than 5 million Greeks are estimated to live abroad, mainly in the U.S., Australia, Germany and Belgium. Conversely, the numbers of immigrants seeking work in Greece has been increasing, exceeding 700,000 by 2002. Per capita income in Greece is projected at $ 12,555 in 2003.

Greece has been an EU member since January 1, 1981, and has received substantial aid from the EU. Net inflows from the EU reached 5.5 billion Euros in 2002. The Third Community Support Framework Program (2002–2006) from the EU provides for some $24 billion to fund projects such as building highway and rail networks, airports, and bridges, and to the development of the Athens and Thessaloniki Metro systems and wastewater treatment plants in major Greek cities.


Automobiles Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:31 PM

Automobiles are necessary for trips outside the cities and for commuting from the suburbs. Small cars are most suitable for driving on the narrow Greek roads and city streets. Air-conditioning is desirable, especially during hot, dusty, summer months. American cars may be ordered duty-free directly from the manufacturer or through U.S. dealers. Purchasing a new car through a local dealer is usually more expensive than purchasing and shipping a new car from outside Greece, since the cost of shipping is included in the local base price. Due to the high import taxes imposed on non-diplomats, the market for used vehicles is limited to the diplomatic community. Though the sale of second- and third-hand cars is fairly typical within the diplomatic community, limited demand keeps prices low. For this reason, newcomers should not expect to recuperate blue book value for expensive vehicles or should be prepared to export vehicles upon departure. While the U.S. Government will only ship one vehicle per employee at government expense, the Greek government authorizes duty-free ownership of two vehicles for families with two drivers. All imported vehicles must be fitted with a catalytic converter and pass an emissions test before a vehicle license is issued.

Car repair and spare parts are available in Athens for most non-U.S. made cars. It is hard to find mechanics trained to work on models with U.S. specifications. There is an experienced contractor on the Embassy premises who performs maintenance and repair of official American-made and imported vehicles and who also provides similar services after-hours for individuals at reasonable prices.

The Embassy operates a duty-free gasoline pump in the upper parking lot. While both leaded and unleaded gasoline is currently available, availability of leaded gas is expected to decrease as Greece comes into compliance with EU environmental standards. Gasoline costs about 0.75 Euro per liter (unleaded) on the local economy and about $0.60 at the duty free pumps. The Embassy Customs and Shipping Section assists personnel in obtaining license plates for their personally owned vehicles. To obtain license plates, personnel must present a valid international driver’s license or a valid Greek license. (Personnel without a valid U.S. license may apply for a driving test but be warned — the test is in Greek.) A license plate will not be issued to persons presenting only a U.S. drivers license. It is therefore imperative for employees and adult family members to obtain valid international drivers licenses prior to arrival. AAA offices in the U.S. are a good source for information/ application. The Community Liaison Office maintains applications for international driver’s licenses to assist personnel in applying for their international driver’s license renewals. The Greek Government requires third-party liability insurance for all motor vehicles. The Embassy has names of local companies who issue insurance. Some U.S. firms offer comprehensive policies with Greek liability coverage. Vehicles cannot be driven prior to purchase of insurance.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:32 PM

Main streets and highways are paved; secondary roads are rough and ungraded. Most roads are two-lane, except for parts of the National Road and several new highways in the Athens area. The road network is good and constantly being expanded. In response to tourism, road surfaces are improving; however, in some remote areas, be prepared to find unimproved conditions. The roads to Belgrade and Sofia are good. The borders between Greece and Turkey, FYROM, Bulgaria, and Albania are open to private automobiles. Before driving to Greece through FYROM, Bulgaria, or Albania, however, check with the Embassy to find out which border crossings you may use.

The Athens area now is home for more than 40% of Greece’s 11 million people. The number of vehicles in the greater Athens area has increased dramatically over the past 20 years and now totals over 1 million. Roads are narrow and often lined with parked cars. Heavy traffic flows in and out of the city from early morning until after midnight are typical and, indeed, have gotten worse with numerous Olympics-related construction projects. This causes noisy and irritating driving. In an effort to control the pollution problems in Athens, driving is restricted in the central area every day, except Sundays, holidays, and the month of August. Only public transportation, motorcycles, and vehicles with diplomatic license plates are exempt from these restrictions. For security reasons, no Mission employees use diplomatic plates on their cars, but those having diplomatic status are issued a special card, which can be presented to the authorities if stopped when driving in the restricted area. The Chancery is within the restriction limits. Because of congestion in the city, shopping trips and commuting can be extremely time-consuming. Commutes of about an hour each way are not uncommon. For this reason, over the last few years the Embassy housing office has made a concerted effort to move people closer in. Athens has a good and inexpensive public transportation system consisting of buses, trolleys, and a metro. Taxis are inexpensive, but getting one can be frustrating. Cab drivers take more than one passenger or group of passengers and sometimes decline to pick up passengers at all. Radio taxis can be obtained by telephone and can require waits of 30–45 minutes to arrive. Parking is a perennial problem throughout most of the city and environs, even at supermarkets. Limited parking is available at the Embassy on a first-come, first-served basis.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:33 PM

Athens enjoys a new modern airport which compares favorably with U.S. and other European airports. Numerous airlines connect Athens with the Near and Far East, North Africa, and Europe, often with daily flights. Daily service within Greece is available from Athens to Thessaloniki, Alexandroupolis, Kalamata, Kavala, Corfu, Crete, Rhodes, and the other larger islands. Railroad service within Greece is good but not extensive. As a maritime nation, Greece has extensive inter-island ferry and hydrofoil service. The main ports serving Athens are Piraeus and Rafina. While many cargo ships (some with passenger accommodations) go to the U.S. no direct cruise ship service is available between Greece and the U.S. U.S.-flag cargo ships, which operate between Piraeus and the U.S., do not carry passengers.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:34 PM

Greek OTE telephone billing is different from that in the U.S. OTE bills cover 2- month periods, arrive at least 4 weeks after the end of the billing period, and must be paid within 5 days after the payment expiration date to avoid disconnection. Calls are metered and charged per unit. Long-distance calls are metered and charges vary according to distance. A call to the U.S. costs about 25¢ plus 18% tax per minute. Residential phones listed in the Embassy’s name are VAT exempt. Residents of most Athens’ suburbs can request itemized billing. Direct-dial calls to the U.S. can be placed by dialing the prefix 001 followed by the area code and the local U.S. number. Long-distance, collect, person-to-person, or credit card calls may be placed through the OTE operator by dialing 139. Many personnel find it more convenient and substantially less expensive to use a telephone credit card or alternative telephone service for calls. Card phones are available throughout Greece.

Wireless Service Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:34 PM
Cellular phone use has proliferated throughout Greece. While somewhat expensive, there are a number of reliable networks to choose from. U.S. cellular phones are not compatible with the Greek telephone system but Greek cellular phones can work in the U.S.

Internet Last Updated: 11/3/2003 8:16 AM

Internet providers are plentiful in Greece. Typical (PSTN 56kbps modem) subscription fees average $15 per month plus separate telephone charges from OTE for the local connection and time spent on-line. For example, the estimated monthly charge for a PSTN connection with 100 hours of Internet access would be about $70. ISDN (64k & 128k) and ADSL (384k, 512k & 1024k) connections are also available at additional cost. Most Internet Service Providers insist that customers authorize direct billing of monthly subscription fees to a credit card.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:37 PM

APO mail service is available to all American personnel assigned to U.S. Government agencies in Athens, Thessaloniki, and Kavala. The Mission APO operates a small post office and offers the following services:

First-class mail, priority mail, space available mail (SAM), registered mail, certified mail, return receipt, and insured mail. Registered mail items can be insured up to $25,000. Regular insurance provides coverage for up to $5,000.

A variety of postage stamps can be purchased, including the standard booklets of 20 first class stamps.

The APO is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 0930 to 1230 hours.

All outgoing items received at the APO are flown to JFK, N.Y., and Frankfurt, Germany to onward destinations within 48 hours. First class and priority mail items travel by air to their destinations and usually arrive within 5 to 10 days. SAM parcels travel by surface upon arrival at JFK and normally take 10 to 20 days to arrive. However, delays can occur during busy periods. Letter class mail delivered to the Embassy Mail Room is sent out daily.

The transit timeframe is the same for incoming mail. However, it is usually received on a daily basis.

Maximum weight for parcels is 70 pounds. Maximum size (length and girth combined) is 108 inches.

Please use the following address to receive mail at the Athens Embassy:

Full Name
PSC 108 Box (check with your office for correct number)
APO AE 09842

Please use the following address to receive mail at the American Consulate General in Thessaloniki:

Full Name
PSC 108 Box 37
APO AE 09842

Please use the following address to receive mail at the IBB Greece Transmitting Station:

Full Name
PSC 108 Box 39
APO AE 09842

Military Postal Service (MPS) is also provided at the Athens APO. Parcels and letters with the “APO AE” theater and most “APO AP” mail can be sent free of charge. However, MPS mailed with special services (certified, insured, etc.) are charged for postage according to weight and destination. Additionally, excess household and/or personal effects will be charged for according to the weight and destination.

High-theft items such as electronic equipment (computers, stereos, etc.) should be sent “registered with insurance.” Do not confuse regular insurance with registered mail.

Registered mail is separated from the regular mail, signed for at each stop by an American citizen, and locked in a secure area at all times. It is extremely rare for registered mail to be lost or stolen because of these safeguards. Regular insured mail is combined with other uninsured parcels and receives no special handling.

The Athens APO no longer provides outgoing express mail service. DHL service is available through the Embassy Mail Room. The Embassy APO facility operates on a “cash only” (U.S. currency) basis. Personal checks and credit cards are no longer accepted for postal transactions. While stamps can be purchased at the APO, stamp shortages do occur at times. Patrons may find it convenient, and are encouraged, to purchase stamps directly from the USPS at their on-line WEB page, URL:

Radio and TV Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:38 PM

TV reception in Athens is good, with most programs broadcast in Greek. CNN International is available without special fees, cable or satellite.

Major Greek networks run recent U.S. movies and sitcoms in English with Greek subtitles. AFN television service is available in private residences for a minimal fee. EWSA manages the distribution of the AFN decoders.

Television reception can be augmented by erecting a satellite dish and subscribing to various pay for view satellite services, including NOVA, a popular cable distributor, which allows viewers to watch MSNBC and BBC World.

VOA broadcasts by shortwave in Greek and in English, and London BBC can be received on short-wave radios. Daily news is broadcast in English on several Greek radio stations.

All channels broadcast in color using the European PAL/SECAM system. US-standard televisions will not receive this signal. Purchase of a multi-format, adjustable voltage television set and VCR, available from AAFES or locally, which includes NTSC, PAL, and SECAM, is highly recommended. U.S. standard TVs brought to Greece can be used with VCRs and computer games only from the U.S., without modification.

DVDs and VHS tapes are widely available in Greece. Embassy employees can pick them up at the EWSA store, at a local DVD shop, or over the web via or

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 4/29/2004 1:39 PM

There is an edition of the International Herald Tribune printed every day but Sunday in Athens. Inside is the English language version of Greek paper of record Kathimerini, which contains news, features, and entertainment listings. The paper’s weekend edition comes out on Saturday. The supplement’s website is

The local English-language paper Athens News is published every Friday, and contains an overview of the week’s news and feature stories on life in Greece. The paper’s website is

The Financial Times and The Wall St. Journal Europe are available at newsstands, though often a day after publication. The big European newsmagazines and papers are also available at selected kiosks throughout the city.

The Stars and Stripes, and a wide selection of American magazines, are available at the EWSA convenience store at the Embassy.

Subscribers to Time and Newsweek International will get their magazines promptly, while there will be a one to two week delay for magazines published in the U.S. Even with this delay, Embassy personnel are advised to use the post APO address for magazines.

APO is also a godsend for ordering books, CDs and DVDs. Prices on sites such as and are usually lower than at the English language bookstores in Athens, which are clustered near Syntagma Square. The best one is Eleftherodakis on Panepistimiou St.

Athens has a number of first-rate movie theaters which show “recent” (2–3 months after the U.S. release) U.S. and foreign films. Open-air theaters are a popular summer venue for movie lovers, but sometimes hard to understand given the outside noise (Greeks read the subtitles).

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:13 PM

Medical Facilities are good. A Regional Medical Office (RMO) is currently made up of a regional medical officer, a physician’s assistant (PA), two part-time registered nurses, and a receptionist. The staff of the RMO provides preventive health care services, including evaluation and treatment for common medical problems, advice, and outside referral. The medical unit maintains close contact with a cadre of well-trained Greek physicians, of which many are English-speaking doctors trained in the U.S. or in western Europe. During an average month, the medical unit sees over 250 patients. The Regional Medical Officer and the Physician’s Assistant also have responsibility for more than 20 posts, many of which have poor health infrastructure. The Regional Medical Officer travels outside Greece over 50% of the time.

The heart of the medical unit is our American nurses who speak fluent Greek and know the local medical community. They administer immunizations, assist in patient education, screen and evaluate medical problems, direct Embassy personnel to the care of local physicians, as appropriate, and follow up on staff who are hospitalized.

The Regional Medical Office maintains a small pharmacy and can provide some medications for acute, short-term treatment. Medications like Advil, Tylenol, etc., are also available in the EWSA convenience store. Employees should fill prescriptions before arrival and make arrangements for refills to be sent to post. If necessary, the Regional Medical Officer can fill out a prescription form.

Persons stationed in other parts of Greece may have to travel to Athens for treatment.

For specialized care, Athens has several general hospitals and clinics, including separate pediatric and maternity hospitals. The level of care at these facilities is good, with the only weakness being the level of nursing/support-type care. Most hospitals are equipped with modern diagnostic equipment and trained technicians. Therefore, emergency and most routine surgery, as well as general hospitalizations, can be handled at local facilities. If an individual requires medical evacuation for further treatment, the evacuation points for all posts within Greece are London and Germany. Routine dental care is available throughout Greece. In Athens, pediodontic and orthodontic care is available from American or Greek dentists or orthodontists, with a few who have received their training in the U.S. Athens has oral surgeons, if needed. If possible, individuals with corrective lenses should have /extras made in the U.S. before arrival in Greece. Local opticians can fill optical prescriptions, however, and some local ophthalmologists have extensive experience with contact lenses. Additionally, bring sunglasses for sun-drenched Greece. In Greece, few facilities are available for handicapped individuals although an effort is being made to renovate some facilities to serve people with disabilities ahead of the 2004 Olympics and Paralympics, but those that do exist are not up to Western standards. Some hospitals and other medical institutions are equipped for wheelchairs. There is now ramp access from the back parking lot to the Chancery but wheelchair ramps are limited in other Mission buildings. However, special arrangements can be made to facilitate visits by persons who use wheelchairs. Elevators that can accommodate wheelchairs are available in the Chancery.

Community Health Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:18 PM

The level of community health is considered high in Athens. Although the enforcement of regulations concerning the storage and sale of foods and drugs is less strict than that in the U.S., most local restaurants and taverns are safe and good places to eat. The local fruits and vegetables are excellent and do not require any special preparation beyond cooking and cleaning. Most meats can be procured locally and are safe. Pasteurized milk in Athens is safe for consumption.

The sanitation practices in the cities are good, unless a public works strike occurs; trash can sometimes accumulate up to a week at a time. In Athens and its suburbs, the garbage is collected 3-7 days a week, depending on the area. Local sewage drainage and treatment are adequate. The water in most cities throughout Greece is potable, but use a fluoride supplement for children up to age 13. When visiting small villages and the islands, however, consume bottled water, as the water source may be limited and not well treated. Insects and vermin pose no particular problems, but mosquitoes, garden pests, and ants can be annoying.

The major endemic, communicable diseases of concern to Americans are respiratory infections, which are caused by high levels of pollution present in Athens at periods of time throughout the year. Therefore, individuals with chronic respiratory disorders such as severe allergies, asthma, and emphysema may experience difficulty breathing during heavy pollution periods. Otherwise, no unusual health risks are involved in living in Greece. Traffic accidents can be a cause of injury, both in Athens and outside of major cities. Defensive driving and wearing seatbelts are crucial. Roads and sidewalks are uneven, contain potholes, and are especially slippery in the rain. This can pose hazards for drivers and pedestrians alike.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:20 PM

Employment opportunities for non-Greek citizens are limited. All Greek firms, and most U.S. offices, hire employees who are fluent in Greek. Qualified Greek citizens, many of whom speak several languages, are available in Athens. The Government of Greece makes every attempt to protect employment opportunities for its own citizens. Only 10% of the employees of foreign firms may be non-Greek. Aliens must have a work or residence permit before accepting employment in Greece. Under the terms of a 1995 bilateral work agreement spouses and dependents of American personnel assigned to the U.S. Mission may work on the local economy. The Human Resources Office coordinates the permit procedure with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Embassy is occasionally able to offer employment of a mostly clerical nature to American family members and members of household. Employment within the Mission may be under a number of different appointing authorities and work schedules. Jobs within the Mission include Community Liaison Officers, HR Assistant, EWSA manager, roving secretary, security escort, APO manager and assistants, security training coordinator, GSO assistant, etc. The Embassy also offers a full summer-hire program for dependents between the ages of 16–22. Family members may also conduct home-based businesses for Mission-only clientele. Private English teaching and occasional positions with language centers and private schools are also possible sources of employment. Holders of valid U.S. teaching certificates may write directly to the schools located in the Athens area for additional information on employment. (See also Education.)

Professionals requiring licenses in the U.S. usually require licenses in Greece to practice. Fluency in written and spoken Greek is normally a basic requirement. A number of Mission spouses with “portable” skills have found both local and multinational positions. Currently, Mission spouses are employed in a number of diverse positions outside the embassy such as physical therapy, graphic art, psychiatry, professor of education, EU project auditor, etc.

American Embassy - Athens

Post City Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:20 PM

Athens, the capital of Greece, is situated 300 feet above sea level on the Attica Plain, bordered by the Aegean Sea and Mounts Parnis, Penteli, and Hymettus. Athens is built around the Acropolis and picturesque Lycabettus Hill. The Attica Plain is agriculturally rich, but surrounded by semiarid hills and mountains. Athens is the commercial, cultural, and political center of Greece. Athens is a “mother city,” the central point of a group of suburban townships with separate entities. Some northern suburbs are Psychico, Filothei, Kifissia, and Ekali. Old Phaleron, Kalamaki, Glyfada, and Voula border the sea.

Security Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:34 PM

Embassy Athens is designated “critical”for indigenous terrorism. Local Greek terrorist groups consider official Americans, U.S. Embassy and U.S. Military personnel, preferred targets. We believe that the threat to official U.S. Government personnel on short-term assignments to Greece or visiting for tourism is relatively low. The indigenous groups historically have engaged in extensive operational surveillance over long periods of time. There were several well-publicized arrests in July 2002 of members of the most notorious Greek terrorist groups, November 17 and ELA. The full impact of those arrests and the subsequent trials on future terrorism has yet to be determined. We nonetheless urge vigilance and caution, as the worldwide threat from other terrorist groups against Americans in general remains high. Official Americans should assume they are potential targets.

Over the past year the U.S. Embassy has experienced numerous bomb threats, protest marches, and anti-U.S. demonstrations. These protests are generally peaceful though a few provoked random acts of violence. Travelers to Greece are advised that protests or demonstrations could occur at any time; unwitting observers or bystanders might be identified, to their disadvantage, as Americans. RSO recommends that official U.S. travelers in Greece remain alert when moving about in public places and avoid certain places where demonstrators frequently congregate. These places include the Polytechnical University area, located on 28 October (Patission) Street between the National Archeological Museum and Omonia Square; Exarchion Square, located near Kolonaki; Omonia and Syntagma Squares, which are often used as launch sites for large demonstrations; and Mavili Square, located near the U.S. Embassy. Visitors should keep abreast of news about large demonstrations and avoid these areas and metro stops.

Crime is rated “medium” in Greece. For TDY visitors, pick-pocketing and purse-snatching are the most common crimes. Taxis are generally safe though metered cabs are recommended. Taxis too will often pick up more than one passenger unless prior arrangements are made. Crimes of opportunity — thefts, break-ins, and occasional scams — are on the rise. Travelers should be especially cautious with wallets, purses, and parcels when traveling on crowded streets, public buses, trolleys, and/or subways. There have been several instances of motorcyclists approaching cars stuck in traffic, reaching through open windows or smashing closed ones, and stealing whatever is within reach. The Embassy recommends keeping purses, parcels, handbags, etc. out of sight under the seat or on the floor of the car. Windows should be kept closed and doors locked. Beggars and other street people may also confront pedestrians who may attempt to divert attention, and then steal unprotected valuables - either by pick-pocketing or snatch-and-grab techniques. Women are generally safe from violent crime in Greece. Men are aggressive by American standards, however, when pursuing women.

Traffic in Greek urban areas, especially Athens and Thessaloniki, is chaotic. Greece leads the European Union in per capita traffic fatalities. Road rage is common. Accidents sometimes lead to fist fights. Drivers in Greece should exercise caution and common sense. Foreigners driving in Greece are required to carry an international driver's license that must be obtained prior to arrival, along with their regular (U.S.) driver's license (a U.S. license itself won't do). Drivers and pedestrians alike should exercise extreme caution when operating motor vehicles or when walking along roadways. Moreover, tourists who rent motorbikes either on the Greek mainland or its islands must wear helmets and must take special precautions on the local roads that are typically poorly maintained and frequently pothole-ridden. Greece also leads the European Union in per capita motorcycle deaths.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 11/3/2003 9:44 AM

The U.S. Mission has over 500 American personnel, including dependents, in the Athens area and about 10 in other locations. The Mission employs 400 Foreign Service nationals countrywide. Under the supervision of the Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), Mission functions are discharged by counselors for political, economic, management, consular, commercial, and public affairs. Attachés represent the Justice Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Transportation Security Administration of the Department of Homeland Security, Defense Communications Support Group, the Social Security Administration, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the U.S. military is represented by the Office of the Defense Attache (DAO) and the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) as well as Foreign Area Officers in Athens and Thessaloniki, the APO at the airport and the 953rd US Army Transportation Unit in Pireaus. The Marine Security Guards are under the supervision of the Regional Security Officer. Other U.S. Government offices in Greece include the American Consulate General in Thessaloniki and IBB Relay Station at Kavala and transmitting station at Rhodes.

The Chancery is at 91 Sophias Avenue, tel. 210 721-2951/9 and tel. 210 721-8401/8. The Consular Section (in the Chancery) can be reached on 210 721-8561/9. ODC offices are located at the Greek Zorba Base, at 4 Megalou Alexandrou, Goudi, 157 73, Greece, tel. 210 720-2600. The Embassy web page ( contains frequent updates on a variety of issues of topical interest.

Newcomers traveling by air are met on arrival by a designated sponsor and/or a representative of the office and assisted through customs. They should inform the appropriate agency personnel office in advance of accompanying dependents and baggage, arrival date and time, flight number, and airline. New arrivals may call the Embassy Human Resorces Office (210 720-2260 or 210 720-2254) or after office hours call the Security receptionist (210 720-2483) for assistance.

Agencies at post are responsible for sending welcome information to new employees upon receiving notification of their assignment. Post check-in begins on the first workday following arrival. The Administrative Section assists new arrivals in matters concerning the acquisition of essential identity cards and visas, housing, leave, pay and allowances, and customs clearances. The CLO serves as referrals for domestic help, schools, and baby-sitters.

Post Orientation Program

The HR Office provides the new arrival with a full Welcome package, which includes a Welcome Book produced by the CLO, maps, informational materials and a check-in schedule. The Welcome Book gives a brief outline of Greek history, government, economic development, culture, and religion, and recommendations on hotels, dining, shopping, and entertainment as well as useful information on getting around in Athens. HR also schedules each new employee for a full day of administrative briefings with appropriate management offices (General Services, Housing, Financial Management, Information Management, Medical Unit, Security, etc.)

A one-day orientation program run by CLO is held periodically for new arrivals and their dependents over age 14. The session, usually held at the Ambassador's residence, includes briefings on U.S. objectives in Greece by different Mission agencies, general background on the work of the Embassy, a short presentation on Greek culture by our FSN staff, and lunch.

We are proud of our quite extensive and innovative language program which includes specific programs for specialists and family members. There are also field trips and weekend immersion programs available for employees and dependents. With the help of FSI, we just published a CD-Rom titled Out and About in Athens. Post management supports language training for all employees and their families to ease the adjustment to, and enhance the enjoyment and understanding of Greece.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

New arrivals usually move directly into permanent quarters; however, temporary quarters are sometimes necessary, especially during the summer transfer season. If temporary quarters are necessary, most arrivals are accommodated in government-leased apartments. Occasionally, when no temporary apartments are available, arrivals must use hotel accommodations until permanent quarters are available.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 11/5/2003 4:06 AM

The Embassy provides housing for all State Department personnel and employees of other agencies through the Embassy's Interagency Housing pool. The housing pool primarily consists of government-leased apartments and maisonettes (townhomes). The pool has some single family homes (both government-owned and -leased), but these are rare and normally reserved for higher ranking Embassy officials with representational duties. The only designated houses in the pool are the Ambassador and DCM's residences and the Marine House.

Most Embassy housing is located in the suburbs of Athens, and commuting is a necessity. In the closer suburbs, apartments prevail. There are a number of units in the Kolonaki area and other areas adjacent to the Embassy. The apartments closer to the Embassy are generally older and smaller than residences in the more distant suburbs but offer the convenience of a shorter commute to the Embassy and closer proximity to the American Community School (ACS). Some of the larger, newer apartments and most of the housing pool's maisonettes are located in the more distant suburbs, but the associated commute times may be considerably longer. Because our experience over the years is that the long commutes and extensive traffic delays have caused serious complaints, over the past two years the Mission has made a conscious effort to find housing closer to the Embassy. Dwellings are similar in layout to American homes, although most residences have balconies and/or terraces; bedrooms and kitchens are generally smaller and garages are rare.

New arrivals will normally be assigned housing by the Interagency Housing Board before arrival. Assignments are based upon interagency housing standards for rank and family size. It is essential for incoming personnel to notify their sponsoring organization and the GSO Housing Office as early as practical as to their preferences and concerns for housing (e.g., location, number of officially sponsored dependents, allergies, pets, and other concerns which the Housing Board should take into account). Due to landlord restrictions, the Housing Office cannot guarantee that incoming employees will be provided housing that can accommodate pets. The few landlords that do allow pets generally limit them to one only. If you wish to import a pet, it is imperative that GSO be notified well in advance.

Those assigned to single family residences are responsible for cleaning and maintenance of their yards. You may do the gardening and yard cleaning on your own, or you may hire gardeners or others. Gardening expenses are similar to those in the U.S. and can easily be around 100 Euro per month.

A few agencies do not participate in the Interagency Housing Pool. The Embassy Housing Office provides a briefing to employees of these agencies and assists them in making contact with local real estate agents. The Housing Office also assists in negotiating contract/lease terms with the prospective landlord.

Furnishings Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Furnishings are provided for all U.S.-owned and short-term leased housing in Athens by the occupying agency. Basic furniture, a stove, refrigerator/freezer, washer and dryer, microwave, and dishwasher are included. Depending on space and building maintenance considerations, appliances may be of European size. The Ambassador's and DCM's residences also have cooking utensils, china, crystal, silverware, and guest linens. Bring personal items such as pictures, art objects, special purpose lamps, books, stereo equipment, radios, and small appliances. Before shipping effects, it is recommended that an agency representative in Greece be contacted to learn about the availability of specific appliances and furniture.

The post administers a uniform drapery allowance. Carpets will be supplied for living and dining rooms only. Kitchen utensils, sheets, pillow cases, towels, blankets, and electrical appliances are available locally but may be more expensive than similar items in the U.S.

Houses and apartments have hot and cold running water; hot water is supplied from electrically operated heaters installed in kitchens and/or bathrooms or by solar heaters on building roofs. Most plumbing facilities and equipment give adequate service but vary in degree of modernity. Central heating is considered expensive by most Greeks, and people living in apartments where heating is controlled by the lessor may receive heat for only a limited number of hours a day. Supplemental heat, as from electric heaters, is often desirable. They may be bought locally. Many houses and apartments have fireplaces. Firewood is available but expensive. Most homes have marble or tile floors and concrete walls that are cold in winter. Older buildings are drafty, and heat generated by radiators is inadequate. Expect to wear medium-to-heavy sweaters and socks or slippers indoors during cold months. Supplemental carpeting or area rugs may be included in your shipment. Current is 220v, 50-cycle, AC, single or three phase. Adapter plugs, required for most American equipment, automatic fuses, and screw- and bayonet-type 220v light bulbs are available in supermarkets and electrical supply stores. Transformers in various wattages are available locally. The Embassy provides three transformers as part of the furnishings package.

Food Last Updated: 11/5/2003 4:13 AM

The EWSA Convenience Store. All American Mission employees, their dependents, and those assigned to Greece on temporary duty may join the EWSA located on the Embassy compound. Membership prices are $36 for a single person and $72 for a family, per year, nonrefundable. A deposit of $200 for singles and $300 for families is also required, refundable prior to departure. Temporary memberships for personnel on temporary duty are also available based on length of stay. The EWSA store stocks over 5,000 food items including various wines and alcoholic beverages. An excellent variety of popular American products is available at the store, including dairy products, canned and packaged products, frozen food and meats, soft drinks, household products, toiletries and a large supply of Hallmark items. Other services include an after-hours bar and grill open 3 days/week, video and DVD rental, gasoline station, fitness center, payment of telephone bills, hairdresser, dry cleaning, and photo developing. The Embassy cafeteria in the Chancery is open from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. every day.

U.S. Military Base at Souda Bay, Crete. All American employees assigned to the Mission, as well as eligible dependents, are authorized to use the U.S. Military base facilities and services on Crete. A uniformed services ID card is required for admission to the military base. The yellow card must be presented when purchasing controlled items. All cards are provided to non-military personnel by the HR Office.

The Local Market. On the local market, fresh meat, both local and imported, is cut in the European manner and is relatively expensive although good pork and lamb are available at lower prices. Local beef is not aged and lacks the tenderness of American beef. Fresh chicken, eggs, and local cheese are always available. Many Greeks shop daily, so a shopping district is an important part of every suburb. Each has its own grocer, butcher, florist, greengrocer, pharmacy, and a fish merchant. Fresh produce, fruits, plants, eggs, and sometimes fish can also be purchased at the colorful weekly neighborhood farmers' markets (laiki). Fish is available but expensive. The huge central market daily sells fresh meats, game, chicken, seafood, spices, and a surprising variety of other commodities. Some neighborhoods have the Greek equivalent to the U.S. supermarket and even have megastores that sell clothing, appliances, electronics and food. Many of the larger grocery stores cater to the demands of clientele with international tastes, so they stock delicacies from around the world in addition to national products. Although some specialty items are expensive, there are also bargains. In any case, there is almost nothing that cannot be found in the Greek food market. Greek bakeries offer a tasty variety of home-style bread from wheat to French and Arabic - all made without preservatives. Sweet shops specialize in a variety of Greek pastries and European-style cakes and chocolates. Health food stores are a new fad and located in many areas. Greek wines are plentiful, varied and inexpensive, and some of the finer ones compete well internationally.

Clothing Last Updated: 11/5/2003 4:21 AM

Wardrobes for Greece should include hot and cold weather clothing similar to that worn in Washington, D.C., although outer wear for snowy conditions is normally not necessary, except in northern Greece and in mountainous areas. Skiing is available, so if you plan to do some, bring appropriate clothing. Warm winter clothes and sweaters are necessary because apartments, houses, and some offices are not adequately heated. Summer clothing should be lightweight and include many washable items. EWSA provides a contract dry-cleaning service, which is excellent. Shoes wear out quickly because of dust, dirt, and uneven pavements. Fashionable shoes in average sizes and widths are available and of good quality but are expensive. People with large, narrow, or wide feet or who are more comfortable in shoes of a special American brand should bring a good supply with them or order through mail-order companies. Athletic wear and shoes are available at many stores. Employees sometimes use the services of a seamstress who can make clothing repairs and do tailoring work.

Men Last Updated: 11/5/2003 4:18 AM

Medium-to-heavyweight wool suits are most comfortable during late fall and winter. For outdoors, supplement these with a sweater or a medium weight coat. A lightweight raincoat is also useful. One or two dark conservative suits are a must. Dark suits are worn year round for official functions, receptions, and informal dinners. Black tie is only rarely required for senior officers. In spring, summer, and early fall, lightweight suits are ideal. Complete clothing requirements for a full 2- or 3-year tour of duty are recommended. English and good Greek woolens are available locally but are expensive. Since the weather is pleasant most of the year, bring informal sportswear (sport shirts, slacks, shorts, or jeans, loafers, etc.) for picnics, beaches, and at home. Order shirts, ties, underwear, pajamas, socks, etc., from the U.S. or purchase locally at higher prices.

Women Last Updated: 11/5/2003 8:01 AM

Lightweight cotton, cotton-linen blends, silk, or other natural fibers in simple styles are preferred during the summer season. Slacks are popular casual attire. Shorts are not popular outside of the Embassy community unless on an island/ beach. Dark cottons, silks, and polyesters are worn during spring and fall. Suits and jacket dresses give versatility to clothes, particularly for changes of temperature and occasion. Wool dresses, suits, and sweaters are worn from October through April. At least one black dress or suit with long or elbow-length sleeves is useful. Leather skirts, jackets, and coats are popular. Any cloth coat is appropriate in winter, as are fur coats. One or two raincoats are desirable. The amount of clothes and variety of dresses required for cocktail parties, receptions, formal dinners, and dances varies according to rank and representational activities. European women dress fashionably, particularly for social occasions. Black is always in style for dressy occasions. Simple dresses are suitable for cocktail parties. Short as well as long dresses are worn for formal occasions.

Female officers and spouses of diplomatic personnel with representational responsibilities should have at least two evening dresses appropriate for formal occasions (one for summer, one for winter) and appropriate wrap and accessories. Stoles or evening sweaters are recommended for evening garden parties in summer. Summer wear is often more casual than dresses for fall and winter receptions and dinner parties. Ready-to-wear clothes of all kinds are a standard item in Greece. The British department store, Marks & Spencer's, offers a good variety of clothing, selling clothes according to both size and height (i.e. short, medium and tall). Prices and quality vary. Sales held twice yearly (August and February) offer good buys. Local shops carry good purses, belts, buttons, and jewelry. Imported or handmade items are expensive.

Greek markets offer a variety of yard goods. Imported silks, woolens, and cottons are available, but the best quality fabrics are expensive. Some local silks are attractive; Greek cottons, though less expensive, are seldom colorfast or preshrunk and never drip dry. Notions of European origin are plentiful. Dressmaking services range from local seamstresses to expensive couturiers. Local seamstresses are expensive. Local silver jewelry is attractive and reasonable. Yarns for knitting are available. Fur jackets, stoles, and coats are available locally. Prices vary according to styles, kind of fur, and whether the skins are pieced or whole.

Sports clothes are practical. Many summer receptions are in the garden, so spike heels are not practical. For walking around in Athens, wear low-heeled shoes with non-skid soles, as the sidewalks can be slippery and uneven. Purchase sports and walking shoes in the U.S. (now they are available in Greece, although the everyday shoes seem to be less comfortable than ones purchased in the U.S.). Greek and American women wear blouses or sweaters and skirts year round. These are available locally or ordered through mail-order companies using APO. Bring several swimsuits, since saltwater and bright sun wear them out rapidly. Attractive European-style swimsuits are available locally but are expensive and are made for smaller sizes. Beach shoes that can be worn in the water are useful for the often stony or sizzling sand beaches.

Children Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Ready-made clothing for children is available locally, but good quality apparel is expensive. Most families obtain children's clothing through catalog companies. As in the U.S., boys wear jeans or slacks to school, and girls wear dresses or skirts or jeans or slacks with blouses or sweaters. Sweaters are necessary, especially during colder months when building heat is inadequate.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 11/5/2003 8:08 AM

Athens has several main shopping areas in the city and the suburbs, where you can find a good variety of locally made and imported goods. Stores of one specialty cluster together - furniture stores in one section and light fixtures in another. Megastores (e.g. Carrefour), large supermarkets and economy merchandise chains throughout the city carry a wide variety of cleaning and cosmetic products, as well as everyday household items. Hondos Center is a store that carries a great variety of makeup lines (Lancome, Christian Dior, Maybelline, Clinique, etc.), but are more expensive than in the U.S. Each neighborhood has its own dry cleaner, shoe repair shop, hairdresser, and men's hair stylist. A contractor dry-cleaning service is available through the employee's association. There is a good hair salon, open two days a week, located on the embassy compound, which provides hair cutting and styling services for men, women and children at reasonable prices. Local hair stylists and beauty shops are expensive compared to U.S. prices for the same service. Housing repairs and problems are coordinated through GSO. Friends, neighbors, and associates are helpful on where to find auto mechanics. Mechanics are good, but parts for American cars may be unavailable. Ordering is possible, but can be very slow. There is also a contractor auto repair garage on the embassy compound that can work on your vehicle after-hours.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 11/5/2003 8:11 AM

Domestic help is available in Athens. Embassy families sometimes employ a fulltime servant or a part-time cleaning person, depending on representational duties and family size. Many house dwellers also employ a part-time gardener. Non-Greek national domestics are often passed from departing to arriving American personnel. Most domestics hired locally by Embassy employees are Filipinos. These workers usually speak English and their native language, in addition to Greek. By government decree and custom, in addition to regular compensation, full-time servants receive bonuses at Christmas (a month's salary); Easter (half a month's salary), and vacation time (8-15 days' wages). Live-in servants also receive food, clothing, and medical care. The servant's medical care is provided under IKA (Greek social security - old-age pension and medical care) or proof of insurance from their own country. A legislative decree provides for obligatory insurance enrollment with IKA for all full-time, live-in domestic employees as follows: gardeners, butlers, and cooks pay 35%-45% of monthly wage (13.25% by employees and 22.20% by employer).

General house workers are normally paid by the hour or by the day and are considered to be self-employed. Those workers are responsible for signing up for IKA and making the payments themselves. Those who employ day workers are not obliged to pay this insurance fee. The CLO office maintains a list of domestic employees and references and the HR Office assists employees on the legalities of residence permits, IKA, etc.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 11/5/2003 8:16 AM

In addition to the Greek Orthodox Church, several other faiths are represented in Athens. Sunday school and CCD classes are available through several churches.

St. Andrew's International Church (an interdenominational fellowship) has services in central Athens and Kifissia.

Others centrally located are St. Denis Cathedral (Catholic), St. Paul's Anglican, Church of the Latter-day Saints, Grace Baptist Church, Trinity Baptist Church, Crossroads International Christian Center, Living Christ Family (Sofokleous St. Omonia), Church of Christ (Pireaus St. Omonia) and First Church of Christ, Scientist.

Located in the northern suburbs are St. Peter (Anglican/Episcopal), St. John the Baptist (Catholic), and Hellenic International Christian Church in Kifissia offers an interdenominational Pentecostal service.

Located in the southern Suburbs are Glyfada Christian Center and Church of the Holy Apostles.

The central Cathedral has services in Greek, with readings and announcements occasionally in English. Beth Shalom Synagogue is located in Athens, and a mosque occupies the top floor of the Caravel Hotel.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 11/13/2003 12:27 AM
There are a number of schools that serve the international community. Currently, most Embassy dependent students attend the American Community Schools, TASIS, and St. Catherine's British School. The first two schools are fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. St. Catherine's is accredited in England.

The American Community Schools (ACS) is a private, nonprofit school incorporated in Delaware. The governing body is an eight-member Board of Education elected by the Parents Association. There is always an Embassy representative serving on the Board.

ACS provides an American educational program and offers the International Baccalaureate program to interested students. ACS has limited special education resources centers for learning disabilities at elementary and secondary levels. Admission to these programs is limited and is based on evaluation of records. ACS has a current enrollment of 745. Pupils with American citizenship comprise 45% of the student body; English-speaking citizens of more than 40 other countries make up the remainder. About 95 students graduate from high school each year, and, of these, 95% continue their education at colleges and universities. The school complex is located in Halandri, 7 miles from downtown Athens. It consists of three schools: an elementary school (junior kindergarten through grade 5), a middle school (grades 6-8), and a high school (grades 9-12), as well as administrative offices. Bus service is available. Curriculum includes the International Baccalaureate program, business education, fine arts, physical education and an extensive foreign language program. ACS Athens offers a large array of after-school athletic and cultural activities in grades 4-12, as well as opportunities for in and out-of-country trips (cultural/athletic middle and high school). ACS participates in forensic tournaments, as well as the Model United Nations Conference in The Hague. All faculty members are certified and more than 54% hold master's degrees. By spring 2004 ACS hopes to have finished construction on a brand new performing arts center, sports complex and Olympic size indoor swimming pool. The international address is:

129 Aghias Paraskevis Street and Kazantzakis
152 34 Ano Halandri, Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-639-3200
Fax: 30-210-639-0051

Tasis Hellenic International School is a branch of the American School in Switzerland. It was founded in 1979 in a merger between TASIS Greece and the Hellenic International School, which was established in 1971. It prides itself on having a caring, student-centered community. TASIS Hellenic enrolls 284 students at the Middle and Upper School on the Kifissia campus. TASIS Hellenic offers American college preparatory, Cambridge University I.G.C.S.E. and "A" level preparation, American advanced placement courses and International Baccalaureate programs, and English as a second language. Classes are small; the average class has 15 students. All faculty are certified, and 92% of the graduating seniors continue their education at colleges and universities in the U.S. and the U.K. The academic year extends from September to mid-June. The school year is divided into 2 semesters, with a 3-week Christmas vacation and a 2-week spring break. Grades and teacher comments are sent to parents four times yearly. Bus transportation is provided from all major residential areas in and around Athens.

Tasis also has an elementary school (pre-K to grade 5) with an enrollment of 100 and a curriculum that is designed to meet the special needs of the young child. The elementary school is located 12 minutes from the middle and high school campus. The mailing address is:

TASIS Hellenic International School
P.O. Box 51051
Artemidos and Xenias Street
145 10 Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-6233-888
Fax: 30-210-623-3160
E-mail: or

St. Catherine's British Embassy School is coeducational and caters for children aged Pre-kindergarten - High school. Some families are permanent residents of Athens while others are more internationally mobile. The curriculum is closely modeled on the British National Curriculum but has certain adaptations and additions that take into account the school's unique circumstances. All children follow programs of study in English, mathematics, science, art and design, geography, history, music, physical education, religious/moral education, and technology. Every effort is made to keep class size small. The school occupies a site in Lykovrissi, bordering the residential suburb of Kifissia, and is within easy access of other northern suburbs of Athens. All children are required to wear a school uniform, which is designed so that most items are relatively easy to obtain. The school's facilities in terms of playground space, campus environment, and outdoor swimming pool are excellent. Mailing address for overseas mail is:

P.O. Box 51019
145 10 Kifissia, Greece

Local address is:
Sophocles Venizelou 73
Lycovrissi, Greece 141 23
Tel: 30-210-282-9750/282-9751
Fax: 30-210-282-6415
E-mail: or

Campion School is an all-age, coeducational international school run on British lines, admitting pupils of any race or nationality. Senior pupils are prepared for the "A," "O," and AP level exams and the SAT. Campion is registered in Massachusetts and has been a member of the Governing Bodies Association in the U.K. since 1970. Bus service is available. One-third of the student body is British; the remainder represents 50 other countries. Computer and technical studies are available, and a particularly wide range of foreign languages is taught. Campion has one campus with grades PreK-12 in Pallini, 16 km from the American Embassy. The mailing address is:

P.O. Box 67484
Pallini 153 02
Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-607-1700
Fax: 30-210-607-1750

St. Lawrence College is an independent coeducational school registered in England. A British public/prep school prepares students for "A" and "O" level exams, as well as SAT's. Current enrollment is 800 pupils from 18 countries between the ages of 3 and 18 years. The school is located in the Hellenikon area of Athens. Bus transportation is available. Mailing address is:

P.O. Box 70151
Glyfada 166 10
Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-894-3251
Fax: 30-210-898-0107

Foreign Language Schools

Japanese School. Instruction is in Japanese. Address is:

Embassy of Japan
64 Vassilissis Sophias Avenue
115 28 Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-682-4278
Fax: 30-210-729-2193

Deutsche Schule Athens
Chomatianou and Ziridi St.
Maroussi 151 23
Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-619-9261
Fax: 30-210-619-9267

Italian School. Elementary, high school, and lycee. Instruction is in Italian. Address is:

Odos Mitsaki 18
111 41 Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-228-0338
Fax: 30-210-202-7628

Lycee Franco-Hellenique - U.S. Dependents also attend a French school, which offers a program from PreK though high school. This school has over 140 students in both the Greek and French sections of the school. Each section is set by the respective education ministries. The contact information is:

Lycee France-Hellenique
P.O. Box 60050
Aghia Paraskevi 153 01
Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-601-2704
Fax: 30-210-600-3460
E-mail: or

Special Needs Education Last Updated: 11/5/2003 8:27 AM

Special teachers and speech therapists are available for private hire through the Center for Psychic Health, 58 Notara Street, 106 83 Athens, telephone 210 881-2944 and 210 823-2833. A private, independent organization called CARE/HELLAS also has a listing of specialists. Check with RMO for the listing. ACS and TASIS can accommodate children with mild special needs or learning disabilities. Families having children with more severe problems should verify with the RMO and CLO whether or not facilities are available for their specific needs at post.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 11/13/2003 12:46 AM

The American College of Greece or Deree College serves nearly 7,000 students at its two campuses. The college is an independent, nonprofit institution accredited by the New England Association for Schools and Colleges and under American direction. Primarily a coeducational liberal arts college in the English and American tradition, the main campus offers a 3-4 year program leading to a bachelor's degree in business administration, economics, psychology, sociology, English, history, and dance. The downtown center offers business and economics courses in the afternoon and evening and offers a 2-year associate degree in secretarial studies. The first graduate MBA program will begin in 2004. Most Deree students are Greek; 20 other nationalities are also represented. Instruction is in English. Pierce College (tel. 210 639-3250) is an affiliated secondary school on the main campus. The mailing address is:

6 Gravias Street
153 42 Aghia Paraskevi
Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-600-9800/9
Fax: 30-210-600-9811
E-mail: or

The University of LaVerne is fully accredited with academic requirements identical to the main school in California. Evening classes are held at TASIS School in Kifissia, though most classes are now moving to a new campus near ACS in Halandri as of fall 2003. BA and BS degrees can be pursued in business administration and economics, business management, behavioral science, sociology, history, political science, psychology, social science, and mathematics. Courses leading to a master's degree are available in business administration, and management. For counseling and more information visit their website or write to:

Ellis 3
Halandri 152 33
Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-689-8850
Fax: 30-210-682-9536

The University of Indianapolis is a private, coeducational university affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Established in 1902, and now an integral part of the educational and cultural life of Indianapolis and environs, the university maintains a moderate size and a diverse student body to whom it offers a comprehensive set of general, pre-professional, and professional programs grounded in the liberal arts.

University of Indianapolis is an accredited institution similar to LaVerne. They offer BA, BS, MA, MS and MBA degrees. They are located only a few blocks from the Metro near Syntagma Square. All professors are U.S.-educated. Address is:

9 Ipitou Street
Syntagma Square
105 57 Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-323-9909
Fax: 30-210-324-8502
E-mail: www.uiny

College Year in Athens is a program intended as a year abroad to enrich education at the sophomore, junior, and senior levels. Instruction is given in English by visiting U.S. and Greek professors. Courses are Greek civilization, archaeology, culture, art, literature, and politics. A limited number of qualified adults may be accepted as part-time special students for credit. They also offer short (three week) college-credit courses in Athens or on the islands. The mailing address is:

5 Plateia Stadiou
P.O. Box 17176
100 24 Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-7256-0749
Fax: 30-210-7561-1029
Website: or

Founded in 1881, The American School of Classical Studies at Athens provides graduate students and scholars from some 168 affiliated North American colleges and universities a base for research and study in the history and monuments of Hellenic civilization.
First and foremost, the school is a teaching institution, introducing North American graduate students to the sites and monuments of Greek civilization from antiquity to the recent past.

American School of Classical Studies is primarily a research institute for a limited number of students sent from the U.S. by their graduate schools. The mailing address is:

54 Souidias Street
106 76 Athens, Greece
Tel: 30-210-723-6313
Fax: 30-210-729-4047

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 11/5/2003 9:06 AM

Opportunities for sports participation abound in Greece. Many tennis clubs exist, from elite to affordable. A superb and rigorous test of golf is available at the 18-hole Glyfada Golf Course. Reasonable annual fees of around $1,000, plus slightly more tourist-oriented daily greens fee are available. Only four other courses exist in Greece: in Rhodes, Porto Carras (Halkidiki) serving Thessaloniki and Northern Greece, Corfu, and a small 9-hole course at the VOA Station in Kavala. American-style 10-pin bowling lanes are available in a few locations, and are becoming more popular.

The annual Athens marathon group each November and weekly runs of the international Hash House Harriers welcome joggers wishing company. There are also a number of weekend walking groups that welcome both adults and children and their dogs. Roller-skating and ice-skating rinks are accessible, and health clubs have become popular. Yachtsmen moor their craft in numerous marinas along the Saronic Gulf, and organized racing is available. The less affluent can charter various size yachts with or without a skipper to cruise the islands. Sailing classes are also available for adults and children.

Windsurfers love the balmy breeze of the Aegean Sea, and water skiing, although not as popular, is available as are jet skis. Scuba divers and sailors must understand Greek regulations and have knowledge of local waters. Scuba classes are offered as well. For those who enjoy a sandy beach and cool swim, many beaches are available in close proximity to Athens. Some private beaches offer lockers, sports equipment, parking, umbrellas, chairs, and restaurants in various locations, but for a price. Most public beaches have tavernas that let you use their chairs and umbrellas if you buy drinks or a meal there.

There are a number of riding clubs located in Athens, some with indoor and outdoor rings; lessons given in English can be arranged. All riding is English style. Horse racing takes place three afternoons weekly at the Faliron Race course and will soon be offered at the new Equestrian Center in Markoupoulou.

When the waters cool, the mountains beckon. Greece has several ski areas with lifts, good rental equipment, and instructors. The closest to Athens is near Delphi on Mount Parnassus; Kalavryta in the Peloponnese can be a day trip but is better for a weekend. Mount Helmos in the Peloponnese is 317 miles from Athens; to the north are Mount Pelion and Metsovo. There are inexpensive and very popular ski buses that pick up and drop off at central points during the ski season for those who don't want to drive. From mid-September to June, Athenians spend much time rooting for their favorite soccer team in one of two major stadiums in Athens or in Piraeus. The new Olympic Stadium is used for a variety of national and international sports events.

There are mountaineering, hiking, parachuting, track, table tennis, badminton, basketball, boxing, cycling, fencing, field hockey (not ice), riding, rowing, and volleyball associations. The American Women of Greece (AWOG) and NEWCOMERS Club gives bridge lessons, and there are several Greek bridge clubs.

Fishing enthusiasts will find excellent trout streams 3-5 hours from Athens. Sole, bass, pike, mullet, tuna, red snapper, and perch can be caught in the Aegean Sea. Greece is not a hunter's paradise, and access to overcrowded areas is difficult. The country-wide hunting license does not indicate the holder has any gun safety knowledge. Dove season lasts from mid-August to mid-March; partridge season from mid-September to mid-November; and other birds and game from mid-September to mid-March. Decoys and calls are prohibited. European and American hunting equipment, such as boots, guns, jackets, etc., are locally available, although American-made ammunition is difficult to obtain.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 11/5/2003 9:10 AM

The heart of an assignment to Greece is definitely its availability of touring and outdoor activities. Outside the greater Athens area, one finds Greece. Even with a 2- or 3-year posting, careful planning is necessary to see what Greece offers, whether with numerous organized tours and cruises or using good guidebooks and literature published by the National Tourist Organization.

Representing every era are historical sites and museums throughout Greece. Within a few hours' drive are Delphi (according to legend, the ancient navel of the world), Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Tiryns, and other renowned sites. By ferry, hydrofoil, cruise liner, or on local airlines, the numerous islands are accessible-each with its distinctive character: Crete, Santorini, Rhodes, Hydra, Corfu, and the innumerable picturesque smaller spots. Back in Athens are the Acropolis, Agora, Byzantine churches, Roman ruins, and numerous wonderful museums, ranging from jewelry to natural history to a children's museum. Accommodations are available year round in Greece; however, during peak tourist season, advance reservations are wise, and in mid-winter, many small hotels on the islands are closed. Hotels vary from deluxe class to back-packer quality, and recently the National Tourist Organization renovated several typical old Greek villas in several areas for tourist use. Camping is also popular in Greece, and campgrounds have been established throughout the country. There are quite a few ski areas within a day's drive and a number of employees take full advantage of skiing facilities on long weekends or day trips. Charter flights fly in and out of Greece regularly. The Embassy receives deep discounts during the off-season from local cruise lines and international airlines.

Entertainment Last Updated: 11/5/2003 9:21 AM

Greece is characterized by the informality, spontaneity, simplicity, and individuality of its entertainment. Nightlife in Athens is diversified and interesting. Taverna-style restaurants throughout the city and suburbs offer music for dining and dancing. More sophisticated establishments offer floorshows. Clubs are extremely popular with the younger generation and stay open until the wee hours. In fact, it's not unusual to see people leaving them at 6 and 7 a.m.! In summer, outdoor restaurants in the city, the suburbs, and on the sea front are popular. Athens' better restaurants and hotels serve Greek and continental food; several restaurants specialize in Asian and other ethnic food. In restaurants, cafes, bars, and nightclubs, a per person cover charge is included in the bill; however, it is customary to round the bill up to the nearest Euro to tip the waiter.

Athens and the suburbs have many movie theaters. Recent (2-3 months old) American films are popular and widely shown, as are Greek, French, Italian, Spanish, and German films. Most films are shown in their original language, with Greek subtitles.

In summer, outdoor theaters are everywhere. Acoustics at the outdoor cinemas are sometimes poor, but the ambiance makes up for it. There are some downtown where you can watch a movie and see the Acropolis light show at the same time. The theater, a tradition firmly rooted from classical days, operates in modern Greece year round but suffers the same economic restrictions faced in the U.S. and Europe. Even so, most of the private long-established Athenian theaters have full seasons. Greek translations of classical and contemporary plays by foreign playwrights are included in the repertory. A revival of the ancient outdoor theater, with the plays of Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus, and Aristophanes, is the basis of the annual Athens Festival held from June through August. Performances are given in four locations: in Athens at the imposing Roman-era Herodus Atticus theater; at the modern Lycabettus Hill theater, dramatically situated overlooking the city; at the fourth century B.C. amphitheater, noted for its superb acoustics and setting, in the Peloponnese at Epidaurus; and "Little" Epidaurus, 2-l/2 hours from Athens.

There is a folk dance company that performs at the theater on Philopappou Street (opposite the Acropolis) during summer. Karagiozi shadow theater performances are held in public squares in summer. Greek commercial firms regularly organize recitals and theater and ballet performances with foreign artists and troupes during winter. The National Opera Company and the Athens Ballet Company perform in winter; the Athens State Orchestra and the Athens State Opera offer regular year-round programs. The Athens concert hall, the Megaron Musikis, next to the Embassy, has many classical music and ballet performances and hosts performers and exhibitions from around the world. National and religious festivals are colorful, impressive, and worth seeing. It is also possible to be an armchair viewer, as most significant festivals are shown on TV. Typical of such festivities are Epiphany (January) and the pre-Lenten carnival season.

Art exhibits are held at many galleries and cultural centers in Athens. The National Gallery of Art, opposite the Hilton Hotel, on Vasileos Constantinou Avenue, contains a collection of works by Greek painters. There are many museums devoted to folk art and handicrafts, where articles of high quality may be found in Athens, as well as in shops, villages, and islands. The National Museum, Benaki, and Cycladic Museums and many others have been renovated recently and offer first-rate exhibits of Greece's history as well as international rotating exhibits.

Greece has a reciprocal agreement with the U.S. concerning amateur radio operation. Currently, licenses are available. Applicants must have a valid U.S. amateur license issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Greek Government does not allow third-party traffic.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 11/5/2003 9:36 AM
Activities include American clubs, fraternal organizations, and church groups that invite membership. For adults: AWOG (American Women's Organization of Greece), Newcomers, Greek Red Cross, American Legion, Masonic Order, Parent-Teacher Association, Propeller Club, YWCA, and Women's International Club. AWOG (the American Women's Organization of Greece) was founded by the spouse of the American Ambassador in 1948 and is open to all American women, spouses of U.S. citizens, and to a smaller number of Greek and international members. The honorary president is always the spouse of the current American Ambassador. Originally founded as a study group, it has expanded to raise funds for welfare work in Greece, including bazaars, dances, musical programs, etc. AWOG also offers opportunities for volunteer work with children, elderly, etc. It grants scholarships, aid to schools, orphanages, and hospitals. AWOG has an extensive fine arts program, with weekly and monthly tours and lectures.

NEWCOMERS is an informal and popular women's group with a wide international membership. The Newcomers club has no dues, and the only membership requirement is the ability to speak English. Monthly meetings are held. Other group activities include Greek cooking, international cooking, potluck dinners and cocktail parties, tennis, golf, playgroups, tours, bridge, and walking groups.

Religious groups include Catholic Women's Guild, Catholic Youth Organization, Protestant Women of the Chapel, Saint Andrew's Women's Guild, Saint Ann's Sodality, and American Jewish Community Group.

For young people there are Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

International Contacts Last Updated: 11/5/2003 9:40 AM
Due to the many Americans and other English-speaking foreigners who live in Athens, international contacts are diverse and abundant. Thus it is easy to make social contacts among those with common interests. Americans are invited by Greek friends to weddings, christenings, and other ceremonies in churches and homes. Dress and etiquette vary according to occasion; the Embassy's Protocol Office or others who have attended similar functions can help. Dozens of clubs and organizations in Greece are dedicated to public service, charity, philanthropy, and the exchange of ideas and cultural aspects of Greece and other countries. It is important to note that Greeks tend to dress more formally for events, and the Greek notion of "informal" is usually business attire.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Social functions include coffees, teas, luncheons, cocktail parties, receptions, dinners, and balls. The Ambassador and senior Mission officers often include junior and mid-grade officers at events which they host. Senior diplomatic officers and their spouses are included on the guest lists of their equivalents in the Greek Government and other embassies. With the large diplomatic corps in Athens, representational obligations can be demanding for senior and some mid-grade officers. Business attire is appropriate dress for most social functions.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 8/31/2001 6:00 PM

Your section chief arranges calls on the Ambassador and the DCM. Calls by spouses of U.S. officials are not required.

Business cards are widely used. Bilingual cards are not necessary; cards in English are acceptable. Officers should bring an initial supply of at least 50 cards. Printed or engraved cards can be obtained locally, but are more expensive than in the United States. Locally printed informals and invitations are available.

Social function hours vary but tend to start and finish later than in the United States. Events hosted by Americans begin earlier than those hosted by Greeks. Luncheons usually begin between 1 and 2:30 p.m. Cocktail parties usually begin between 7 to 9 p.m., and sit-down dinners can start as late as 9 to 10 p.m. Siesta time is widely observed between 2:30 and 5 p.m. in summer and 2:30 and 4:30 in winter, but some Greeks choose to rest between 5:30 and 7 p.m. You should avoid telephoning people's homes during these hours.

Special Information Last Updated: 6/14/2004 5:08 AM

Consulate General - Thessaloniki

Post City Last Updated: 11/26/2003 7:12 AM

With well over 1 million inhabitants, Thessaloniki is Greece's second largest city, located 300 miles north of Athens in the ancient province of Macedonia. Built around the shores of the Thermaikos Gulf and framed by its acropolis and Mount Hortiatis, Thessaloniki enjoys a splendid natural setting.

Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC by Kassandros, brother-in-law of Alexander the Great, probably on the site of classical Therme. Kassandros named the city after his wife, the daughter of Philip of Macedon and half-sister of Alexander the Great. Just two decades earlier King Philip had won a decisive victory for his Thessalian allies at Chaeronia. He named the daughter born to him that year Thessaloniki ("Thessalian Victory") to commemorate his triumph. When Alexander's half-sister was wed to General Kassandros, the city was given to them as a home and renamed after her.

In 146 AD Thessaloniki, by then under the domination of Rome, became an imperial provincial capital governing the area from the Adriatic to the Black Sea. During this era the famous Via Egnatia was constructed as a through-road between Rome in the west and Constantinople in the east. The Via Egnatia is one of the great commercial roads of history and remains one of Thessaloniki's major arteries.

Thessaloniki achieved its greatest prominence during the late Roman and Byzantine periods when it became the first city of the "province" of Greece, far surpassing Athens in commercial and administrative importance. Its large natural port and location at a crossroads in southeastern Europe made it a tempting target for successive conquerors. As the Byzantine Empire declined, Saracens, Normans, and Venetians at various times gained control of the city. Venice bought Thessaloniki in 1423 AD, but the city was seized by the Ottoman Empire in 1430 and suffered a decline in importance under the 482-year Turkish occupation. Many Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 settled in Thessaloniki, giving it, by the 19th century, one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. Turkish rule ended on October 26, 1912, with the recapture of the city by Greek troops. October 26 is also the name-day of the city's patron saint, Demetrios, and the liberation is celebrated every year on that day.

The central part of Thessaloniki was rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1917 using a design drawn by the French architect Hebrard. During World War II the Germans occupied the city for nearly 4 years, until their withdrawal in October 1944. More than 50,000 members of the city's vibrant Jewish community perished during the Holocaust. Since the war, and particularly in the last 30 years, the city has expanded rapidly, its population rising from 380,000 in 1961 to 871,500 in 1981. Thessaloniki's character changed during this time from that of a prosperous provincial city to a booming, modern metropolis with all the urban problems that plague the world's large cities.

Thessaloniki is second in Greece only to the Athens/Piraeus area as an industrial and commercial center. Industries in the area produce petrochemical products, textiles, wood and paper products, steel, and assorted manufactured goods including defense commodities. As throughout the city's history, transportation services and shipping remain significant sources of revenue for Thessaloniki. The city dreams of regaining its Byzantine role as a pan-Balkan commercial center and has built a network of regional institutions; offices focusing on regional issues are proliferating.

Although the overwhelming majority of its inhabitants are now of Greek ethnic origin, Thessaloniki has small numbers of various other Balkan nationalities, as well as a few thousand members of the once-thriving Jewish community. Thessaloniki also houses two of Greece's largest universities and two U.S.-affiliated private colleges that attract students from throughout Greece and the southern Balkans.

The post's consular district encompasses the two northernmost Greek provinces-Macedonia and Thrace as well as most of Thessaly in central Greece, extending from Albania in the west to the Turkish border in the east and from the Aegean Sea and the Gulf of Magnesia in the south to The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria in the north.

Some 4,400 U.S. citizens live in the greater Thessaloniki area and 8,850 in the consular district overall. Most are of Greek origin and reside permanently in Greece. Several Americans are employed by local English-speaking private schools; others teach and study at the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki under Fulbright and other programs. Twelve countries maintain consulates or commercial offices in Thessaloniki, and honorary consuls or consular agents of Greek nationality represent 36 other countries.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 11/26/2003 7:15 AM

In April 1999 the Consulate General moved to a purpose-built, 8,500 sq. foot office suite on the 7th floor of 43 Tsimiski Street, a new mixed-use office building on the city's major commercial artery. Office hours are 8:30 am to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Consular Section is open to the public from 9 am-12 pm, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The Consulate General's phone number is 30-2310-242-905.

The new office space is modern, well lit, disabled-accessible, and fully climate-controlled. In addition to the usual offices, meeting rooms, and consular waiting area, the location has a multipurpose space used to host cultural events. There is a small staff kitchen with microwave and refrigerator. The new office also includes a small gym and showers for staff use. The building has an (expensive) underground commercial garage for employee parking; however, the city provides limited reserved on-street parking for offices nearby.

Two FSOs staff the Consulate General, along with an almost full-time American administrative assistant. The Consulate General employs 15 FSNs who have consular and transportation duties and has a guard staff of 26 on contract from Wackenhut. The U.S. military normally posts a Foreign Area Officer (an Army captain who maintains an office at the Consulate General and participates in the post duty officer rotation) who attends the Greek War College in Thessaloniki.

Given the security posture of the U.S. in Greece, the Consul General travels in an armored vehicle and is accompanied by two Greek police bodyguards. The Consul General's residence is under armed police guard and contract guard surveillance; all other official residences have security alarms; the other FSO has a security detail as well. Aside from concerns about terrorism, however, the city has relatively little violent crime or theft.

Arrival at Post

Official U.S. Government travel to/from the U.S. can route via Zurich or Vienna. Thessaloniki is readily accessible by air directly from many major European cities. Travelers transiting through Athens should allow at least 1 hour to catch their connecting flight to Thessaloniki. Flight time is approximately 45 minutes. The Embassy Administrative Section will make hotel reservations for overnight stays in Athens if notified in advance. The Consulate General will normally meet at the airport or rail station all personnel assigned to post.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 11/26/2003 7:16 AM

Whenever possible new employees move directly into their permanent housing. If employee overlap at arrival does not allow new personnel to occupy their permanent housing, the Consulate General will arrange temporary hotel accommodations.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:48 PM

The Consul General’s residence is located in Neo Risio, a village with a marginally suburban character, 12 miles south of the Consulate General (30–40 minutes by car). The private living quarters on the upper floor of the two-story residence comprise a master bedroom/bath with private balcony and separate sitting area and two smaller bedrooms that share a balcony. Also on the upper floor are the living room with fireplace, dining room with room for 12, powder room, and a kitchen. The living room-dining room area is bordered by a large balcony overlooking the residence compound. The lower level includes a large recreation room with bar and a separate sitting area with fireplace, a sauna, and fitness room with attached bath, a wood-paneled office/study, a second kitchen with a large dining area, a utility and storage room, and a powder room. Both kitchens in the main building have dishwashers, stoves, and full-sized refrigerators and are fully outfitted with pots, pans, silverware, and dishes. The house also includes a full set of representational china, crystal, and silver. In addition to standard appliances, the house is equipped with a multi-system TV and VCR, satellite dish, 7 air-conditioners, coffeemakers, toaster, microwave, ironing board, iron, 24 folding chairs, 4 round folding tables, extensive patio furniture, and stereo system. All furniture was replaced in 1998 as part of the 13-year representational housing refurbishment cycle.

The compound of the Consul General’s residence is located above a small ravine and is enclosed by a stone wall on three sides and security fencing on the fourth. It includes a large swimming pool and a tennis court with an artificial surface. A two-level building between the swimming pool and tennis court houses changing rooms, two powder rooms, and a summer kitchen with a large, covered patio. Another two-story building on the compound contains staff quarters (large sitting/bedroom, kitchen, and a bath) on the ground floor, and a guestroom with bath upstairs, each equipped with an air-conditioner. A chapel, a fully equipped wet bar, and two barbecues are also located near the pool. The remainder of the yard consists of irrigated garden areas planted with shrubs and small trees. A stone-paved parking area immediately inside the compound gate can accomodate up to six cars.

The second Consulate General officer lives in a three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath apartment, three blocks from the waterfront, in the Thessaloniki suburb of Kalamaria, about 4 miles from the Consulate General. It takes 15 to 45 minutes to get from home to office, depending on traffic. This apartment is a modern duplex occupying the entire fourth and fifth floors of a five-story building, with balconies on both floors. The living/dining area, seating eight, and an eat-in kitchen are located on the upper floor. The living room features a working fireplace and there is a built-in barbeque on the upper balcony. A marble staircase descends to the bedrooms. The floors are marble with the exception of the hardwood floors in the bedrooms. Off-street parking is located by the front entrance of the building. The apartment is close to the waterfront walkway that extends to the center of Thessaloniki, offering easy access to walking, jogging, and bicycling.

Furnishings Last Updated: 4/29/2004 2:57 PM

All housing is well furnished and equipped with lamps, a refrigerator, electric stove, microwave, vacuum, and washer and dryer. Transformers are provided; some electric fans may be available. Beds are either standard U.S. queen-size or twin. Household effects usually take 2 to 3 months to arrive from Washington, D.C. but “Welcome Kits" are available in the interim.

Food Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:03 PM

Most urban Thessalonicans still shop at their small neighborhood stores. These stores come in a variety of distinct flavors: bakeries, pastry shops, butchers, cheese merchants, produce sellers, grocers, and fishmongers. All provide a wide selection of quality products. Additionally, there is a large, covered central market area near the Consulate General that sells regional produce and other foodstuffs, and many neighborhoods have weekly farmers’ markets. The fresh fruits and vegetables are usually of excellent quality and relatively inexpensive, although more seasonal than in the U.S. Seafood is readily available, but often rather pricey. Cheeses and dairy products are excellent, as is the large variety of bread available locally.

In addition to these traditional sources, there are two European-standard supermarket chains with outlets in the city. These supermarkets stock a European-style inventory, which is normally fully adequate. Diet drinks and low calorie foods are difficult to find. Prices are generally somewhat higher than in the U.S. Consulate General employees can obtain access to the commissary in Athens by joining the Employee Association.

The city’s unfluoridated water is potable but not particularly tasty. Most people drink bottled water, which is readily available at all locations. Local wines are inexpensive and of excellent quality. European and some American brands are also obtainable. Beer and liquor are not duty-free outside the commissary. Most Greeks prefer beer or scotch whiskey to wine, so there is no representational need to purchase other alcoholic beverages.

Supplies and Services

Basic Services Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:15 PM

Shopping, Services, and Transportation

Barbers, hairdressers, and dry cleaners are available at U.S. prices and quality, and traditional tailors and cobblers have shops throughout the city. Electronic, appliance, and automotive repair is also readily available in Thessaloniki, although spare parts for American and some other non-European models are hard to obtain. Ford, Honda, Chrysler (Jeep only), Toyota, Hyundai, and all European manufacturers have service and parts facilities in the city but may be unfamiliar with models not sold in Europe.

Taxis in the city are numerous if a bit feisty. Drivers routinely pick up other passengers en route and often refuse to take customers to destinations deemed inconvenient. Radio taxis can be ordered at a slight additional cost but are sometimes unavailable at peak hours. Buses are frequent and inexpensive but often crowded. Traffic is heavy in the city center — often at unusual hours by U.S. standards — but generally acceptable in most other neighborhoods. Many city streets are one-way, causing additional confusion. Street parking is difficult everywhere in town. Minor streets are very narrow and crowded with parked cars. Inter-city roads are well-marked but of wildly varying quality. Road surfaces are more slippery than in the U.S. and stopping distances longer.

Telephone service is generally reliable and most of the network has been upgraded to all-digital lines. Local providers sell Internet access at approximately U.S. prices, ISDN lines with a speed of up to 128.0 KB is available. Older modems may require user software reconfiguration to detect local dial tone. Cell phones are ubiquitous and reasonably priced. Officers are provided with mobile phones for official use. Other utilities are normally reliable, but water pressure and supply can be problematic in some areas during the summer.

A local bank account is not needed in Thessaloniki. Checks are rarely accepted, and when they are, fees to cash them are high. The Consulate General provides accommodation exchange daily each weekday morning. ATMs connected to U.S. bank networks (Cirrus, Plus) dispense local currency around the clock. Utility payments can be made through the Consulate General cashier in cash.

Most shops are small family operations. As described above, the city also has several large supermarkets (which also sell clothing, appliances, electronics, office supplies, and other items), as well as a bulk-purchase discount warehouse, Footlocker shoe stores, some large toy stores modeled on Toys “R” Us, and two large hardware stores similar to Home Depot. Marks & Spencer has a store in the complex where the Consulate General is located, as does Virgin Records. Numerous shops sell antiques, and there is a weekly open-air flea market near the Rotunda. Sporting goods are more expensive than in U.S. stores.

Most larger stores will have at least one employee who speaks some English. At smaller establishments, communication can require a bit more creativity on the part of the non-Greek speaker. Due to higher consumption taxes, prices for clothing, appliances, electronics, toys, cosmetics, toiletries, and most other items are generally higher than in the U.S. The selection of over-the-counter medications is limited and available only at pharmacies. Shops are open three evenings a week but otherwise closed in mid-afternoon. Virtually all are closed Sunday and holidays. Refund/ return/exchange policies are rare. Many shops refuse to process value-added tax (VAT) refund (18%) requests, but major chains can be cooperative.

APO mail service to post is reliable but slow (usually 2 to 3 weeks from the U.S.). The Consulate General does not have its own APO post office, so all out-going packages must be sent via Athens for weighing and stamping. Local mail service is slow and sporadic.

Local dental and optical services are good. As in the rest of Greece, Thessaloniki’s public hospitals provide nearly free healthcare; however, most foreigners choose to use private hospitals. In Thessaloniki post staff usually go to Saint Lucas Clinic, a private hospital in Panorama near Pinewood School. Saint Lucas provides quality healthcare for slightly below U.S. prices. The InterBalkan Medical Center, a state-of-the-art private hospital affiliated with the Medical Center Hospital in Athens, opened in 2000. Many physicians speak English and are U.S.-trained.

Nearly two dozen television stations broadcast locally around the clock. Most programs are in Greek, but normally there are one or two English-language movies on each evening as well as National Geographic and other documentaries. Many more American movies are broadcast late in the evening, usually after midnight. U.S. network evening news broadcasts are shown live early each morning. Satellite service is available free with a dish but offers only a few channels in English, with the remainder broadcasting in French, Italian, German, and Polish. New local subscription satellite services have significantly more English content. Pay cable TV includes movie and cartoon channels. Many shops rent SECAM videos and European-coded DVDs inexpensively. There are many radio stations, some featuring a mix of Greek and American music.

Duty-free unleaded gasoline is available from only two stations in the city. Coupons accepted at one station must be purchased at the commissary in Athens; the other station accepts a special payment book provided by the Consulate General. Duty-free gas costs approximately 55 cents per liter, while full price unleaded can hit 85 cents per liter.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:15 PM

Post provides the Consul General with a maid and a cook. Additional full-time domestic help is difficult to obtain, and wages are high. Part-time help is reasonably available for about $40–$50 for a 6–8 hour day. English-speaking childcare for evenings can be located with a little persistence but is difficult to find it for days.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 11/26/2003 7:23 AM

The Greek Evangelical Church, located downtown, serves the small Greek Protestant community. The Church of the Immaculate Conception downtown holds Catholic Mass; services and sermons are in Greek and are in French on Sunday evenings. Confessions are heard in Greek, French, and Italian. An Anglican-Episcopal vicar conducts services in English on Sunday in the Armenian Church on Dialetti Street. A Synagogue with two downtown chapels serves the long-established Jewish community.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:18 PM
The Pinewood Schools Association, Inc. is a private, nonprofit corporation providing pre-kindergarten (ages 3 and 4) through grade 12 education for English-speaking, mostly non-Greek children. The school year consists of two semesters running from early September to early January and from mid-January to mid-June. Curricula, teaching plans, and materials conform to U.S. standards, and the school has been accredited in the U.S. An elected 11-member board, including the Consul General as an ex officio member, governs the school.

Pinewood has 19 full-time and 16 part-time teachers, about half of whom are American. Total enrollment averages 207 children. Roughly a quarter of the students are American and the rest are a diverse group from 32 different countries. With a student-to-teacher ratio of around 10:1, classes are normally small with frequent individual attention. Pinewood has decently equipped and maintained facilities, including a chemistry/biology laboratory, small gym/ auditorium, library/audio-visual center, music and art rooms, and computer room. The school offers instruction in music and Greek and provides a limited after-school activities program. There is an on-campus snack bar, and school bus service is available to most areas. Pinewood can be contacted at: Director Pinewood Schools Association, P.O. Box 21001, 555 10 Pilea, Thessaloniki, Greece. Tel.:30–2310–301–221 Fax: 30–2310–323–196 E-mail:

The American College of Thessaloniki provides a U.S.-accredited, liberal arts undergraduate education in English. Additional information is available at the: American College of Thessaloniki, c/o Anatolia College, P.O. Box 21021, 555 10 Pilea, Thessaloniki, Greece. Tel.: 30–2310–316–740 Fax: 30–2310–301–076 The Aristotle University in Thessaloniki offers (in Greek) a foreign-students program, including an excellent intensive Greek course that does not require applicants to take an entrance examination. City University offers part-time (day and evening) undergraduate and graduate classes in English through the University of Sheffield (England).

Away From Post Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:18 PM
Other than the American Community Schools in Athens, the nearest suitable boarding schools are in Austria, Italy, Switzerland, or France.

Recreation and Social Life Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:19 PM

Northern Greeks adhere to a daily schedule that does not always fit well with an American workday. Offices open between 8 and 9 a.m., but many close for the day in mid-afternoon. Lunch rarely occurs before 1:30 in the afternoon – later on the weekends – and tends to last several hours. Dinner in private homes and at restaurants seldom begins before 9 p.m. and can start as late as 10:30 or 11 p.m. on weekend evenings. Nightclubs and similar centers generally do not begin to fill with people before midnight and often remain active until dawn, even during the week. The city’s large university population (about 60,000) ensures that such establishments are always busy.

Sports Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:20 PM

Several small but good tennis clubs are available through club membership. In addition to public and YMCA courts, Anatolia College rents two tennis courts during summer. The American Farm School also has a court available. The YMCA in the center of the city has a swimming pool, handball, and basketball courts, and offers aerobics, yoga, art classes, and other activities (in Greek). Several private gyms offer members access to facilities of varying quality around the city although prices are not low. There is also a small assortment of professional-grade gym equipment in the Consulate General.

Northern Greece’s one golf course, on the Halkidiki peninsula, is an 18-hole course and is open 7 days a week. For horse lovers, several excellent riding schools (English saddle only) with inexpensive instruction in English operate in Thermi and Panorama, 30 minutes by car from the Consulate General. The building housing the Consulate General includes a bowling alley and a large gym. Private tennis, swimming, pottery, and other lessons are available at a reasonable price. Cycling can be difficult due to traffic and dogs, but short, pleasant and safe rides are possible along the waterfront. Mountain biking possibilities exist in the forests and hills near the city. Athletic equipment is, however, both difficult to find and expensive. Soccer is the most popular spectator sport in Thessaloniki, though basketball is also well attended. The city has three athletic associations that field both soccer and basketball teams in Greece’s premier leagues.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:22 PM

The nearest beaches, including one with bathhouses, snack bars, chairs, and umbrellas, are 15–20 miles from the city. Some 45–75 miles from the city, crystal-clear water and isolated beaches provide excellent bathing and snorkeling. The more isolated beaches have no cabins or bathhouses to provide protection from the hot sun. Beach and snorkel equipment is available locally in season. Modest apartments near the beach are available for summer or year-round rental at reasonable prices. VOA/Kavala (3 hours by car) boasts a modest 9-hole golf course, club house, and private beach. Ferry service from Thessaloniki to many Greek islands is available throughout the summer. Several hotels have fee-for-access pools for families during the summer.

Three yacht clubs provide anchorage but only limited service for small craft. Small motorboats are available but expensive. Most weekday mornings see a few sculls rowing across the main harbor.

Good hiking is possible in nearby mountains, and ambitious hikers can climb 10,000-foot Mt. Olympus (40 miles distant), overnighting at one of the two hikers lodges near the summit. There are ski resorts within 2 hours at Selli in the Vermion Range, Tria-Pente Pigadia in Naoussa, Lialias in Serres, and 3–4 hours distant in Bulgaria and FYROM. Locally purchased equipment is expensive.

Partridge, quail, dove, hare, and wild boar can be hunted in fall, but hunting is poor in the immediate vicinity of Thessaloniki. Waterfowl hunting can be arranged but is expensive. Salt water fishing and spear fishing is good in nearby Halkidiki, but nearby lakes are too polluted for fresh water fish to thrive. More isolated rivers and lakes are better choices.

Like all of Greece, the area around Thessaloniki boasts numerous archaeological sites and museums. Pella, ancient capital of Macedonia and birthplace of Alexander the Great, is 45 minutes from Thessaloniki. Several beautifully preserved mosaics and numerous artifacts are on display. At nearby Vergina, several royal tombs were discovered in 1977. One is believed to be that of Philip II, father of Alexander. The principal finds are on exhibit in new underground museum onsite. Naoussa, noted for its fruit trees, wine, and fresh trout; Edessa, with its dam and picturesque waterfalls; Kastoria, a picturesque, provincial town, noted for its Byzantine churches, scenic beauty, and fur industry; and the islands of Thasos and Samothrace are all within easy driving or ferry distance of the Consulate General. The unique Mount Athos peninsula is also nearby. The monasteries of the Mount Athos (known as the “Holy Mountain” in Greek) form an independent ecclesiastical government dating from medieval times. Visitors travel to Ouranoupolis by road (2 hours) and then by small boat out onto the peninsula. Entry to the peninsula requires a visa (issued locally), and no women or minors are allowed. Trips to tourist sites in Bulgaria, FYROM, Serbia and Kosovo are also possible from Thessaloniki, but travelers should double check auto insurance coverage.

Entertainment Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:24 PM

Local and international artists present a variety of Greek-language plays, concerts, lectures, and exhibits throughout the year. The Opera Company, the National Theater, and other Athens companies come to Thessaloniki annually for l- to 2-week runs. The National Symphony Orchestra of Northern Greece performs weekly fall through spring, and in the summer an outdoor theater brings high-quality cultural events to a hillside venue above the city. The Thessaloniki Concert Hall, a new facility for classical music, and the fully remodeled Royal Theater opened their doors in 2000. Both host performances by international and Greek groups, including well-known ensembles such as Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The International Trade Fair of Thessaloniki is held annually during September with industrial exhibits, consumer goods, and entertainment activities. The city holds a wine festival during the fair, as well as a Greek song festival and a weeklong cinema festival. An outdoor flower exhibit and international jazz festival open each May, and the city hosts a major cultural festival each October and an international film festival each November. Various colorful and interesting religious festivities occur throughout the year.

The city has a good-size waterslide park with tube rides and wave pool, and a year-round, carnival-style amusement park. There are a number of both indoor and outdoor movie theaters, including three state-of-the-art multiplexes (one in the Consulate General office complex). Theaters show mostly big-budget American films (which tend to appear 2 to 3 months after they debut in the States); movies are always shown in their original language with Greek subtitles, except for cartoons, which are usually dubbed.

Thessaloniki has an active nightlife centering on the three expanding club districts and a strip of cafes along the waterfront. Clubs are loud, smoky, trendy, and packed. The more popular places often charge significant covers even for nights with recorded music. Hyatt Regency operates an upscale casino just outside the city that features slots and gaming tables. Two large nightclub and open-air theater complexes just beyond the western edge of the city offer a variety of jazz, rock, and (Greek) comedy performances. Thessaloniki is reputed to have over 3,000 restaurants, including hundreds of charming Greek restaurants and tavernas, many of them featuring al fresco dining. Non-Greek cuisine is confined to a few Italian, French, European, American, Mexican, Japanese and Chinese restaurants of varying quality. McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Applebee’s, Ruby Tuesday’s and Haagen Dazs have outlets in the city, but not all foreign chains operating in Athens have opened in Thessaloniki.

Anatolia College (a local U.S.-affiliated high school) and the British Council Library have English-language books and periodicals for loan. Local bookstores have a fair selection of English-language books at high prices. Pinewood School keeps its library open 1 day a week during the summer for children who wish to borrow books when classes are out.

Social Activities Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:26 PM

Social obligations at post can be quite demanding. Since breakfasts, and thus breakfast meetings, are not a part of the Greek day, the full weight of daily social and business contact falls upon lunch. These contact lunches are late and long, usually lasting from 1:30 to 4 p.m. or later. Evening events are also late. Receptions seldom begin before 9:30 p.m., and official dinners usually start between 10 and 11 and never before 9. These events can easily last until 1 or 2 in the morning. Thessaloniki has an unexpectedly large number of weekend events (except in summer), including seminars, receptions, conferences, and conventions. Fall and spring are particularly busy, while little happens during July and August.

The Consulate General puts on two major functions each year: a reception in connection with the International Trade Fair and a Fourth of July celebration. U.S. naval vessels call at the port several times each year. A significant amount of support traffic for U.S. forces on Kosovo also transits Thessaloniki. Post rarely sees Congressional visits, but a steady stream of lower ranking government officials does come through Thessaloniki, many from nearby Balkan posts and U.S. military missions. Additionally, the Ambassador makes a half-dozen or more official visits from Athens each year.

Official Functions Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:26 PM

Social obligations at post can be quite demanding. Since breakfasts, and thus breakfast meetings, are not a part of the Greek day, the full weight of daily social and business contact falls upon lunch. These contact lunches are late and long, usually lasting from 1:30 to 4 p.m. or later. Evening events are also notoriously late. Receptions seldom begin before 9:30 p.m., and official dinners usually start between 10 and 11 and never before 9. These events can easily last until 1 or 2 in the morning. Thessaloniki has a significant number of weekend events, including seminars, receptions, conferences, and conventions. Fall and spring are particularly busy, while little happens during July and August, when the city empties for the summer holidays.

The Consulate General puts on two major functions each year: a reception in connection with the International Trade Fair and a Fourth of July celebration. U.S. naval vessels call at the port several times each year. Post rarely sees Congressional visits, but a steady stream of lower ranking government officials does come through Thessaloniki. Additionally, the Ambassador makes a half-dozen or more official visits from Athens each year.

Special Information Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:27 PM

Post Orientation Program

Post will provide new arrivals with a “Welcome to Thessaloniki” kit, including a summary of the Mission’s history and local organizations. The material also includes maps, walking tours, and a brief outline of the region’s history and attractions. The small post community will do everything possible to welcome new arrivals to Greece and introduce them to the city and its people.

VOA Relay Station - Kavala

Post City Last Updated: 6/14/2004 5:07 AM



The IBB Greece Transmitting Station is located in an agricultural area of the northeastern part of Greece, 500 miles by road from Athens and 150 miles east of Thessaloniki. The nearest large population center is Xanthi, located 20 miles north, with about 50,000 people.

Kavala, with about 100,000 people, is a mixture of old and new. It is located 45 miles from the station’s headquarters via a road that passes through scenic farmland, with a backdrop of rugged mountains, and crosses the Nestos River. Its seaport accommodates light shipping, and fishing boats operate from there. It is a popular tourist city, with a picturesque old quarter, Turkish fortress, and Roman aqueduct.

Kavala has an international airport near Chryssoupolis, 20 miles east of Kavala, from which Olympic and Aegean Airways operate daily flights to and from Athens. The airport is 45 minutes from post.

A few miles from Kavala are the ruins of the ancient city of Philippi, named by Alexander the Great in honor of his father, and the site of St. Paul’s first sermon in Europe. There, the theater of Philippi is still in use during summer, and portions of St. Paul’s first churches in Europe still remain.

The climate is comparable to that of the U.S. southern states. In winter, temperatures are in the 30’s and low 40’s, with a few days of below-freezing weather. Northern Greece gets its rain in winter and early spring. In the summer months of July and August, temperatures range around 90°F.

The Post and Its Administration

The Kavala Transmitting Station is one of IBB’s largest overseas radio stations. The Transmitting Station site occupies a 2,000-acre plot of flat land bordered on one side by the Aegean Sea. Near the western border of the plot is the mouth of the Nestos River. The site contains the transmitter plant building (housing the station’s administrative offices and the transmitting plant operation), the power plant building (with nearby storage tanks that have a capacity of 1 million gallons of diesel fuel), the warehouse/garage facilities building, an antenna field, 15 houses for American families, and private beach facilities.

The transmitter plant receives RFE/RL, VOA and IBB radio programs from the U.S. via satellite. Programs are rebroadcast to target areas, including east and central Europe, central and south Asia, the Middle East, and Africa by medium- and shortwave radio broadcast transmitters using directional antennas. The telephone number for the IBB Greece Transmitting Station is (2541) 61120 and 61130.


Residences (usually three- or four-bedroom houses) are furnished with basic items such as living/dining/bedroom/patio furniture, carpeting, draperies, essential lamps, an electric range with oven, microwave oven, refrigerator, freezer, washer, dryer, and dishwasher. Cooking utensils, cutlery, china, linen, silverware, glassware, and vacuum cleaners are not provided.

For newly arrived personnel, a Hospitality Kit, including linens, cutlery, dishes, cooking utensils, vacuum cleaner, iron and ironing board, toaster, and other minor items, is provided for use until your HHE arrives, usually in 1-3 months. The station has a closed-circuit TV system with Armed Forces Network satellite TV channels (NTSC). AC power at the station is 120v, 50 Hz, so most American appliances can be used. Houses use standard US 3-prong wall outlets. Include small items of furnishings to make your house more homelike; bring pictures, wall clocks, etc.

Religious Activities

Mass is celebrated at the small Catholic church in Kavala on Sundays. No nearby religious services in English are available.


Operation of a “school at post” at the Kavala Transmitting Station is contingent upon the number and grade level of students available and the desires of the parents. The 2002-03 school year had a 1st grade class in operation with a certified teacher/tutor who was contracted through the station’s B&G contractor. The State Department does not consider this method to be adequate, compared to stateside public schools. Employees also have the option to send their children to boarding schools located in Thessaloniki, Athens, and Europe. For current details on the extent and availability of schools at post, as well as suggestions on boarding schools, contact the post administrative officer.

Recreation and Social Life

Since most entertainment is self-provided, include in your effects any stereo equipment, CDs, DVDs and tapes. TV programming and video tapes are NTSC or PAL. If you own a multi-standard TV receiver and multi-system VCR, bring them. They may also be purchased through the AAFES mail-order catalog. DVD and videotape rentals are available locally. Satellite TV reception equipment also is available for purchase locally.

An extensive sandy beach winds along the southern boundary of the station and can be enjoyed during summer. Two tennis courts are available near the housing compound. Additionally, some employees enjoy gardening. The station offers a clubhouse with a weight room, pool table, ping-pong, and a paperback and video library.


The main highways and city streets in northern Greece are paved, although streets in the towns and villages are narrow. Local garages carry limited supplies of spare car parts. The parts are mostly for foreign-made cars and are expensive. Cars of employees assigned to the station should be in good condition before they are shipped. Include in your HHE shipment a 2-3 year supply of oil filters and tune-up parts. Auto insurance can be arranged at post.

Mail and Pouch

Letters sent via APO take an average of 14 to 21 days; packages take an average of 30 days. International mail service in Greece is adequate. (See also Communications – Athens.)

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:29 PM

Most personnel come to post from the U.S. traveling by air from Washington, D.C. via New York. For change of planes in New York, allow 2 hours between flights for luggage transfer. Visas are required for employees traveling on diplomatic passports. Friends or relatives using tourist passports do not need a visa but any tourist stay in Greece is limited to three months. Currency exchange is available at the airport. ATM machines are everywhere — even in grocery stores and hospitals. IBB employees travel via Athens or Thessaloniki and may stop over to do inprocessing and obtain or apply for various identity documents. Hotel reservations can be made upon request to the Travel Section.

Bring clothes to post similar to those worn in Washington, D.C. Since surface shipments may take almost 2 months from the U.S., plan wardrobes for a change of season, where applicable, at time of arrival. (Note: It is hot in Athens and Thessaloniki in September, but by November, woolens and rain gear are needed.) Fully stocked welcome kits are provided for all new arrivals. Welcome kits include ironing board and iron, sheets, towels, plates and silverware, cooking utensils and glassware. The embassy provides a vacuum cleaner and microwave to each employee and most housing has dishwashers.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:30 PM

No special rules, limits, restrictions, or requirements are imposed on official U.S. employees or their dependents when entering the country. Holders of diplomatic and official passports assigned to Greece must have a valid Greek entry visa. Tourists with regular passports may enter without a visa. Military personnel should contact their agencies for instructions regarding documentation, since some military personnel fall under separate Status of Forces Agreement procedures with the host government.

Vehicles and effects shipments cannot be cleared through customs based on a tourist passport. Personal effects and supplies, including food and liquor, of U.S. personnel are authorized free entry into Greece. Unaccompanied baggage (UAB) from the U.S. to Athens takes approximately 2–3 weeks. Household goods (HHE) from Baltimore to Athens take approximately 4–6 weeks. All items accorded duty-free entry are for personal use and not for sale. Alcoholic beverages, cancelable firearms, and cigarettes and tobacco products may not be sent via APO.

Travelers and new personnel may be required to declare U.S. dollars and travelers checks to customs officials on arrival. Importing dollars and dollar instruments is not restricted. Sporting and camping equipment and furs are registered in the owner’s passport and must be reexported. Illegal drugs and narcotics may not be imported under any circumstances. Personnel are encouraged to ship high-value electronic equipment such as stereos and computers with their household effects and not in air freight or APO shipments.

Passage Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:31 PM

U.S. personnel may move enter Greece with accompanying luggage with U.S. diplomatic passports and visa issued by a Greek Embassy. Employees may travel in and out of Greece using their passport in conjunction with ID cards issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Traveling on a tourist passport requires no visa but a traveller may not stay more than 90 days. Greek regulations on importing automobiles are strict; records are kept by Greek customs on each vehicle imported. Before acquiring a new vehicle or leaving the country without your vehicle, employees must satisfy Greek customs that they have either disposed of their car according to customs and tax rules, exported it, or left it in Greece to be reclaimed on their return.

Mission regulations require all personally owned vehicles of all American employees to affix regular Greek license tags. Diplomatic plates may be issued for travel outside Greece. Public liability insurance for all vehicles is mandatory under Greek law. All personnel who operate private motor vehicles in Greece must, therefore, have appropriate third-party insurance coverage. Insurance can be procured locally or with a U.S. insurance carrier. No one may operate or permit other persons to operate a vehicle, unless arrangements have been made to cover that person under the vehicle’s liability insurance. An international drivers license, obtainable from AAA in the U.S., is required for driving in Greece. The addresses for surface shipments are:

(Full Name)
American Embassy
Athens, Greece via Pireaus for (Owner’s Name)

American Embassy via Pireaus
(Full Name)/Thess

(Full Name)
American Embassy
Athens, Greece via Pireaus for (Owner’s Name)/KRS

Those assigned to Thessaloniki or Kavala should add Thess or /KRS after owner’s name, as indicated for surface shipments.

Pets Last Updated: 11/6/2003 8:55 AM

In compliance with World Health Organization (WHO) requirements, pets (dogs and cats) entering or departing Greece must have a health certificate stating that the pet is in good health, free from infectious disease, and has had a rabies inoculation not more than 12 months (for cats 6 months) and not less than 6 days before arrival or departure. The certificate must be validated by the appropriate medical authority in the country, where travel begins. In the U.S., validation is performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA). In Washington, D.C., take the papers to the Greek Consulate for validation. Health clearance will be given at the port of entry. Parrots may not be imported, unless they are coming from a country free from psittacosis, in which case no more than two may be imported and must have the same health certification as for dogs and cats. Greece has few boarding kennels available. Those available are not of Western standards, and bookings must be made in advance. There are a few English speaking pet sitters.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:33 PM

Greek law prohibits importation of rifles and handguns of any kind. Shotguns of any gauge and air rifles may be imported. Under no circumstances should rifles or handguns be brought to post. Ammunition cannot be shipped to post. Shotguns may be imported by the owner only. The shotgun is written on his/her passport and only after securing from the Chief of Mission written permission to do so. For information regarding firearms required in carrying out one’s duties or for further information in general, please contact the Regional Security Office. Once arrived, the owner must go to the Greek Forestry Department to submit the proper papers for the issuance of the gun’s ID.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:33 PM

The official unit of currency is the Euro. The Euro is used in the majority of European Union countries. Official transient or visiting U.S. Government personnel may cash up to $1,000 a day at the Embassy if valid identification consisting of a U.S. diplomatic or official passport is presented. Checks may be cashed for Euro or dollars. Greece uses the metric system of weights and measures. Gasoline is sold by the liter. Produce and meat are sold by the kilo, dairy products are sold by the liter or diminuitives.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:34 PM

The value-added tax (VAT) was first implemented in Greece on January 1, 1987, in accordance with the European Economic Community requirements, and replaced previous indirect taxes. VAT ranges from 8% percent on mass consumption goods, e.g., food, to 18% percent imposed on most goods and services, and 36% for all luxury goods, such as tobacco products, alcohol, cosmetics (some foodstuffs fall under this percentage). Employees holding diplomatic titles may request VAT exemptions when purchasing certain expensive items, such as furniture, appliances, and electronic equipment.


The Embassy specifically forbids the sale of duty-free personal property to buyers without duty-free privileges, unless arrangements are made for the payment of duty through the proper Greek Government customs office. All sales of personal property must have prior written approval of the management counselor. If employees wish to convert Euros acquired in the sale of personal property to dollars upon departure from post, employees must present a written record of articles sold. The cashier’s office will arrange for the Financial Services Center in Charleston to convert Euro to dollars for departing personnel, if the transaction is requested in writing and approved in advance by the management counselor. U.S. dollars or checks are used for all purchases at U.S. military installations on Crete and at the EWSA commissary in Athens.

Under Greek law, employees who are married may import a second duty-free vehicle if their spouse resides at post. The U.S. Government authorizes shipment of only one vehicle in travel orders. Sales of vehicles must be approved in advance by the management counselor.

The Greek Government requires that all departing personnel wishing to sell their personally owned vehicles to do so before their departure. If the employee cannot sell the vehicle before departure, he or she may donate it to the Greek Customs authorities, or arrange for the vehicle’s export.

The Embassy requires all personnel to comply with Greek traffic regulations and, for security reasons, to make every effort to ensure that American cars and drivers are not conspicuous. Mission dependents must be 18 years of age to drive. The Embassy assists personnel in procuring hunting licenses and permits to enter certain restricted areas.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:38 PM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.


Adkins, Lesley and Adkins, Roy, Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece, Oxford Press, 1998.

Allen E. Reginald, Greek Philosophy: Thales to Aristotle (Readings in the History of Philosophy), 3rd ed., Free Press, 1991.

Beard, Mary, The Parthenon, Harvard University Press, 2003.

Camp, John McK, The Archaeology of Athens, Yale University Press, 2001.

Camp, John McK and Fisher, Elizabeth, The World of the Ancient Greeks, Thames & Hudson, 2002.

Freeman, Charles, The Greek Achievement: The Foundation of the Western World, Viking Press, 1999.

Kitto, H.D.F. The Greeks, Penguin USA, Reissue edition, 1991.

Neils, Jenifer; Oakley, John H.; Morewitz, Stephen John, and Foley, Helene Coming of Age in Ancient Greece: Images of Childhood from the Classical Past, Yale University Press, 2003.

Newman, Harold and Newman, Jon A., A Genealogical Chart of Greek Mythology, University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

Whitney, James, The Archaeology of Ancient Greeks, Cambridge University Press, 2001.


Behor, G., Ancient Greece: Famous Monuments Past and Present, Getty Trust Publication, 2000.

Cormack, Robin, Byzantine Art, Oxford Press, 2000.

Fullerton, Mark D., Greek Art, Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Himmellmann, Nikolaus, Reading Greek Art, Princeton University Press, 1998.

Ioannou, Andreas, Greek Painting: The 19th Century, Melissa, 1999.

Maguire, Henry, The Icons of Their Bodies, Princeton University Press, 1996.

Osborne, Robin, Archaic and Classical Greek Art, Oxford Press, 1998.

Pedley, John G., Greek Art and Archaeology, 3rd ed., Prentice Hall, 2002.

Robertson, Martin, The Art of Vase-Painting in Classical Athens
Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Spivey, Nigel, Understanding Greek Sculpture: Ancient Meanings, Modern Readings, Thames and Hudson, 1997.

Description and Travel

Abranowicz, William, Greek File: Images from a Mythic Land, Rizzoli, 2001.

Brewer, David, The Greek War of Independence: The Struggle for Freedom from the Ottoman Oppression and the Birth of the Modern Greek Nation, Overlook Press, 2003.

Brooks, Laura, Timeless Places: Greek Isles, Friedman/Fairfax Publishing, 2000.

Gage, Nicholas, Eleni, Ballantine Books, 1996.

Gage, Nicholas and Brukoff, Barry (Photographer), Greece: Land of Light,
Bulfinch Press, 1998.

Clogg, Richard, A Concise History of Greece, Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Clogg, Richard, Greece 1940–1949: Occupation, Resistance, Civil War: A Documentary History, Palgrave Macmillan; 2002.

Coufoudakis, Van; Psomiades, Harry; and Gerolymatos, Andre, Greece and the New Balkans: Challenges and Opportunities, Pella Publishing Company, 1999.

Couloumbis, Theodore; Bellou, Foteini; and Kariotis, Theodore, Greece in the Twentieth Century, Frank Cass & Co. 2003.

Ellingham, Mark, Rough Guide to Greece, 9th ed., Rough Guides, 2002.

Greece, Athens and the Mainland, Eyewitness Travel Guide, 2003.

Lonely Planet Greek Islands, Lonely Planet, 2002.

Hamilton, Edith, The Greek Way, W.W. Norton, Reissue edition, 1993.

Keeley, Edmund, Inventing Paradise: The Greek Journey 1937–47, Northwestern University Press, 2002.

Kizilos, Kathreen, The Olive Grove: Travels in Greece, Lonely Planet, 1997.

Miller, Henry, The Colossus of Maroussi, New Directions Publishing, 1988.

Papandreou, Nicholas, A Crowded Heart, Picador USA, 1999.

Rossides, Eugene, The Truman Doctrine of Aid to Greece: A Fifty-Year Retrospective, American Helicopter Society, 1998.

Storace, Patricia, Dinner with Persephone, Vintage Books, 1997.

Stouros, Basil S., Carved in Stone: The Greek Heritage, Five and Dot Corporation, 1999.

Thornton, Bruce, The Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization, Encounter Books, 2002.

Woodhouse, C.C., Modern Greece: A Short History, 5th ed., Faber & Faber, 1992 .

Literature and Poetry

Carson, Jeffrey, The Collected Poems of Odysseus Elytis, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Friar, Kimon, Modern Greek Poetry, Efstathiades, 1997.

Keeley, Edmund, C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems, Princeton University Press, 1992.

Keeley, Edmund, George Seferis, Princeton University Press, 1995.

Leontis, Artemis, Greece: A Traveler’s Literary Companion, Consortium Book, 1997.

MacDonald, Marianne, The Living Art of Greek Tragedy, Indiana University Press, 2003.

MacGregor, Bernard and Knox, Walker, The Norton Book of Classical Literature,W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.

Trypanis, Constantine, The Penguin Book of Greek Verse, Penguin USA,
Reissue edition, 1988.


American Women’s Organization’s of Greece, Living in Greece, 1992–94

Bender, Margaret, Foreign At Home and Away, 2002.

Brayer Hess, Melissa and Linderman, Patricia, The Expert Expatriate, 2002.

Broome, Benjamin, Exploring the Greek Mosaic, 1996.

Buckert, Walter, Greek Religion, Reprint edition, Harvard University Press, 1987.

Kochilas, Diane, The Glorious Foods of Greece : Traditional Recipes from the Islands, Cities, and Villages, Morrow Cookbooks, 2001.

Swaddling, Judith, Ancient Olympic Games, 2nd ed., University of Texas Press, 2000.

Ware, Timothy and Ware, Kallistos, The Orthodox Church, 2nd ed., Penguin (USA), 1993.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 4/29/2004 3:47 PM

The following is a list of the local holidays. Avoid arriving on these days:

New Year’s Day January 1
Epiphany January 6
Kathara Deftera Variable
Greek Independence Day March 25
Good Friday Variable
Holy Saturday Variable
Easter Sunday Variable
Easter Monday Variable
May Day May 1
Assumption Day August 15
Liberation of Xanthi October 4
(observed in Xanthi only)
St. Dimitrios Day October 26
observed in Thessaloniki only)
Oxi Day October 28
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26

The mission observes U.S. holidays as well, so please try not to arrive on those days either.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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