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KEFALONIA - living on the island

Living on Kefalonia, or buying a holiday home here, is an idea that appeals to many people and some have done it. Some are still doing it and some aren’t. It isn’t particularly difficult but it isn’t totally straightforward, either.

If you’re thinking of buying, or building, a home here the best plan is to rent first and spend at the least six months on the island, preferably over the winter and preferably in the area you want your new home to be in. Bear in mind that, while the summers tend to be invariably hot and sunny, one winter can be different to the next. Rain is quite common, although rarely the cold, driving rain we’re used to in the UK. The days can be warm and sunny but, once the sun drops down over the nearest hill, the evenings and nights can be very cold.

Buildings generally, even new homes, aren’t built with the same materials as in the UK or to the same standards. Buildings are required to be resistant to earthquakes and that dictates different building materials and techniques, usually involving a steel-reinforced concrete shell. Damp proof courses and insulation are rare: it does get very damp in the winter and very cold. It also gets very hot in July and August, so insulation needs to be against both the cold and the heat.

Besides the weather, you might want to think about how you’ll pass your time when you’re not sat on the beach every day. Villages which are quiet in the summer months are very quiet in winter, when many people go to Athens or America, and far fewer tavernas and bars, etc, are open.

During the summer water may be in short supply. At any time of the year, but especially in winter, power cuts aren’t unknown.

Greece may seem very laid back but in fact it has a very slow and cumbersome bureaucracy which seems to be understood by few, including those working in it (although that isn't always a bad thing). Naturally, most of the bureaucracy is based in the capital so, if you aren't going to live there, be prepared for numerous trips to Argostoli, especially to start with.

The relaxed ‘avrio’ approach may be shrugged off as part of the charm of Greece when you’re on holiday but it can be frustrating when you need to get something done, such as doors put on your new house or getting your new business registered.

You won't need a residence permit to live here (if you're an EU national) but you'll need a work permit if you intend to work here. You'll also need to register with the tax office. If you are planning to work out here the options are limited. Self-employment is a possibility but finding a gap, let alone a niche, in the market isn’t easy. If you plan to seek employment then, unless you speak fluent Greek like a native, you’ll almost certainly be limited to the tourist industry, in some form. You’ll probably be working the same number of hours as the Greeks, seven days a week. There’s no sick pay: if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Wage rises in no way keep pace with price rises.

Since the drachma was replaced by the Euro many prices seem to be comparable with UK prices, some things are less expensive, some more, e.g. clothing is quite expensive here and food isn't especially cheap, especially if you can't live without your Heinz baked beans, Kelloggs cornflakes or Asda super-savers ( ...or any super-savers).

Children will have to learn Greek as all lessons are conducted in Greek, except English, and the way that is taught may be very different to the way they are taught in the UK. Generally, children pick up the language quickly but it is likely to involve extra lessons in their time and at your expense.

If they are in, or approaching, their GCSE years then their education is likely to be seriously disrupted. Children will be children and it’s possible they won’t make friends with all their new classmates, especially if they don’t speak the language.

Getting to and from the island in winter isn’t inexpensive, or easy, as there are no direct flights from Kef to the UK. You can get to / from Athens by coach, which is fairly inexpensive but involves a long journey, or you can fly, which is quicker but not inexpensive. Frequently there will be a long delay between your connections. It’s not uncommon for the island to be cut off from the mainland for several days during the winter due to weather conditions.

Buying a business or property isn’t difficult but you’ll need the services of professionals: lawyers, notaries, etc. Greeks are, generally, honest but they aren’t na´ve. They have an eye for a profit and it’s not unheard of for people to pay a lot of money for land and house-building only to discover, a few years later, that living on Kefalonia isn’t the same as a holiday and that they can’t sell their property for anything like they paid for it.

Hence it’s best to rent first, be sure you like the place and the people, check out prices, learn from the experience of others, etc, before making a commitment. If you decide to give it a try you’ll probably find that:

British television programming is actually quite good (and some British television programs are quite good)

Although there is a small amount of petty crime on the island, it’s less common than in many parts of the UK

People can get stressed here, especially when it’s hot and busy in July and August. But not, usually, all year round

Not all  Greeks are nice people

Not all Brits are nice people

Reliable information is a scare commodity; misinformation, rumour and petty gossip abounds

It really can get cold and wet in winter...

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