After the end of Covid, Thessaloniki began attracting many digital nomads from different parts of the world. The multinational companies that chose the city to establish innovation and technology hubs played a significant role in enhancing Thessaloniki’s reputation and appeal. In fact, in 2022, UK-based property management company Instant Offices ranked Thessaloniki among the top three cities worldwide for digital nomads, following Lisbon and Bangkok. This evaluation was based on four criteria: economic well-being, good weather, reliable internet connectivity, and quality of life. Katerina, Duncan, Eduard and Aliens are among those who live in Thessaloniki and work remotely. Here are their stories.
Katerina Biliouri and James Duncan Davidson
For the sun and closeness with parents
Katerina Biliouri, 45, and James Duncan Davidson, 53, met in Doha in April 2012, at the first TED event in the Middle East, which he was covering as a photographer. He was based in Oregon, and she lived in Thessaloniki. One and a half years later, they moved to Berlin to live together. Duncan changed careers and was hired as a software engineer by Wunderlist, a startup later acquired by Microsoft. Katerina left her position at the Ministry of Culture and started working as a speaker coach at TED. They lived in Germany for eight years, where they also had their son. “When I started working at Shopify, we realized that neither of us was working for a German company. We thought about moving to Athens, but being close to family was very important for us,” Duncan says.
In addition to being close to relatives, an important factor in their decision was that their son could continue attending an English-language school in Thessaloniki. They have been living there since July 2022. “There is a significant difference in public spaces and parks compared to Berlin, but here we can enjoy the sun. In Germany, especially in the winter, you could go for three to four weeks without sunshine. It bothered me, as I was used to something different,” notes Katerina. However, she still believes that her city has remained quite stagnant.
Their daily schedule is very demanding primarily due to their working hours, as Duncan coordinates with Canadian time while Katerina serves clients worldwide. The assistance they receive from Katerina’s parents regarding their child and school hours is significant in finding a balance. Both of them work from home, in a specially designed space, so they rarely go to co-working spaces.
In Thessaloniki they may miss the multiculturalism and the culture of Berlin, but they greatly appreciate the human scale, the combination of mountain and sea, and the warm and hospitable people. On Sundays, they organize family outings nearby, such as to Mount Olympus, and at times during the week they find time to play tennis as a family.
Economical living, good food and new friends
Thirty-two-year-old Armenian Eduard Khachatryan is one of the first people in Greece to obtain a visa for digital nomads. He moved to Thessaloniki permanently in July 2022 after a year of traveling around the world and working remotely as a software engineer. The reason he initially decided to leave his homeland was the ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan. After staying in Ukraine, Sri Lanka and India, he wanted to settle somewhere for a long time. His criteria were specific: “I was looking for a place near the sea, with warm weather, developed digital infrastructure, safety and easy access to healthcare,” he says.
When researching various digital nomad communities, Portugal was the most popular destination. On his list, he had prioritized Porto, Valletta and Thessaloniki. “A friend of mine had an acquaintance who quickly facilitated the visa application process. Within a month, I rented a house on Aristotelous Street,” he says. And he has not regretted it, not even for a moment. He was impressed at how easily he obtained a mobile SIM card, which is one of the first things digital nomads need to take care of, along with opening a bank account. One year later, working for a German company that produces educational software, he has made many new friends and feels fully integrated.
At least once a week he goes to a co-working space to socialize, while on weekends he embarks on nearby excursions with other digital nomads, such as to Mount Olympus and Meteora. The cost of living in Thessaloniki seems economical to him, and what he enjoys the most is the richness of its gastronomy scene. “I haven’t found any other city with such diverse flavors and such high-quality food,” he concludes.
Easy adjustment, affordable rent and great strolls
Aliens, a 42-year-old Indian from Punjab, settled in Thessaloniki permanently two months ago. Previously he was living in Cyprus and working as a broker for a financial company. He moved to be closer to his daughter, who lives in Copenhagen with his former wife, who is originally from Thessaloniki but settled in Denmark after their divorce.
This isn’t his first time in Thessaloniki. In 2003, he came as a student for an English-language postgraduate program. He got married and moved to Cyprus with his wife, because there were more professional opportunities there since they could communicate in English. When they divorced, he liked the idea of returning to the city he loves. He kept his job and, through an old acquaintance, rented a house in Menemeni, on the western side of the city. “I had a hard time finding it because when I was looking, it was the same time that students were also looking for places to stay in the city,” he says with a smile.
The rent doesn’t seem expensive to him in comparison to other cities he has lived in, such as Melbourne and Nicosia. The second time around he didn’t need any adjustment period. “They speak very good English in the public sector, and they immediately help me,” he notes, adding, “In Thessaloniki, I never felt like a foreigner; it’s a very hospitable city.” He quickly established his own routine. From Monday to Friday he works from home until the late afternoon. His work is such that he cannot work in a co-working space. When he finishes, he talks to his daughter and takes walks to explore different neighborhoods. On weekends he goes to his favorite cafés for coffee, mainly on Nikis Avenue. He doesn’t have any old friends, so he socializes on social media through the digital nomads networks.