This past year has brought many changes both in the way we conduct our daily lives and how we do our jobs, with the number of people working from home seeing a dramatic rise.
One step further than working from a home office is remote working, where individuals dubbed “digital nomads” choose a base that suits them and then use technology to provide work for employers or contractors in other, often distant, geographic locations.
In November 2020, Haz Memon created Greek Escape in the city of Hania in Crete. For the past five years, 31-year-old Memon, who is originally from Dubai, has been a digital nomad, able to work anywhere in the world. He is now in Amsterdam, but he has created two co-working and co-living spaces – the first with his co-founder Fanny Caloz in the Swiss Alps, the second in Hania – that provide digital nomads with both work spaces and accommodation.
Greek Escape comprises two villas in Hania with a total of 12 double rooms, each of which is rented for a minimum stay of one month (post-pandemic, the minimum stay will be reduced to a week) at a monthly rate of €1,350, welcoming all digital nomads wanting to work from Crete and live with others from the digital nomad community.
Greece, with its mild climate and low cost of living compared to other European countries, is a destination which has been attracting increasing numbers of such individuals in recent years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a significant change to people’s working lives, establishing remote working as a permanent option for many types of jobs. Now, both the Greek government and many digital nomads want that remote working home to be located, even if only temporarily, in Greece.
An attractive destination
“Greece already has most of what it takes, because when you think about what digital nomads want, you think of good weather, affordable prices, good food, and accessibility,” says Memon.
“When I was picking a location to create a space for digital nomads, it was very important for it to be highly accessible, and already well-known, which is why I picked Crete,” he says, adding that the island has two airports, as well as a wealth of activities, including hiking, swimming, sailing and surfing, which is important for those who want to combine work with living in a new place.
The fact that the locals are friendly and helpful and that many are English speakers is crucial, while it’s also important that Crete has good internet connectivity. “If you want to attract digital nomads, it’s very important to have good internet,” Memon says.
He believes that the new visa which the Greek government is launching with digital nomads in mind will be useful for his own business as well as for the country itself. “We could see many people moving to Greece,” he says.
Natascha Winkler and her husband Dom both grew up in Germany but have been living in Australia for the last 9 years. A year ago, they wouldn’t have considered becoming digital nomads, but Dom’s job as a consultant moved online because of the pandemic, and they were both bothered by Australia’s closed border policy. So they decided to come to Europe, choosing Crete and Greek Escape.
“I love being so close to the sea and to the rest of Europe, and the cost of living is very good,” Natascha tells us. “I believe that, with just a little more investment, it could become a great place for digital nomads,” she says, adding that the only difficulties they have faced so far is that some restaurants offering delivery service do not have an English menu and that many small shops do not yet have a digital presence.
Stavros Messinis, co-founder with Maria Calafatis of The Cube, a co-working space in Athens tells us that Greece, particularly after the latest government initiatives and the tax incentives they’ve created, is a very attractive destination for digital nomads – the excellent weather and the wonderful food, the friendly locals, the well-equipped co-working spaces and the rapidly evolving startup ecosystem are all strong positive factors.
Both Messinis and Calafatis agree that many digital nomads are already coming to Greece; what could attract more, they say, are better internet connections on the smaller islands and in the more remote villages, as well as the marketing of such destinations to digital nomads who wish to have access to the urban atmosphere of Athens without necessarily living there. More frequent and more affordable flights connecting Athens to other European cities would also be a plus.
Community is very important for digital nomads, according to Spyros Kassapis, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, who, after sojourns in Colorado and Portugal, now works from his home in Thessaloniki.
A fellow remote worker, Sofia, who is employed by a company in the Netherlands, agrees. Of course, as Greeks they’re not nomads per se; for both of them, the positives of being in Greece include saving money while being close to friends and family.
For someone arriving in a new location, finding an existing digital nomad community is of crucial importance, something which a true nomad, Ali Tehrani, says is still a bit of a challenge here, as Greece is only now becoming a remote working destination.
“Greece is mostly known as a summer destination, for its beaches,” says Tehrani, who was based in Greece between August and Christmas, but plans to leave London again in the spring for Athens. He adds that the country needs to be promoted more as a destination for digital nomads.
“It’s an amazing country to live in,” he notes, “from a quality-of-life perspective.”
This article was first published in Greek on kathimerini.gr