The expat experience: How can you stay happy in the here and now?

A new start may be full of new experiences but may also be stressful and affect our psychology. How could we overcome our negative feelings and open ourselves to every new encounter that awaits for us?

Electra Matsangou is a psychotherapist and psychologist from Greece. She grew up in Volos and then moved to Thessaloniki to study psychology. Thanks to the Erasmus exchange program, she first went to the Netherlands in 2008  and completely fell in love with the country and people. In 2010, she moved to the Netherlands to get her Master’s degree in Health Psychology. After completing her MSC, she started training in Gestalt Psychotherapy.

Living in a different country for six years had Electra facing the challenges that most expatriates have to go through, as well as all thoughts and feelings that are common amongst people that live in a new environment. “The Gestalts of an Expat” was an article she wrote while living abroad, for the Dutch e-journal “e-awareness”. She was an expatriate herself, so she knows that sometimes it can be really hard to adjust in a new country, being away from your family and trying to adapt to a foreign work environment.

Her passion about understanding one’s emotional state and working with people, plus the first-hand knowledge of the life of an expatriate made her want to work with internationals who live in Athens.

“I know sometimes it can be difficult to talk to a Greek therapist. Besides, the cultural differences and the language barrier, perhaps it is uncomfortable because you might want to complain about Greece or Greeks!”.

However, having this experience herself and talking about it with her patients made things easier and much more comfortable.

Greece, a multicultural destination

After 6 years in the Netherlands, Electra decided to reunite with her family and start her life again in Athens, Greece. She was also longing to come back to the Greek nature, the islands and the beautiful mountains that make her home country a place of many colors and shapes.

Electra has opened her new office in a coworking space and her aspiration was to consult and support international people that have decided to start their life in Greece. The coworking environment is what she was looking for, as being in touch with so many different people with diverse backgrounds and cultures is very refreshing.

“I like meeting people coming from different countries; it can be quite challenging, as people’s behavior and personalities are influenced by their cultural context, so it takes some effort to familiarize oneself with these contexts. But I personally find it to be a very beautiful and enriching experience. Having my office in a shared environment gives me the opportunity to spend some of my time between sessions with lots of multinational people and talk about politics, philosophy, or just personal stuff. That  boosts my energy and spirit in a whole different level.”

As a psychotherapist, Electra emphasizes the importance of surrounding ourselves with an environment that makes us happy. Athens is a city of  great vibes which can come alive day and night, making it absolutely a place to feel welcome! She also highlights the significance of making conscious choices in the here and now.

“Every choice we make doesn’t need to be always right for us or permanent. We need to revisit our choices in order to see if we still stand by them. Many times as expats we can have mixed or even contradictory feelings and thoughts regarding our experiences or the decisions we need to make and that can be distressful. In those cases, it can be very helpful to reach out to a specialist. Through counseling you can clear things up and get the support you deserve. You don’t have to do this alone!”

We would like to thank Electra for our beautiful chat, you can go ahead and check Electra’s coming workshop and further work on her website.

Do you have to leave Greece to start your career?

We talked to Daphne Xourafi this week and our conversation raised one daunting question.

Can you find work in Greece if you are a highly trained and skilled young professional?

The social and economic crisis has deeply affected the living conditions and opportunities in Greece, resulting in unemployment and a poor working environment. Human capital flight, or brain drain is usually described as a problem that needs to be solved.

However, there are benefits that can be derived from this process. The country can naturally profit when talented workers return with new competencies and carry the prospect to create better job possibilities for Greeks. Another phenomenon that also acts as a bridge between the Greek and the international scene is the attraction of foreign human capital. Professional nomads are not merely tourists but they come to Greece to start a new life. They spread a strongly desired global mindset by carrying professional, social and personal skills.

Usually, the returners and the nomads choose to shelter their activities in co-working spaces, like the creative hub Stone Soup, because of the limitless networking potential and the inspiration one such dynamic environment may offer.

The effects of brain drain are quite visible in our daily practice, but should we despair?

Daphne was introduced to us as a talented, young professional looking for opportunities abroad. She has spent six months in Paris, at Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines with the Erasmus programme, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Mass Media from the University of Athens (UOA) and a Master’s Degree in Computer Animation and VFX from the University of Dundee.

Daphne is a passionate and determined person driven by her passion and ambition to distinguish in her profession. She has a broad range of interests and skills that she acquired during her education or she was self-taught, such as illustration, concept and comic art and 2D & 3D animation and she is already acknowledged for her work in some of these. In 2017 she illustrated a children’s book written by Cleopatra Deliou, a lecturer of Athens University of Economics and Business, and she released her own comic in Comicdom Athens Convention called “Requiem in Deep Blue”.

Both experiences were very important to build her confidence as an artist and gain constructive feedback to help her improve creatively and to build her network. A few months after graduating, Daphne returned to Greece, while seeking positions worldwide, in concept art, character design and animation, with the long-term plan to direct animation films. Asking for career advices she ended up at Stone Soup where she had the opportunity to network and to cowork on some freelance projects.

Daphne considers Stone Soup as an environment where global job possibilities come up all the time through getting to know all kinds of freelancers and you may find yourself committed in ongoing or future projects very naturally. Thus, she came to realisation that going abroad is not the only choice, because there are places for people to perform and network in an international setting in Greece too.

So if you are planning to leave Greece…

We hope we gave you enough reasons why you might want to drop by and check what is simmering for you here!

If interested you can reach here Daphne’s portfolio and LinkedIn profile.

 

Are you an architect? Let a coworking space inspire you

 

Iris Papadatou is the co- founder of You&Me Architecture, a company that was established 4 years ago in the UK. She set up the company with her best friend and co-partner Alicja Borkowska.

Iris and Alicja have known each other for 18 years. Their friendship started during their studies, until one day they decided to build their own company. Iris states: “I think is important in any creative business that you see eye to eye with the person that you establish something.” Soon after, they expanded to Athens, Greece, employing freelancers.

Their expertise lies in public realm projects, retail, commercial interiors and exhibition design. By mixing architecture, public space, art and community participation, YOU&ME aim to have an impact in the regeneration of society’s identity.

YOU&ME in Athens

Iris explains that YOU&ME is a community based, multi-disciplinary architecture platform and co-design is one of their main areas of interest and expertise. So with this concept of collaboration in mind, their presence in a co-working space gives them a lot of opportunities. Networking and sharing ideas and knowledge with people from diverse sectors makes the coworking space a fruitful ground to grow their business.

As Iris said: “The whole concept about our practice is collaboration, so on all of our projects we work with creators and we embrace that process. Our presence at Stone Soup is a good starting point, because I’m already starting to think how we can have some more collaborations with different disciplines and enjoy this creative dialog that the space provides us.”

At the moment, most of their clients are UK-based, but the majority of the production and design activity of the company happens in Greece. However, Iris does not see that as a barrier, in fact she considers it an advantage, since  working from a different place gives you more flexibility in terms of schedule and a different creative perspective etc. Technology gives us different possibilities nowadays. Work is always attached to your computer, so you can take it with you everywhere you go and meetings can adapt and be set up via video calls . “We did not plan that two base situation. It happened and now we try to make that work. We say that we have an international practice and we can have the meetings via Skype.”

YOU&ME in London

Since 2012 YOU&ME have been working on UK public sector High Street Regeneration projects for local councils. These projects consist of transforming declined urban neighborhoods into nice areas to live and work in. As an architect, Iris is considering both the social aspects, while upgrading and modernizing urban contexts at the same time. Working with local residents and shopkeepers to regenerate their image, branding and actual shop premises is what YOU&ME are doing at the moment. “We get in touch with people who would never be exposed to this type of architect’s service, and this is great. We learn a lot throughout the process as well”, Iris observes.

Iris’ next steps are to open and expand their business in the Greek market. Working at Stone Soup for one month now, the idea is to link up with local creators and establish a network of collaborators, in a similar manner to their way working back in the UK.

Check out their beautiful work by visiting: https://www.youandmearchitecture.com/work

Max approaches life as a journey and Athens is a beautiful traveling destination. Read more about his recent life.

Max B. is from Germany, he studied industrial design and worked with his father as a Sound designer for the film industry in Berlin. Living his whole life in Berlin he felt the urge to travel and live somewhere else.

He has been traveling with a small Volkswagen van in Europe so he has experienced the nomad life. A year ago he decided to build a home in a more spacious van and travel further away. Initially he thought of traveling to Asia or India but when Max arrived at his first stop in Athens, he found it hard to continue his journey. Although the intention was to visit for only a few months, thanks to the people, nature, food and music he decided to extend his stay.

“Greece is the type of country in Europe where it feels good being here; let’s say that people are more ‘Mediterranean’. The approach is more open and things are more easy going around here.”

It’s the first time for Max working from a coworking space. “Is nice to talk to all this different kind of people. I work with a computer and I am focus on the screen all the time, so is good to have someone that you can have a dialog from time to time and cook together.”

Greece as the first stop of his inner journey

Max’s bachelor thesis was about Modern Nomads. He says that the concept of the term fits his lifestyle though he prefers not to call himself a nomad as his journey is more spiritual. “The work I’m doing is a mean to make my living. My actual focus is on observing my inner processes. Giving room to allow and understand fears, asking myself, what’s love, why we pursue pleasure and thus get a deeper understanding of the Me and the general suffering of mankind.

“In the last year it became very obvious, that I cannot continue working, more or less just for the sake of earning money and not seeing anyhow my contribution to improve the general wellbeing of people and the world in that we live in. Greece seems like a good starting point to walk on new paths.”

Now, Max is finishing his work for a German criminal investigator TV series and starting to work on an independent Greek film about a group of friends in a squat in Thessaloniki and the refugee crisis, a documentary with some storytelling.