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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.

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.

Interview: A modern Odyssea

 

The project of Jai Mexis, one of our residents at Stone Soup is called Odyssea. Odyssea is a social enterprise designing solutions for environmental and humanitarian problems in Greece.

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