Do you know the country Greece? I am sure, you know. But have you ever heard about Thessaloniki? Do you know that this is the second biggest city in Greece? I didn’t know it before I decided to live there for a half year. I didn’t know anything about this city and now… Now I couldn’t imagine staying somewhere else. I will tell you the main reasons.
Thessaloniki in numbers
Before I am going to tell you more about the life and the people in Thessaloniki, you must know some facts about one of the biggest cities in Greece.
More than 1 million people live in Thessaloniki. A lot of them call their hometown Salonika, which is the short form of Thessaloniki. The city is located on the Thermaic Gulf, near the Aegean Sea.
If you want to enjoy one of the warm and sunny days, you can take a walk along the 50 km long coastline. During the rainy days it is nice to visit one of the 29 museums about history and art.
Life in Thessaloniki
If I try to describe the life in Thessaloniki in one word, I would say it is a contrast. On the one hand it is a contrast to my home country Germany, on the other hand it is a ‚contrast in itself‘.
Differences to Germany
The meaning of the first aspect might be obviously. It is a different culture, different weather and different mentality compared to Germany. The nights are loud and the days are quiet. People talk to each other on the street, even though they met 2 seconds before. In Germany everyone tries to ignore people, who pass them because they are always in a hurry.
It seems, that no one is stressed in Thessaloniki. It seems, that they are enjoying their lives. But it is not as it seems. For most of the people the life in Thessaloniki is very hard. The salaries here are lower and the workplaces are less. It is not as easy as in Germany to find a good job.
But when you talk to the locals, they will tell you, that they love their city, that they love Thessaloniki. Why? Because of the sun! Because of the sun and because of the food. And they are right. Enjoying the sun in Thessaloniki is different to enjoying the sun in my hometown. My most favorite place for relaxing is the area around the White Tower. It is a nice atmosphere to stay there because you sit next to the sea, hear people laughing and music playing. If you bought a Pita-Souvlaki before, it will be a perfect afternoon.
Besides the tasty main dishes like Souvlaki and Moussaka, there are also a lot of Patisseries. This is a big problem for me, for me and my body. It is so hard to pass all the tasty food in the window without buying everything. I think, I will never get the secret, why most of the Greek people are so skinny. But anyway the food is great and the locals are very proud of their food.
Differences in Thessaloniki
So, what about my second aspect now? About the “contrast itself”? I talked about the differences to Germany and especially my hometown, but there are also a lot of opposites, when you walk through the city.
At first there is a difference between the appearance – the buildings and architecture – of various areas in Thessaloniki. You have small houses in the upper city, which radiate peace and harmony, and high-rise buildings in the city center, which give you the feeling of hustle and bustle. Besides the not too beautiful skyscrapers there are also some beautiful buildings in the city center, for example at Aristoteles Square.
Another contrast is the big gap between serenity and calm and rush and noise. I am sure that you think, Greek people are always lazy and late, and you will be right in most of the cases. But Thessaloniki is a big city with a lot of stores, working places and offices. Sometimes you see some small shops and you will find the Greek mentality and the serenity inside. But on the main streets like Tsimiski are big stores, where the people are stressed and busy. At least most of the stores in the city center are also opened on Sunday and during the noon, what isn`t typical for Greece. In general they close their restaurants and shops during the noon for some hours. But, like I said, in Thessaloniki is everything different.
I am very glad to live in Thessaloniki and one of the reasons are the people here. If you come to Greece for vacation, you will recognize, that most of the people are very friendly and warm-hearted. But, of course, if you go to a restaurant, a hotel or a bar as a tourist, everyone will be friendly to you. I can tell you now that Greek people are very kind and helpful in general. And they are not just friendly to me. Several times I saw strangers at the bus talking to each other for a long time. Sometimes – if it was a conversation between an old woman and a young man, who never met before – a man helped the old lady, after leaving the bus, with her shopping and carried her bags while walking her home.
What I`m trying to say is wherever you go, you will find someone, who helps you with every question you have and with every problem you try to solve. Even though the locals of Thessaloniki are sometimes in a rush, they will take their time to help you. Maybe this is the reason, why Greek people are more often late than Germans.