MUNICH/STUTTGART – “Thirty-five years ago this place here was my paradise,” said Andreas, sitting with his 4-year-old son at a playground in Giesing, a suburb of Munich.
Born in Germany 38 years ago, Andreas, who did not want to give his full name, moved with his family to Greece at the age of 6. Now, more three decades later, he has joined the ranks of Greeks who, hit by the lingering debt crisis, are traveling in the opposite direction.
“Our decision left everyone speechless,” said Andreas, who has two more children. In Greece he worked as a civil servant while his wife was employed in the private sector. The financial crisis had taken a toll on the family budget, he said, “but we could still make ends meet.”
What made the couple decide to leave the country, he says, was the children. “It would be selfish to stay here, given the way things are going,” he said, adding that the next generation of Greeks was left with no meaningful prospects.
“Over the coming years, we would need about 1,000 euros per month just to cover the kids’ private tuition fees,” he said.
German jobs held by Greeks climbed 10.8 percent to reach 123,300 overall last year, according to recent figures by Germany’s Federal Employment Agency.
Greece’s unemployment rate currently hovers around 27 percent, according to official figures. In contrast, Germany saw the number people in employment rise last year by 416,000 to a total of 41.5 million, which was an increase of 1 percent on 2011.
Andreas, who has a good command of the German language and is already familiar with this Bavarian town, first took a sabbatical from his office in Greece and began to search online for a new job in Germany.
“I went to Munich, where I was able to register by giving the address of some family friends, and then I registered with Germany’s manpower organization,” he said.
“I then got a digital code with which I was able to monitor employment ads in Germay,” he said.
He recently began to work as a bus driver for a monthly salary of 1,800 euros. If he passes the trial stage, he will get a big raise. An extra sum will be added to his salary when his kids settle here. His family are still in Greece but he was enthusiastic about his children’s response when they recently spent a couple of weeks in Munich.
“If everything goes according to plan, they should move here in the summer,” he said.
From Crete to Stuttgart
Forty-five-year-old Lefteris, who also did not want to reveal his full name, left Crete with his wife and three children to try his luck in Stuttgart.
“It wasn’t so much a case of poor finances. When the crisis broke out, our lives changed and we did not wish to raise our children in such a climate,” he said.
The German language courses that they took up as students years ago came in handy. Lefteris, an economist, found work in the private sector while his wife, a teacher, was granted a one-year transfer from her school.
Their kids, still high school students, speak no German at all so they were recently placed in a preparatory course for non-natives. Adapting has not always been smooth, but Lefteris remains optimistic. “Here I feel I have much more to offer to my children,” he said.
In Greece, he says, he had to pay 60 euros per month for his daughter’s swimming classes, which the family could no longer afford. Here, a yearly subscription at the local pool costs 150 euros.
Social security is also no match. “In Greece I had to pay about 3,000 euros to have dental braces fitted on my daughter. Here the cost is covered by the social security fund,” he said.
The cost of many goods and services here was also a pleasant surprise for Lefteris.
“One liter of milk here costs 56 cents,” he says, about half the price in Greece.
Not surprisingly, Lefteris says he is “here to stay.”