Staying here was my conscious choice.
When did you come to Greece and at what age?
I came to Greece in 1997, when I was 32 years old.
What were the conditions in your country that led you to come to Greece?
The conditions were mediocre, but my family and I lived in the province where we cultivated the land and raised animals (cattle). Due to my involvement in this area but also due to the fact that I come from a family that was generally recognizable and respected in the wider area, my standard of living was above the average prevailing in the country at that time.
Was your access to our country smooth or difficult? Briefly describe your experience.
It was relatively smooth. I came through a third country. In particular, I was in England, visiting another member of my family and close friends, looking for options for the future course of my life. There, I met my future wife by chance, who is Greek. After an invitation from a third person, I came to Greece for the first time, with formal procedures and documents, most of which I already had in my possession.
How was your life during the first time of your presence in Greece?
The adjustment was very difficult for a long time. There were and still are, many differences in the culture and way of life in India in relation to Greece. Also, my skin color, my country of origin and language, were major inhibitory agents to trying to adapt and integrate into the local community and the country.
Did you find a home and a job easily?
Initially I was a guest and I worked exclusively through the contribution of the few acquaintances.
Did you speak English before you came? If not, how did you overcome the language barriers?
Basically I only knew English. The Greek language was extremely difficult for me. I started by taking basic lessons for people who did not have Greek as their mother tongue and continued step by step to be able to reach a relatively satisfactory level of comprehension, speaking, and writing. I had to repeat the courses several times and of course continue, enrolling in more organized departments that exist for this purpose, to raise my level and obtain official Language Certification documents. This was necessary both in my personal life (socializing with more relatives, friendships, family) and in my professional life (work requirements, formal qualifications, etc.).
The Greeks have been famous since antiquity for their hospitality. Is this rumor considered to be in line with today’s reality? How did the Greeks treat you when you first came?
In general, I did not have a serious problem, but as I mentioned above, there was a relative difficulty of acceptance, adaptation and acclimatization.
Has the rise of the far right in Greece in recent years affected you? Have you ever felt fear of being targeted?
Personally not. Apart from some general concerns, I personally don’t fear of being targeted.
How is your life here today? Are you happy? Did you achieve your goal by coming here?
Although with many difficulties and a fluid situation with constant changes, both in my personal and in my social and professional situation, I can say that probably yes.
Tell us a few words about your current professional situation and how you got to it.
The first jobs were originally recommended by people close to me. After a while, I started looking for myself as my circle opened and I made new acquaintances and learned the ways of looking for a job in Greece (advertisments, the Greek Manpower Employment Organization-OAED, online applications, etc.). So gradually, my own criteria and choices were coming in, but that took a long time. For the last fifteen years, and despite my long stay in the country, most of the jobs I had had a specific time horizon, so after a while I had to look for a new one. In combination with the financial crisis, the closure of companies and stores, the reduction of staff, the high competition, the reduced job vacancies, etc., but also the fact that the years passed and I started to grow up, led me to the thought and finally the difficult decision, to do something of my own. So, for about 1.5 years now, I have opened a fruit and vegetable store, with the help of my wife, near my place of residence.
What advice would you give to a new immigrant/refugee who will come to Greece? What should s/he watch out for?
There are many things to watch out for and maybe finally, after so many years, I dare to say that many events that will affect him/her in the future, may be accidental. But I will dwell on some: S/He must be straightforward, honest and sincere in order to gain the trust of his/her fellow human beings, who may be wary of him/her at first. To express his/her real needs and feelings, and to try to understand the different way of thinking and living of the people of the country s/he visits from that of his origin. Definitely, s/he should create friendly and stable bonds with those around him/her, because they will be the ones who will stand by him/her in the most difficult moments, but also because they will cover his/her personal need for communication. Do not hesitate to turn to services and structures that are there to help but many times, out of ignorance, we do not consult. Either for advice or for formal procedures or even for help. Be wary of controversial proposals and prompts, or seek the opinion of people you already know and trust on an issue. Always move within the framework of legality. To believe in oneself and one’s values and not to forget the principle of equality, that every human being is equal, and has the same rights, but also obligations. To take care of his/her health and maintain his/her mental integrity in difficult times.
Do you feel Greece as your second home? If you had the opportunity, would you return to your homeland?
Yes, of course I feel it. Maybe I would say, as the years go by, that it has taken the place of my first homeland.
It would be a lie to say that I have not thought about it. Especially in difficult circumstances, several times. But I had the opportunity and in the end I did not do it. Staying here was my conscious choice.
What do you miss about your homeland?
My childhood, family moments and some of our customs and traditions. Maybe some natural beauties and features of the morphology of my homeland, but fortunately there are several beautiful places here, which unfortunately I don’t have the time to visit and enjoy.