Leveraging celebrity status in Greece

by Adrianne George

Trading New York for Athens

Born in Brooklyn, Yvette moved to Greece as a professional basketball player and has become the most recognizable black woman in Athens.

Her political career is unprecedented in Greece becoming the 1st African American City Councillor in the history of Athens and Greece.

She is the Special Advisor to the Mayor of Athens on Immigrant Affairs, and she uses her celebrity status to empower black Women in Greece.

“My first trip abroad was to Bermuda. It was my Senior year in college and I and my best friends planned our first outing as a group to this wonderful island! We had a ball. Pink sand, beautiful charming black men, magical!” says Jarvis. Jarvis moved to Greece to follow her heart, marrying a Greek citizen and embarked on a career in professional basketball, international modelling, as a television talk show host, vocal artist and Greek politician.

Lessons Learned

“The realization of how deep our connection & responsibility is to America as Diplomats of our race and our country”, has been Jarvis’ most enlightening experience while travelling across and living in Europe. Living in Europe has also included some disheartening times. “? think watching the demise of America’s reputation worldwide had to be the most disheartening. Listening to people curse & damn my country, its people and its President is very hard to deal with. Being one of the most prominent Americans in Greece and having to defend it under those circumstances have been trying!” Jarvis explains.

When in Greece

“I never visit anyone’s home empty handed. I love the Greek Easter traditions and my family and I participate in them every year”, confides Jarvis. But she still misses the tradition of Christmas and Thanksgiving, American style. Yet Jarvis stresses “knowing the local language is of the utmost importance! Your life becomes much richer in every way when you can communicate with others”.

Jarvis speaks fluent Greek which has no doubt paved the way for her to participate in Greek politics. Speaking Greek has also helped Jarvis develop friendships, which is especially important for expats. Also important for expats is maintaining strong relationships with family and friends back home. Jarvis does that by having family and friends visit, visiting them, calling them and using email to stay in touch. 

Living in Greece

Jarvis has had an easy time finding accommodations in Athens which she attributes to her celebrity status. In fact a Washington Post article says that whenever Jarvis walks down the street she is greeted by name by everyone she passes. And while she confesses to having not set any goals when she arrived in Athens, she’s achieved so much through hard work and a commitment to a job well done.Getting to know yourself

“Living abroad has taught me that we must be opened minded and that there is always more than one way to view an issue. It is all about where you are at any given moment. I have learned not to judge, but to listen, contemplate and that it’s alright to agree to disagree! I am much more durable than I thought!” Jarvis says. She advises anyone considering a move abroad to “learn the language, mix with the locals, and find something that you admire or are interested in within the culture. Most importantly be open for change!”

After 25 years in Greece Jarvis can still envision herself returning to a life in the United States. And now Jarvis’ “eyes have been opened”. Jarvis is well informed and knowledgeable about the world outside of the US. “The veil has been lifted and the American myth has been debunked”, she says.

Greece in Black

“Blacks in general and most surely Black Africans are discriminated against. They have a harder time getting hired for jobs other than in the domestic help field, agriculture or kitchen help”, Jarvis says. However this problem is not exclusive to Black Africans. Most 3rd national foreigners find it difficult to work in the fields of their study.

Education doesn’t seem to be the reason Blacks may have a hard time finding meaningful work in Greece. “Lawyers, Architects, Mechanical Engineers and Teachers for example are unable to practice, and most high scale professionals find themselves relegated to menial work, Jarvis explains.

But Jarvis knows one major reason for this dilemma. “One major problem is that so many professions require citizenship in order to work in those areas. Citizenship is given to Blacks very rarely. Out of 100 perhaps 5 will receive it per year as opposed to 30 or 40 out of 100 for the Balkans and Eastern Europeans!” Jarvis laments.

Living & Spendinggreekdoor1

Monthly Rent:

  • from 500€ (euros) and up

Cost for Meals:

  • Depends on what you want to eat! Anywhere from 5€ – 30€ for souvlaki and soft drink to an average taverna meal with wine. If you go top notch anywhere from 50€ to 150€ per person

Transportation Costs:

  • Train: .70 cents – Metro: .80 cents – Bus: .70 cents

Compared to your home country are most things cheap/same/expensive?

  • Expensive

Recommended monthly living budget:

  • Depends on your standards, but I would guess at least 1,500€ (euros)

How modern are basic amenities/infrastructure?

  • Pretty modern

Any legal hurdles all foreigners have to face to live there?

  • Legalization process! Renewing residence permits can be a super hassle!

Top 3 things you would recommend someone to bring when they come:

  • An open mind, patience & a sense of humor

Top 3 things you would recommend for someone visiting or living here to do:

  • The Parthenon, Delphi & the islands

Top 3 hangout places:

  • Mykonos Island, Psyrri, Athens, Glyfada, Athens area in the summer, the clubs on the beach
Photo credits: Lars Christensen, Yvette Jarvis, Wikimedia User: Aivazovsky



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