Fashion insiders and digital marketeers. Financial analysts and fine art gallerists. As workplaces are changing throughout the world, more professionals are choosing to bring their home and office to Athens in search of a better work-life balance.
A new campaign launched this week by This is Athens is connecting digital nomads to the Greek capital city. The 12-week campaign titled “Even Lockdown is Better in Athens” looks at the lives of remote workers who can choose to live and work anywhere in the world and are prioritising well-being alongside work productivity.
The project began when journalists at This is Athens interviewed four “corona nomads” to learn about the advantages of working from Athens during the Covid-19 pandemic. The group included well-travelled professionals who have lived in multiple continents, as well as adventurous souls moving to a new country for the first time. The stories include a mix of life stages, cultures, and reasons for choosing Athens.
Some call them digital nomads. To others, they are corona refugees or lockdown migrants. Thanks to technology and encouragement from their clients and employers, they have the freedom to set up a virtual office anywhere in the world. This year, many are choosing Athens.
The stories collected at www.thisisathens.org describe how Athens is supporting career ambitions at international firms while offering new paths toward personal well-being. For some nomads, it was the possibility of having a private home office in the bustling city and the opportunity for year-round adventures at the beach and on the mountains a short distance away – all without jeopardising their workflow.
In Their Own Words
Burak Cakmak came to Athens for the summer and decided to stay through the winter rather than return to New York or London. The internationally connected entrepreneur and former Dean of Fashion at Parsons School of Design in New York City, Cakmak is putting down roots on the Athens Riviera where he can enjoy a bike ride or mid-day swim without putting life on hold.
Cakmak told This is Athens, “My day might see me talking to clients in California or Africa; London or Asia. I’m busier than ever, but even in winter and even in lockdown I can still wake up to sunshine and have breakfast on my balcony overlooking the pine trees and the Aegean. I can still go out for a scenic hike or bike ride around the hills of Varkiza and Vouliagmeni; and most days around noon, when it’s warm enough, I can still jump into the sea.””
This is Athens first reported on the trend last summer, citing Greece’s reputation for managing coronavirus infection rates as well as the relaxed atmosphere that made Athens an appealing destination for a temporary home office. Those arriving in the summer discovered art shows and concerts, incubators and growing start-ups, and a vibrant street life that never sleeps.
Safiya Mary Rose is part of this new cohort of Athenians. A copywriter from London who relocated in late October, she described Athens as “full of light and colour – even in the winter, even in quarantine! The creative energy is palpable: from the street art to the cafe culture and galleries. It’s an inspiring and highly multicultural place: with all the modernity of a capital city, yet there are ancient temples literally peppered all over the place. There’s also this deep sense of history, culture and spirituality.”
Building Resilience during the Pandemic
Many digital nomads are looking for ways to build resilience into their lives while riding out the pandemic. For others, it’s about finding creative inspiration and freedom to fulfil their lifelong goals.
Mégane Bambagha, a freelance digital marketing consultant, described Athenians as “eager to try new things and experiment: an attitude we completely lack back in France.” Athens provided a constant source of creative inspiration and gave her a feeling community in spite of the lockdown: “In Athens, you better be ready to have an open house at the last minute; or meet friends for dinner instead of lunch. Athens is definitely teaching me to balance my personal and work existence better, and to stop more often to enjoy life…. Even in lockdown, the life in Athens is so amazing that I don’t feel locked in. I feel reborn.”
Keita Yamada, a contractor with the global work facilitator Doist, chose to leave Costa Rica for Athens in September. Originally from Japan, he described how easy it was to find places to remain productive and collaborate with locals while exploring the city. “Because so many people speak English, compared to other European cities, getting around Athens and getting to know the city is easy. I have found the locals friendly and happy to help, once you ask questions. Any place you go in Athens they take pride in what they do, and explain things in detail. When I went to get my haircut recently, for example, the barber really threw himself into it. I can see that passion in every aspect of Athenian life.”
Digital Nomads in Athens
Digital nomads are coveted by cities throughout the world in part because of the important role they play in the spread of knowledge and technology. The most common roles include software developers, graphic designers, copywriters, and digital consultants. They are bringing new ideas and sparking conversations, and gaining perspectives that they will eventually take home.
The City of Athens is encouraging the creation of a digital nomad community by reinforcing innovation hubs and co-working spaces. The city is improving the accessibility of municipal services by putting them online. The new web portal of This is Athens provides information in three languages – English, French, and German – and has launched a partnership with the non-profit XPat Athens to build a channel of communication with long-term visitors and expats.
Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis welcomed the trend: “Athens has long been a destination for people who want to share ideas and learn from each other. This is one of the reasons that we focus on hospitality as the core of our cultural heritage. Cultural exchange is a guarantee of our freedom, and we are thinking a lot about this as we celebrate 200 years of Greek independence. We’re thrilled that so many people want to make Athens part of their life story.”
About This is Athens
This is Athens is the Official Visitors’ Guide to the City of Athens and a starting point for new beginnings. Athens is one of the world’s oldest destinations for travellers with thousands of years of recorded history. Long famous as a gateway to summer, Athens has become a window to the 21st century and a year-round tourism destination for visitors from all over the world. Athens is alive with creative possibilities and a feeling of community that is hard to beat, even during lockdown.
This is Athens features stories of adventure, travel insights and up to the minute updates, as well as a schedule of events created with visitors in mind. The web portal is published in English, French, and German, helping first-time visitors and life-long residents find their stories. It is a project of the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency.
The campaign was produced while following all relevant regulations and guidelines to stop the spread of Covid-19.