Greeks on British soil go back thousands of years. The first Greek to arrive on our shores was Phyteas in the 4th century BC. Although he did not settle in Britain, he was the first in a long line of Greek visitors over the years.
The first real Greek immigrants arrived in London in around 1670. There were only about a hundred of them. They were fleeing the Ottoman Empire and its persecution of the Greek Orthodox Church. Upon their arrival, they asked permission to set up a church in London and subsequently founded the first Greek Church in Britain in what is now Soho. If ever you ask yourself how Greek Street got its name, well, there’s your answer.
So much for the past, what about the situation now… How many Greeks have actually moved to London since the beginning of the economic crisis?
Greece has been hard hit by increasing rates of unemployment, especially among young people. For Greeks the top destinations over the years, according to the World Bank, have been Germany, Australia, Canada, Albania, Turkey, the UK, Cyprus, Israel and Belgium. Skilled Greeks are particularly likely to leave. As an example of the significant impact this can have, 4,886 physicians emigrated in the year 2000, meaning the country lost 9.4% of its doctors in that single year.
The standard of living, low salaries, few jobs and many other factors make working and doing business in Greece an unattractive prospect. It is no wonder people are leaving the country. However, not all is negative…
It is becoming apparent that more and more Greeks are choosing London. Notorious bickering of Greeks as well as the rise in restaurant numbers is clear evidence of this. And the presence of the Greek diaspora in London is significant. The tight-knit Greek business world is unique and helps keep a close relationship throughout the community. Greeks have seen London during the crisis as “The place to be”. The place where entrepreneurship can go a long way.
So quite simply, Greeks are departing from Greece, and arriving in London. Permanently.