It’s time to meet another Greek-American in Greece! Learn about Chicago Native Alexandra Lavida, an Athens-based entrepreneur.
Meet Greek-American in Greece Entrepreneur Alexandra Lavida
Greek-American in Greece is back! Let’s meet a Chicago Greek living in Athens — Alexandra Lavida!
Maria A. Karamitsos: Where were you born and raised? Tell us about your time there.
Alexandra Lavida: Ι was born and raised in Chicago. I was a little tomboy, excelling in school though, which made things easier for my parents. I was — and still am — family-oriented, with weekends at my grandparents or my cousins being on the schedule.
MAK: Where is your family from in Greece?
AL: My father is from Nafpaktos. He, my sister, and our dog live there now, while I live in Athens. My mother, who passed away a few years ago was from Tripoli, which I visit whenever I have the opportunity.
MAK: Talk a little about your time in Chicago.
AL: We went to church at Assumption in Chicago. There, I attended Greek school, and Sunday school. And there were many dinners at Greektown!
MAK: Did you attend university in the U.S.? Tell us about you and your career.
AL: I went to College of DuPage and studied Business Administration. I also studied Tourism at Novus Travel. In Greece, I also attended fashion school and was working as a fashion stylist and as a makeup artist in both countries until five years ago. The crisis and companies not paying on time or at all here in Greece brought a halt to all that. I decided to work in the tourism field, and now I have my own company, Attrazione via Mare & Terra, which focuses on destination development, marine tourism, and also provides executive yacht services and villa rentals.
MAK: Do you still have family in the US? Do you visit often?
AL: I have family in Chicago and I visit them quite often. You can give them a big hug from me, and eat delicious food at Connie’s Restaurant in Berwyn, at Savoury Restaurant in Bartlett, and at the Backyard Grill in Highland Park!
MAK: When did you move to Greece? What precipitated the move?
AL: Ι moved to Greece with my family when I was 9. My father started his own business here. I went back to college and traveling, and then back again for work. I actually went back and forth for years. In 2012, I finally decided to stay permanently in Greece .
MAK: How do you like living in Greece? Was it easy to adjust?
AL: Since Nafpaktos is a small town, moving here from Chicago was quite a shock. I was young though. I spoke Greek fluently and I made friends fast, so I wasn’t upset about it. I would say that I adjusted easily. Greeks, after all, are very easy going, compassionate, and welcoming. And they have excellent communication skills.
MAK: Give a little perspective on being a Greek-American living in Greece.
AL: We have major differences mentality wise. It’s somewhat difficult to work with fellow Greeks who are more laid back than the Americans. You need to have patience and follow their steps. You have to compromise in order to get things done.
MAK: Tell us what kind of work you do. How’s it going?
AL: Greeks have a reputation for being lazy, unorganized, and that they leave everything for the last minute. I am not going to lie, the truth is somewhere in the middle. They are not lazy, yet they are chill. They do happen to work two and three jobs to make ends meet. Especially now with this never-ending crisis. Some still work for free or for 580 euros — maybe less.
I think that what ticks the rest of the world is their carefree attitude. The fact that they survive despite the difficulties. The reason they enjoy their never-ending coffee breaks is that everything is within walking distance, the houses are smaller, and therefore, easier to maintain. In general the lifestyle is more open and I’d say more uninhibited, as in less restricted. They have more free time, plus beautiful weather and great food throughout the whole year. And Greeks are figuratively and literally outgoing. They don’t like staying home when they can be enjoying outdoor activities. And the health system is much cheaper here than in the US. The doctors and the private hospitals are amazing.
MAK: With all the challenges, why do you stay in Greece?
AL: I can suggest solutions and recommendations for the management of issues related to sustainable tourism development and tourism promotion, but also focus on the development of new value-added services. These services cover the identified necessities for the enlargement and development of private enterprises while incorporating international trends and practices, and the collaborative role of the local community, the municipality, and the region. At the same time, I am in the field of marine tourism, and I do executive services in yachting, specifically brokerage, charters, and insurance upon cooperation with shipowners, cruise developers, and insurers. So far, work is going well. Tourism is the only thing definitely working in Greece.
MAK: Why is it important for Greeks to stay, and work through the challenges?
AL: I love Greece, I really do — even with its ups and downs. It’s a beautiful country, it’s still safe, and the weather is great. The people are strong — they are fighters. They have the DNA of survivors. If all these austerity measures had been implemented in any other country, the country would have been erased from the map. Just like that.
I could easily say there is no reason to stay here anymore. That’s how it seems to everyone. But to be honest, I find myself struggling with work, I find myself demanding a more secure financial life, all while still being able to live in this country. There are a tremendous outburst of start-ups, entrepreneurs, bloggers, and the Greek youth is fighting to prevail. I don’t want to leave, and they don’t either. We have potential, and I believe that at the end, we will prevail.
MAK: What should people outside of Greece know?
AL: People outside Greece should be more aware of the propaganda being spread. They should search more online, they should stop having biased opinions. Honestly, they should visit Greece, to see what this beautiful country is all about. After all, it is a top tourism destination. They should speak with the locals, be less harsh in their judgment. They should try to have a better understanding of how the government works here, how hard doing business with an unstable and high taxation is. They should also understand what living under a legal system that cannot provide security for immediate court action really is.
MAK: What can Greeks outside of Greece do to promote Greece, and to help?
AL: Greeks can talk about where their roots are from. They can talk about their summer (or winter) vacations and share photos via social media. Promote their country in every way possible.
Ongoing Greek-American in Greece series
We hope you enjoyed meeting Alexandra Lavida. We’ll introduce you to another Greek-American in Greece soon.
Read about other Greek-Americans in Greece:
Greek-American in Greece: Entrepreneur & Health Coach Maria Michalakopoulou
Greek-American in Greece: Meet Psychologist Despina Konstas, PhD
Greek-American in Greece: Meet Entrepreneur Debbie Koutroumanos
Greek-American in Greece: Meet AWOG President Stacey Papaioannou
Greek-American in Greece: Meet Georgia Karountzou
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