It’s time for the next installment in our series of Q&A with Greek-Americans living in Greece. Meet Chicago native Georgia Karountzou.
Meet Georgia Karountzou
We hope you’re enjoying our Q&As with Greek-Americans living in Greece. Today, meet Chicago native Georgia Karountzou.
Maria A. Karamitsos: You’re originally from Chicago. Tell us about your time there.
Georgia Karountzou: I was born in Chicago, but when I was about a year-old we moved with my family to Greece. When I was 15 years-old, we moved back to Chicago and that’s where I finished high school.
We went back to Greece the 1st time, because my parents wanted for me and my brother to live also with our grandparents, get connected with the Greek heritage and traditions. When we came back to Chicago it was a decision for my and my brother’s future, to focus on education and great future career opportunities.
Living in Greece in my early stage of life gave me long-life relationships with amazing people and also shaped my personality and who I am now.
Growing up as a teenager and as an young adult in the US also gave me amazing opportunities to understand and respect diversity, open my horizons, work hard, and reach for the sky!
Living in 2 different countries really shaped my future aspirations and attitude.
MAK: Where is your family from in Greece?
GK: My father is from Velo Korinthias and my mother is actually from Honduras (Central America).
MAK: Talk a little about your Greek community connections in Chicago, prior to leaving.
GK: To keep connected with the Greek community I attended weekend school at Socrates. I also volunteered at different events for the Holy Trinity Church.
When I went to college I joined the Hellenic Student Association and I was active in their events as well. In addition, for 2 years at my university I provided Greek tutoring and I was the teacher’s aide for the Greek university courses.
MAK: Did you attend university in the US? Tell us about more about you.
GK: I attended the University of Illinois at Chicago. I graduated with a double Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Marketing. I also did my Master’s degree at North Park University with a concentration in Organizational Development.
During my sophomore year in college I was an executive intern at Target which then led to receive a full-time offer during my senior year to work with them. I worked at Target for 5 years in various roles at the store management level. Right after the 5 years I received an offer from my current company in Greece and so I moved.
MAK: Do you still have family in the US? Do you visit often?
GK: Yes. My parents, brother, sister-in-law, nephews and many other family members are all in Chicago. Honestly, most of my family lives in the US. I try to visit every other year since I still have many close friends there and I love to stay connected.
MAK: When did you move to Greece? What precipitated the move?
GK: I moved to Greece in 2010. I always wanted to go back to Greece so I initiated efforts to understand that job market in Greece and reached out to various companies. MARS sent me a great offer to work with them so it was a no-brainer at that point to move.
MAK: Tell us what kind of work you do. How’s it going?
GK: I am the Corporate Affairs Director for Mars East Med (Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Israel, Palestine). Mars is a private, family-owned business with more than a century of history and some of the best-loved brands in the world including M&M’S®, PEDIGREE®, DOUBLEMINT® and UNCLE BEN’S®. Mars operates in six diverse business segments: Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks and Symbioscience.
In the scope of my role, among many others, I lead and oversee external and internal communications, public affairs, media and stakeholders engagement and relations, Corporate Reputation and Crisis Management. We do operate in very highly complex and challenging markets, but with a “Winning Every Day” focus and attitude and with the guide of our Five Principles we aim to deliver growth that we are proud of.
MAK: How do you like living in Greece? Was it easy to adjust?
GK: I love living in Greece and I would say it was quite easy to adjust at most parts. The different lifestyle and culture enabled me to enjoy more and appreciate more small things in life. A crucial role in my quick adjustment played of course that MARS is an amazing family business and the local team did everything possible for me to feel very quickly as home.
MAK: Give a little perspective on being a Greek-American living in Greece.
GK: Being a Greek-American living in Greece it is quite beneficial as you have all the experience and multicultural touchpoints that enables you to experience the everyday life in Greece with quite broader perspective. Greek- Americans can play a critical role in addressing the key local challenges of today by exemplifying, demonstrating, and inspiring shared value experiences that address such challenges.
MAK: With all the challenges, why do you stay in Greece?
GK: I believe it is very important to not give up. This country has suffered a lot and it will continue to face multiple challenges. What makes Greece so unique is the power and the willingness of the people that truly love their country and land. Together, unified, we can surely make a difference.
MAK: Why is it important for Greeks to stay, and work through it?
GK: Unfortunately, the last years have been incredibly unbearable for Greeks. The economic crisis has resulted not only for young Greeks to leave and search opportunities outside of Greece, but also caused many companies to leave the Greek market limiting local growth opportunities. The way I see it is that if there are opportunities, stay here and work through the challenges. However, if the struggle remains, then I fully encourage that they explore the opportunities outside of Greece, grow and develop themselves, and then come back to support the change we all need in Greece. In the end what matter is the quality of life for all Greeks and their commitment to doing their best every day, whether that is at work or as part of their community. This will bring to everyone great pride!
MAK: What should people outside of Greece know?
GK: What you see in the media does not always represents the reality. Greeks are the most kind and welcoming people. Hospitality, generosity, filotimo, are key attributes that define this country.
MAK: What can Greeks outside of Greece do to promote Greece, and to help?
GK: Succeed! In everything you do, wherever you are… succeed, and then through that success, promote YOUR Hellenic heritage! Be proud of your country and showcase it any way possible! For parents, educate your children about our history and culture and make them love and feel in their hearts this country. For the newest generations… social media is a powerful tool to communicate and promote. #ProudGreek #Greece
Until next time…
We hope you enjoyed meeting Georgia Karountzou. We’ll introduce you to another Greek-American in Greece soon