Time to meet another Greek-American in Greece! Read all about George Irene Kallis, an ESL Teacher, writer, and entrepreneur.
Q&A with Greek-American in Greece George Irene Kallis
We’re back, with our longest running and most popular series, Greek-American in Greece! Today, let’s meet New York native Georgia Irene Kallis.
Maria A. Karamitsos: Where were you born and raised? Tell us about your time there.
Georgia Irene Kallis: I was born and raised in Queens, NY. I spent the best 27 years of my life in NY, growing up in a heavily populated Greek-American neighborhood of Jamaica Hills. I attended the Greek-American school at St. Demetrios of Jamaica from K-12th grade. It was a wonderful community and I feel very grateful to have had such an amazing childhood.
MAK: Where is your family from in Greece?
GIK: My mom was born on the island of Lesvos, Mytilini but was raised in Athens. My my father was from Pireaus.
MAK: Do you still have family in the U.S.? Do you visit often?
GIK: Yes, I have family and many dear friends back in NY & Florida and I visit as often as I possibly can.
MAK: Did you attend university in the U.S.? Tell us about you and your studies.
GIK: I attended Queens College in NY, and completed the Greek Ministry of Education’s ESL licensing process.
MAK: When did you move to Greece? What precipitated the move?
GIK: I moved to Greece in November of 1999. It was my father’s dream to retire and move back. Since I was the only child of the family, I felt I had a heavy load on my shoulders, not because I was pressured into moving, but in the sense that I knew that if I had chosen to remain in NY, my parents would’ve remained as well. Hence, I would’ve ruined my father’s retirement plans. However, I’ve since made peace with my decision to follow them to Greece, because I now believe that everything happens for a reason. My dad only had the opportunity to enjoy his retirement in Greece for 2 years, then became very ill and passed away a few years later. Therefore, I feel I did the right thing and have no regrets.
MAK: How do you like living in Greece? Was it easy to adjust?
GIK: It wasn’t easy leaving my job, my friends — at the age of 27 — to move to Greece to start from zero again. It was a very difficult adjustment for me that took many years. Even now, after living in Athens for 18 years, there are still some things that I can never fully adjust to. After the initial adjustment period, you soon begin to realize that Greece is a very beautiful country both in winter and summer, and the people are very friendly and open. Being from NY with very cold winters and heavy snowfall, I truly love Greece’s climate!
MAK: Tell us about your work.
GIK: I’m an ESL Teacher/ELT Writer/Entrepreneur/and mom of 2 young daughters. From 2001-2008, I taught English as a Second Language at numerous Foreign Language Centers, also at the International School of Athens Saturday Program, and did private lessons. Just recently, after an absence of 8 years, and with great difficulty, I’ve returned to the workforce teaching ESL to children, and ESL/Business English to adults. I also do freelance ELT writing for an ESL Publishing company. The economic crisis, here in Greece, has had an enormous negative impact in all fields of business including teaching. Fortunately, with patience and determination, I was able to return back into the ESL field by slightly improvising and expanding my knowledge in order to offer my expertise in other sectors of the ESL field as well.
MAK: Give a little perspective on being a Greek-American living in Greece.
GIK: Personally, I believe there’s a big difference between Greek-Americans and Greeks. I was raised by Greek parents, attended Greek-American school, and lived in a Greek-American neighborhood in NY, but I realized how much more American I really am when I came to live in Greece! Greeks are more laid back, and get things done at a much different pace. In any case, being Greek-American to me, means that I was raised to have love for 2 countries not just 1.
MAK: With all the challenges, why do you stay in Greece?
GIK: My main reason for remaining in Greece even with all it’s challenges is because of my 2 young daughters. One attends 3rd grade and the other just started Pre-K. Greece is a more suitable, child- friendly country, therefore, I believe they are better off remaining here, at least for the time being.
MAK: Why is it important for Greeks to stay, and work through it?
GIK: Greeks are hard working fighters, who don’t want to abandon their country. However, I don’t judge those who, in the end, were left with no choice but to leave Greece.
MAK: What should people outside of Greece know?
GIK: Greece is still in a serious economic crisis with a very high unemployment rate, wages and pensions deductions, and a public sector in shambles including healthcare/hospitals and education. But, as I mentioned before, Greeks don’t give up easily and are working hard to eventually, see some light at the end of this dark “crisis” tunnel soon. Despite all these difficult challenges, there are many new start-ups, entrepreneurs, and also the real estate market is doing well with foreigners buying property/summer homes in Greece. Lastly, the very good news for Greece, this year, was that tourism was at a record high which is very important since Greece relies heavily on its tourism industry.
MAK: What can Greeks outside of Greece do to promote Greece, and to help?
GIK: All I can say to the Greek-American community is to just keep up whatever it is that you’re doing to promote Greece, because it worked wonders this year with 30+ million tourists. The Motherland thanks you!
Meet another Greek-American in Greece soon!
Stay tuned! We’ll introduce you to another Greek-American in Greece very soon!
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