Susanne is from Germany and she has been living in Crete for more than 20 years. She works as a dental technician and she is married to Paris, a man from Crete. They have one child, a 4 years old boy named Vassilis.
When was your first trip in Crete?
I visited Crete in 1978 for the first time.
When did you decide to live in Crete?
During the following three years I spent all my summer holidays in Crete. I really liked Crete and eventually I decided to move permanently here.
Why did you decide to leave Germany? Why did you choose Crete instead of another place or country?
I always wanted to travel around the world and have new experiences of different cultures and people. I was not very fond of the German way of life and Crete is an interesting place with a great climate and pretty nature. The way of life here is totally different than the one in Germany but people’s attitude is not as “exotic” as it would be in Turkey or Asia. It is quite European and it has never been a serious problem for me to understand it. On the other hand Iraklion is a lively city and people here are friendly, open to foreign people and they enjoy life a lot more than average German people. In Germany things tend to be more complicated but here everything is much simpler and more substantial.
Are there many German people living in Crete?
The largest foreign community is the Dutch one. There are many German women living here but men from Germany are pretty rare. There is also a German school and 100 children go to it. It is an official school for the German language.
Did you start working as a dental technician right away? Are there any specific problems in your job that you believe that you wouldn’t face in Germany?
No, I worked in a car rental agency for the first year and then I decided to work as a dental technician. There are certain problems that I face in my job here but I believe that this also applies to dental technicians in Germany. If someone moves to Crete, learns to speak the Greek language and tries to approach people and understand their attitude and customs then he shall not face any problems and the local community will accept him easily. Unfortunately there are foreign people who live here but never learned to speak Greek and their attitude emphasises the fact that they are not Greek. These people will face a lot of problems, that’s for sure. People who want to move to Crete should never forget that learning Greek is critical for their adjustment in the local community. It is the only way to fully understand local people and communicate with them.
Is it a problem that you are a woman?
Being a woman has never been a real problem in my job as there are many women dentists that I deal with. Besides, dentists are educated persons that do not believe in such discrimination. In social life it still isn’t a problem; I think every woman is able to succeed in her life if she is self-confident enough to live her own life and claim what she wants. I know that there still are some families that tend to raise their daughters in a different way than boys but this is not frequent in Iraklion of today. In small villages in remote areas things are quite different though.
Was there something that you consider as a real problem during your adjustment period in Crete?
Understanding people’s hidden intentions has been really hard for me. There are many times that people pretend to be something different than what they really are. It’s not hard for me to sense that if I have to deal with German people but it is really difficult with Cretan people, as I have not been raised here. It is something we learn to judge depending on imperceptible body language signs and it takes a lot of time to learn these signs in a foreign country.
You are married to a man from Crete and you have a 4-year old boy. Is it easy to raise a child in Crete?
What are really necessary for raising a child in Crete are a lot of free time and an above average income. I was raised in Germany and things were quite different there. We were able to learn a lot at school: not only the absolutely necessary subjects but also foreign languages, music and painting and do some sports as well. This does not apply to Greece. The school offers basic knowledge only and parents have to afford a lot of time and money in order to offer some extra education to their children. Even simple things like taking my child for a walk in the city of Iraklion is a lot harder compared to Germany. In big cities in Germany it is so easy to go to a park for a walk but parks in Iraklion are not enough and there is a lot of waste in them. A child always likes to play with the soil and the rocks but in Iraklion it is more likely to find beer-caps and cigarette snipes than rocks.
Does your husband help you in raising the child?
Well, I consider myself lucky, as my husband is a person with an open mind and it is easy for us to discuss and decide together what is best for our child. It is very important to be with a man free of prejudices and taboos. Unfortunately, most men are not like this.
What are your hobbies?
I love horse riding and I have my own horse, Nikki. Paris and me also love to spend weekends in the south coast.
Would you suggest some of your favourite places in Crete?
No, I would not like to do this. I have searched a lot to discover these places and I think that it is fair for futures visitors to Crete to do their own search. Let them drive around and explore this island that it still is full of surprises.
Many women tourists visit Hersonissos in their summer vacation and fall in love to local men. What is your advice to them?
It is natural for young girls to do this but I would advice them to be more cautious and less romantic. It is hard for them to judge people, as they are not familiar with the language or the way of thinking.
Is there something that you believe has to change in Crete? On the other hand, is there something that must stay as it is?
Cretans have to become more open-minded and become critical to old customs and old-fashioned way of thinking. I know that education here does not help much in this direction and this is something that has to change. People must not take things as they are but they must learn to judge and criticise. Many people are used to act or think in a certain way because everybody acts like this or their family used to think like this. This is important to change in the next generations but a different type of education is necessary, one that shall promote critical thought. Cretan people should read more books too. However, what I would not like to see changing is human relationships in Crete. People are spontaneous, friendly, humorous and lively. Friendship is very important in Crete and people are never too bored or too tired to meet their friends. There is also a lovely sense of freedom all over the island and this is really important to me.
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