Photo by Lee Woolcock
Andreas Vou sat down with the manager of Greek restaurant Dionisos to talk about why he swapped Greece for Barcelona.
I was born and raised in the small town of Larissa and lived there until I was 17 years old. I was accepted into university to do economics but instead, from then until the age of 30, I worked as a waiter on the Greek islands in the summer—Naxos, Paros, Skiathos—and then for the rest of the year I would work in Athens.
In 1991, I met a woman from Barcelona while I was working at a restaurant on one of the Greek holiday islands. We had an instant connection. From then on, we would visit each other all the time. She would visit me in Greece, I would spend around half of the year in Barcelona. I loved everything about Barcelona from the start; I really liked the quality of life. In my opinion, it was better to be here than in Greece and it was nice to start something new in a wonderful city.
My first year went very quickly. I was going to Spanish classes every day for two hours, four days a week. There I met others in my situation and it was where I was able to make friends. We would hang out at cafés together and go out to some bars, which helped me settle in well. My wife also took some Greek lessons in the same school.
It was a bit difficult at the beginning just coming and going [from Greece to Spain]. For example, in ’92 I went back to Greece for six months until October, missing the Olympic Games here in Barcelona. Then in ‘93, I worked here for the whole summer from July to September at a tourist restaurant at the port.
It was also hard at the beginning because then we didn’t have the same means of communication that we have now. We didn’t have mobile phones or the internet to just speak to family and friends whenever we wanted to as you can nowadays, and there were no other Greeks here to help me feel more at home.
Eventually, though, I moved here permanently in 1994, and this restaurant here in Urgell was the first I became manager of—I have remained here ever since.
The majority of the people who come to eat here are Catalans but we also attract a lot of holiday-makers from all over the world, especially from the Mediterranean. And now, since travelling has become so much easier, we get quite a few young Greeks who are either studying or living here who miss their traditional food.
Even though I originally came over here due to my marriage, which has now ended, I still prefer living here. I am settled. I came to Barcelona when I was 33 years old and have been here for just over 20 years now. Of course I miss all of my relatives who are in Greece but I get to visit them at least once or twice a year for a few weeks each time.
The situation in Greece is terrible; everyone is losing their jobs and the youth who have studied either at home or abroad don’t have anything waiting for them when they finish. As a result, our kids are pursuing work outside Greece. I have met quite a lot of youngsters even here in Barcelona.
With the way things are at the moment it is pointless to return, especially for someone at my age. The state has no money to support the young families let alone the elder members of society so there would be no chance of getting any help, like a decent pension. I want to return to Greece one day in the future…but only if things get better.