A couple put their business careers aside to offer ex pats a different side of the country
BY: KAT KOINIS
Ask any foreigner about their first steps in a new country and they will tell you It’s not easy. Ever walked in those shoes – or are you currently in them ?. Katerina Tsitsipi and her husband Aristotelis Makris launched their self-run Livin’ Lovin’ initiative in August 2009, when they saw ex pats encountering difficulties adjusting to their new lives in Greece. Tsitsipi, who has been teaching business English and business Greek to foreign managers for 30 years, explains that the idea for Livin’ Lovin’ came to her after repeatedly being asked for advice on cultural or other sorts of fun events and ways to discover Greece. “We love Greece and wanted to convey that to the newcomers,” Tsitsipi told Athens Plus.
Their focus is on the cultural side of the the country. The two organize excursions, museum visits, dance classes and even trips to the islands as well as activities such as ancient Greek mythology groups for children. Now, after less than a year in the business, they have people signing up for the events from Britain, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Turkey, Italy and many other countries.
They say Livin’ Lovin’ is a way to unwind but also to help foreigners feel more at home. “We have as much fun organizing and participating in our activities as all the others do,” said Tsitsipi. Her favorite activities include “bookstore hopping, where we explore the bookstores of downtown Athens in order to find modern Greek literature translated into English, French, Italian or Spanish so that our friends can delve into Greek modern culture a bit more”. Tsitsipi also fondly remembers “the time we visited the Lyceum of Greek Women dance company to watch their show and visit their museum and ended up dancing with the professionals and having the time of our lives”.
Livin’ Lovin’ relies on word of mouth. The couple have decided not to advertise their activities yet and they depend instead on pleased customers from the city’s expatriate communities.
Makris acknowledges that there are many tourist groups out there, but says that there is a gap when it comes to people and places that offer a diverse set of activities. “They all seem to offer bits and pieces; we put these pieces together and create a great puzzle, a customized experience”. He admitted “it was a risk to start a business when the crisis started to spread to Greece but I thought that an endeavor that would do well at this difficult time would do even better in the future”
The couple say that, above all, they strive to learn what newcomers would like to know about and experience in Athens. “We make new friends and end up learning as much from them as they do from us. They bring along their customs and habits. Greeks are hospitable people but they have to build their interpersonal relations on concrete bases – and that is what Katerina and I are striving to do”.
Saturday, July 10, 2010