Chats With Expats: From Pennsylvania to the Streets of Athens

In our “Chats With Expats” series, The Pappas Post catches up with expatriates living in Greece to find out what they love (and don’t love) about the country. This series aims to share insights about life in Greece from unique perspectives and allow our readers to examine Greek society through an alternate lens.

Name: Katherine Whittaker

Where are you from originally: Pennsylvania

How long have you been in Athens: 4 years

Occupation: Freelance journalist and social media content creator

Social media profile: @kaywhitt07 (Instagram)

Favorite street in Athens?

I walk pretty much everywhere I go in Athens, so I have a lot of favorites, but just to pick a few: Kallidromiou for the romanticness, Patision for the Acropolis view, Valtetsiou for the people/vibe.

Your best friend from back home has just landed in Greece, where is the first place you take them?

Depends a little on the time of day, but probably Aggelos or Louis to eat, maybe even Koklidaki if we’re meeting a little on the early side, and eventually Batman. The first night is just nonstop eating/drinking/dancing!

Best souvlaki in the city?

Lefteris o Politis and Elvis – they’re the best in two totally separate categories!

One Greek food you will never eat again?

I’ve never tried anything that I definitely wouldn’t eat again – I’m not picky, and I’m not nervous to try things – but I will say that I plan to be more selective in the future about where I go to eat patsas.

What’s your favorite Greek wine?

Some of the best Greek wines I’ve ever tried were from Domaine de Kalathas in Tinos. The Kokkinaki and 10+12 were both just amazing. But there’s also something totally magical about a mystery house wine at a taverna on the beach in the middle of summer – I’d pick that over anything.

Where is the worst-smelling place you’ve been in the city?

Probably any public city bus at rush hour in the summer.

Is the Athens transport network better than the one in your hometown?

It isn’t better connected… but it is MUCH cleaner and smells a lot better. 

Ferry or plane to your favorite island?

Definitely ferry – my favorites are too small or too remote for planes!

One thing you miss from home?

Occasionally I miss specific restaurants, places, or people, but the one thing I consistently miss, particularly about New York, is the sense of sidewalk etiquette. There are just certain rules about things you should and shouldn’t do when walking in New York, and I often find myself wishing the same rules applied here.

One thing you don’t?

The early hours. Now it just feels wrong that bars and clubs close at 2!

What’s your favorite time of year to be in Athens?

April-May and September – actually, September is my favorite time for islands. Since I freelance and make my own schedule, I can take summer holidays in September instead of August, which means I get the best of the weather without the horrifically crowded ferries and beaches!

What’s your least favorite part about Athens/something that could be better?

I think the things I don’t like about Athens are the same things I don’t like about lots of cities – that people can be too rushed, there’s air pollution and trash, summer gets stinky and sweaty – but I honestly can’t think of anything specific to Athens that wouldn’t also apply to every other city.

What’s your go-to beach in Attiki?

I really like some of the smaller, less accessible beaches around Porto Rafti, and of course Sounio. I also love Kape, but only during weekdays – otherwise it’s way too crowded!

Where is your favorite day-trip getaway?

Aegina! It’s cheap to get there and great for a walk and a meal, even just for a day.

Favorite coffee/hang-out spot?

Hanging out in open places has become a little less of a thing for me since COVID, but I would probably say Cafe Varnava (especially when I lived in Mets and I knew more people in the neighborhood). I need to get a new go-to spot in Kypseli, where I live now! I’m always walking past places with really good potential, I just need to pick one…

The graffiti — love it or hate it?

Personally it doesn’t bother me that much. I actually think there’s a lot of really impressive stuff in Athens – the thing that I don’t love is the scrawled illegible tags, just graffiti for the sake of graffiti. 

What’s your best Greek taxi driver story?

Once I was going to Crete, and my flight was leaving really early in the morning. The cab driver and I were chatting in Greek, and when I told him where I was going and what I was doing, I found out that his whole family lived in the village where I would be staying. He gave me his phone number and then called his wife to let her know I would be there! It was really lovely and funny.

Have your Greek language skills improved (for non-native speakers)?

Yes! A lot. I take classes, but I also am around native speakers pretty much all the time, which means I learn two very different kinds of Greek. I still get nervous to speak, but I can when it’s necessary.

What’s your favorite Greek word or phrase?

Ζωάρα (zoára)

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