Chinese culture is spreading cross the world, and China Towns have always been the footholds. In Greece, Chinese stores and restaurants are not just the bringer of exotic taste and cheap products, they are now more like neighbours, and their fortunes are tied together with the ancient city.
Greece’s Chinatown is in the center of Athens, close to the historic center of the capital. Chinese stores and restaurants have transformed many blocks in what is the official Chinese neighborhood. Here, people can buy whatever they desire: from clothes and shoes to traditional Chinese products. Shan Meifen’s restaurant, “Asian Taste” is one of the main meeting points for Greeks and for those who love Asian food. While many of his customers try the restaurant’s different dishes, they also want Meifen’s advice on where they can buy Asian ingredients for more exotic foods, different kind of sauces or even Chinese juices and beers.
“We buy meat from local markets, but most of products are made in China that we buy from the Chinese markets in Athens. There are people who want to know where they can buy them,” said Shan Meifen, Asian taste owner.
Most of the Chinese businessmen have been in Greece for more than ten years. For them this is a friendly country that offered the opportunity to earn more money.
Chinese store owners admit they want to live in Greece although the country’s financial crisis has hit their businesses as well. While many Greek consumers have eliminated much of their spending, Chinese stores tend to be their first choice when it comes to shopping since customers can buy cheaper products, even clothes, with just four euros.
And Chinese store owners confess, their businesses remain open thanks to their Greek customers.
“When the financial crisis erupted the situation became worse. We have clients, but not as many as we had in the past,” said Ji Wei, a businessman.
“Most of the clients are Greeks. I believe that in 2013 the economy was much better than 2012. Greek clients buy more. I believe that 2014 will be better,” said Zhang Wei, a businessman.
What Chinese business owners in Greece are finding, is that no matter what the economic crisis brings, they are able to bridge the cultural gap here…making a trip to Chinatown an experience…no matter what your background.