‘We have provided clothes to many Greeks during the crisis’ says Li while supervising a truck transporting textiles in the center of Athens. ‘Where is the truck heading to?’ I ask. ‘To Larissa’, he replies. In the Chinese neighborhood of Athens, ‘ni-hao’ greetings are often mixed with ‘kalimera’ ones. Chinese immigrants in Athens are particularly active in this area. They are the so-called ‘Zhonghua’ merchants according to the relevant Chinese expression.
The origin of most of them is the Chinese Province of Zhejiang and mainly the city of Wenzhou. As social scientist Dr Iris Polyzou explains to chinaandgreece, ‘others also come from the Province of Fujian and the city Fuzhou as well as from the urban centers of Beijing and Shanghai’. According to her research, which is based on interviews with Chinese merchants in the area of Metaxourgeion, approximately 40% of them had lived in Italy before coming to Greece.
‘Their majority does not have time to study and its educational level is relatively low’, says Dr Polyzou to chinaandgreece outlining the profile of Chinese immigrants in Greece. ‘They often migrate alone or with their spouses while children are left back in China’. ‘Additionally, working hours from 9am to 9pm are very demanding and can hardly give them the opportunity to spend time with their children’, explains Dr Polyzou. Greek statistics data suggests that 50% of Chinese immigrants is between 25-39 years old and 24% between 40-59 years old.
As far as the economic and social background of Chinese immigrants is concerned, Dr Polyzou estimates that ‘although some households enjoy good living conditions, are self-employed and have bought houses in the Athens city-center, many of them are still facing important financial difficulties and naturally have to work as employees’. All in all, figures of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry demonstrate that one out of three Chinese companies, which are registered in Greece, are located in Metaxourgeio.