Travel

What It's Really Like to Work on a Greek Party Island

"An entire bathroom stall was covered in shit. I stood guard, making sure no one tried to go in, while my boss put on a mask and walked in there to clean up the mess."

by Tasos Magiopoulos
Oct 23 2018, 4:51pm

All photos: contributors

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece.

If you've spent any time on any party island or island resort, it's only natural that—at some point during your stay—you'll have considered moving there. Why stick it out at that satellite town recruitment firm when you could be working at a beach bar? Drinking shots with tanned people on vacation seems like a lot more fun than making small talk about the criminal state of your office bathroom.

According to many seasoned seasonal workers on those islands, however, that's not what it's like at all. I spoke to four of them, to hear what it's like to be employed on a Greek party island in the summer. They told me about endless hours, underwhelming pay, and shit-covered cubicles.

Marianna Paraskeva, 32

Mariana
Photo courtesy of Paraskeva.

VICE: How long did you work summers on Greece's party islands?
Marianna Paraskeva:
I was in charge of bookings at a beach bar-restaurant for two years. Things were great at first—my colleagues and employers were always cheerful, and the pay was good.

What was the typical day like?
There was no fixed schedule. In Mykonos, you are constantly on your feet, ready to cater to the customer's needs. You are assigned specific jobs, but you have to be flexible in case you're suddenly needed elsewhere. For example, once, right before the opening of a well-known beach bar near us, some of the service staff were asked to do construction work to help speed up the process. In theory, you work eight hours a day, but in reality, you actually work for 12, seven days a week. And we're not allowed to take time off between June and mid-September.

Does working on the island in the summer feel like you're on vacation? Do you get any time for yourself?
Not even close. Maybe it's easier on smaller islands, but working on popular destinations in the summer is extremely tiring and challenging. When you work at a place that stays open all day, you start early and you finish late—at around 2 AM. If you work at a bar that opens after 11 PM, you might be lucky to have some time and energy for a swim the next morning.

Jenna Sofou, 32

Jenna
Photo courtesy of Sofou.

How long have you been working summers on Greek party islands?
Jenna Sofou:
I worked behind a bar and waitressed for nine years. I was 21 when I started. Back then, everything seemed a lot more impressive than it actually was.

What was your day-to-day like?
The only fixed thing was the opening hours, but I would never know what time I'd get off. I'd work around ten hours a day, on average. But that's not the only thing that makes the nature of this job so tiring. It's the fact that you're on your feet all day serving people, and you don't get to choose your customers. Also, I started working a second job as an event photographer the last couple of years. So when it was finally time to take a break, around the end of August, I was completely exhausted.

Does working on the island in the summer feel like you're on vacation? Do you get any time for yourself?
No. Maybe that's the picture people have, but it's not really what it's like. Of course it's far better than working in a city, where you get stuck in traffic on your way to work every morning, but that doesn't mean we don't work hard. We just do it with a better view.

What has been your worst experience?
The first thing that comes to mind is when, one night, during peak hours, my boss came up to me and told me to stop whatever I was doing and follow him. An entire bathroom stall—all of it—was covered in shit. I stood guard, making sure no one tried to go in, while my boss—pressure washer and chlorine in hand—put on a mask and walked in there to clean up the mess.

Tasos Lalas, 30

Tasos
Photo courtesy of Lalas.

VICE: Hey, Tasos. How long have you been working summers on Greek party islands?
Tasos Lalas: I've worked as a barman since 2008. Back when I started, it was really exciting, as it was my first time away from home.

What's your day-to-day schedule like?

It depends on where you work and your business hours. Working days are typically longer when you work the summer season. You can get some time off, but only toward the beginning and the end of the season, when it's not that busy.

Does working on the island in the summer feel like a vacation?
Yes, in some ways it can feel like a vacation—but for the most part, it's work, work, and more work. For me, it's usually impossible to really enjoy myself because of how constantly tired I am. But then again, there always seems to be time to find some love in summer.

Leonidas Moumouris, 42

Leonidas
Photo courtesy of Moumouris.

VICE: How long have you been working summers on the Greek islands?
Leonidas Moumouris:
I've worked as a cook for nine years. For the first few years I was a trainee, and then worked as a professional chef for seven years. My first summer, in 2012, was one of the best summers I've ever had because everything was so new. I'm still in touch with many of the people I met back then.

Does working on the island in the summer feel like you're on vacation? Do you get any time for yourself?
There's no such thing as time off. Businesses, especially small ones, can't afford to employ many people, so there's no time to be giving people a break. Usually, especially in our industry, you work all day and have very little time to yourself at night, after you get off. At best, you get to hang out with some of your colleagues late in the evenings. Still, it's better than working in the city. Even just breathing in the air is rejuvenating.

Is there time for summer love?
Always. I actually met my wife here, in Amorgos, when she was working at a nearby bar.

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This article originally appeared on VICE GR.