Here is my view.
My question is therefore if it's feasible to live in Athens long term (at
least a year or more) and only rely on speaking English?
Not everyone in Greece speaks english. As a rule of thumb, people over 40
don't, while younger ones do in a varying level of proficiency. If you were a
tourist you would enjoy having a local trying to eg give you guidance on how
to get someplace, but it might tire you in the long term. That being said,
people are generally friendly and willing to help. Living in Sweden, I can
tell you that as a foreigner here, I can get by in supermarkets, libraries and
other "formal" enccounters with minimal swedish and even no talking. It should
be the same for you in Greece.
- If I wanted to work for local startups or tech companies, would I need
Startups and tech companies are a very friendly environment for english-
speaking individuals. You might find the greek pronounciationn of english too
harsh in the beginning but you will get used to it pretty quickly. Learning
the native language always helps, but not speaking greek should not be an
obstacle in getting yourself hired. I would suggest showing a friendly and
energetic attitude in interviews and promoting you teamwork and cooperative
aspects as much as possible in your CV, just in case a future employer is
concerned about your getting by and communicating with others in the team.
- Are (tech/startup) meetups mostly in English or Greek?
I was in a tech company back in Greece. Knowing english well was a
prerequisite in getting hired there. However, if there is no need to speak
English, then you don't. I haven't heard of any company having an english-only
policy in their workplace (although there might be some). Here, again, the
younger a company and its members, the more english friendly the environment.
- Is it easy to get local friends without speaking the local language?
It should be easy, One thing I have noticed that helps is having a profile of
someone who is not here (there) only for professional reasons. For instance
exchange students are rather popular I would say. I would suggest, apart from
demonstrating such an attitude for social reasons, to actually feel like that.
Ask coworkers for suggestions on places to visit or ask them to go for a beer
after work, register for some dance classes (or whatever suits you), try to
bring elements of your customs in your encounters with other people (for
instance treat coworkers with some interesting food from your country - greeks
really enjoy food). I should say that in Greece there are some preconceived
notions about people from northern european countries (judging from your name
you are coming from one, right?) like that they don't have humor or don't know
to have fun other than drinking, etc. These of course are not true and if
people realize that they will be happily surprised with you. (By the way, in
Greece people really do not drink as much as in the north of Europe. Getting
drunk happens often but not usually).
- If I'm hanging out with a group of locals, will the conversations
automatically drift back to Greek within a few minutes? (I've experienced
this especially with some French people before...)
This is something that I can see happening. Even here in Sweden when us greeks get
together we turn to greek regardless of other nationalities in the group. You
can kindly ask them once or twice not to do that or joke about it (like you
understand what they are saying) and most probably they will cut down on their
doing that. The likelihood is that there will be someone among your greek
friends that will realize that this is bad to do and will support an english
only policy in your group when you are around, too.
Hope I have helped you a bit. If there is one thing to keep in mind is that
the younger the person the better english they will speak. Hope you have a
nice and constructive stay in Greece if you decide to do so!