Migrants Encounter Migrants in the City: the Changing Context of ‘Home’ for Second‐Generation Greek‐American Return Migrants


This article looks at the ‘return’ migration of second‐generation Greek Americans to their parents’ homeland, Greece. It is based on interviews with, and written accounts supplied by, 40 participants in the research, all now living in the Athens region. The article addresses two main sets of questions. First, why do they relocate to Greece, what are they looking for, and how do they cope with difficulties and disappointments? Second, and more specifically, how do they react to the fact that Greece is no longer a homogenous hellenistic society, but has become in recent years a de facto multicultural one due to the presence of hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers and their families? Three hypotheses are proposed for this inter‐migrant encounter: returnees, shocked by the ‘new immigration’, view it negatively as upsetting the ‘pure Greek’ homeland they had hoped to find; returnees are more sympathetic because of their own families’ history as immigrants in multicultural America; and returnees differentiate themselves as ‘good’ migrants from Greece’s immigrants who are constructed as ‘bad’ migrants. Evidence from the migrants’ testimonies is found to support all three hypotheses; however, there is more support for the second one. In addition, a fourth outcome was voiced: that of discrimination against Greek Americans who are made to feel, in certain circumstances, outsiders by the ‘true’ Greeks. Suggestions are made for further comparative research.