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Customs & Traditions in Cyprus

Cyprus is an island country located in the Mediterranean Sea. It has two sides, one side is controlled by the government and the other by Turkish Cypriots. Greek is spoken in the south and Turkish in the north. There is a buffer zone between the two sides where the United Nations keeps a peacekeeping force.

General Etiquette

  • In Cyprus, people keep less personal space when queuing.

  • Refusing something offered to you can be explained as an insult. For example, a refusal of food means you do not trust the person’s cooking skills, So, it is best to accept everything offered.

  • Respect elderly people is important in Cypriot culture.

  • Remove your hat and do not place your hands on your hips when talking to the elderly.

  • Do not walk around in public with bare feet.

  • It is rude to yawn when talking with people of authority or family.

  • It is rude to spit on the street.

  • Smoking in public is normal and widely accepted.

  • It is customary for men to open doors for women and help them with their coats.

  • "On time" statement in both Greek and Turkish Cypriot culture can mean 20, 30, or even 45 minutes late. However, if you are late, give a heartfelt apology and a reasonable excuse.

  • Elders are always treated respectfully.



Family

  • The family is the core of the social life in Cyprus.

  • The family includes the nuclear family and the extended family.

  • The extended family is expected to help their families.

  • Both maternal and paternal grandfathers have strong bonds with their grandchildren.

  • Elders are respected and children expect to take care of their parents when they become old.



Naming

1)

  • Most Greek Cypriots follow traditional Greece naming practices.

  • They generally use the first name, followed by a surname and family name.

  • A person’s surname is their father’s personal name. Some may use the suffix ‘-ou’, meaning ‘of’. For example, ‘Christoforou’ means ‘son of Christophoros’.

  • Some people may have a second personal name as well as a surname.

  • Women typically take their husband’s family name at marriage.

  • When women and female children take a male's family name as their own, it may be changed into a feminine form, e.g. Mr. KYPRIANOS and Mrs. KYPRIANOU.

  • Family names are often abbreviated.

  • Many Greeks are named after their grandparents, who are usually named after an Orthodox Christian saint.

  • It is common for the first-born son to be named after their grandfather.

2)

  • Most Turkish Cypriots follow traditional Turkish naming practices.

  • Turkish Cypriots generally use the personal name, followed by a surname.


Meeting & Greeting:

  • The common greeting in Cyprus involves a handshake and a smile

  • Close friends often greet each other with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. This is more common between a man and a woman, or two women.

  • Men generally prefer to slap or hit one another’s arm or back a few times.

  • Men are generally expected to extend their hands to women first.

  • Muslim males do not shake hands with women.

  • Wait to be invited before using someone's first name.

  • In a small social gathering, your hosts will introduce you to the other guests.

  • Say goodbye to each person individually when leaving.

  • Many Turkish Cypriots lower their eyes during the greeting as a sign of respect.

  • Elders are always treated respectfully.

  • Turkish Cypriots may kiss them on their right hand and then lift the hand towards their forehead.

  • The verbal greeting among Greek Cypriots is “Yiasoo” (Hello), whilst the Turkish greeting is “Merhaba” or “Salam” (Hello). English greetings are also common throughout Cyprus.

  • When addressing strangers, elders, or people in formal settings, it is polite to use their title and last name. The Greek titles for ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ are ‘Kyrie’ and ‘Kyria’.

  • For Turkish Cypriots, the formal address is to use their first name followed by “Bey” for men and “Hanim” for women.

  • It is usually harder to end a conversation with a Cypriot than it is to start one. Farewells are typically continued as they have a tendency to restart conversation whilst saying goodbyes.



Visiting a home

  • Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots have a reputation for being very hospitable to guests.

  • Greet and say goodbye to everyone present when arriving and leaving.

  • Dress casually but well.

  • Should bring a consumable gift such as pastries, Do not give white lilies as they are used at funerals.

  • Offer to help the hostess with the preparation or clearing up after a meal is served.

  • Complement the house.

  • It is common for people to be offered an invitation to visit someone’s home quite early on in a friendship.

  • Women often like to make unprepared visits to their neighbors’ homes.

  • Remove your hat when entering someone’s home.

  • Large groups tend to naturally divide by gender and age, with men sitting together, women talking together and children playing together.

  • Try to accept anything offered by the host during your visit as a gesture of politeness. This could be an invitation for you to stay longer, eat, drink or even take something home with you when you leave.

  • Tea or coffee is usually offered at every opportunity, as well as a small snack.

  • Upon your exit, make a recognizable effort to show that you would have liked to stay longer.


Giving gifts

  • Gifts are not opened when received.

  • Present any gift at the beginning of a visit.

  • Offer and receive gifts with two hands.

  • Flowers often make good gifts; however, be aware that white lilies are only given at funerals.

  • It is a good idea to bring something edible when visiting someone’s home, such as wine, salad, or dessert.

  • Money may be a permitted gift for larger occasions such as weddings and birthdays.

Dining & Food:

  • Table manners are Continental.

  • The fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right hand while eating.

  • Do not rest your elbows on the table or put your hand under your chin as if you are bored.

  • It is rude to lean back in your seat and put your hands behind your head unless in a very casual situation. Around family, it would imply disrespect.

  • Remain standing until invited to sit down.

  • The oldest person and guest of honor are generally served first.

  • Do not begin eating until the hostess starts.

  • Pass dishes with your right hand only.

  • Expect to be offered second and even third helpings.

  • It is polite to finish everything on your plate.

  • If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.

  • Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate.

  • It is best to take a small initial serving so you can accept more later and show how much you enjoy the meal.

  • Though the north is predominantly Muslim, it is still common to drink alcohol on special occasions.

  • Drink any alcohol served slowly at the same pace as everyone at the table. It is frowned upon to get drunk at a meal.

  • It is polite to offer to help the host or hostess in preparing and cleaning up after the meal. However, do not expect your gesture to be accepted unless you insist.



Communication style:

  • Cypriots generally have a direct communication style.

  • People speak honestly, clearly, and explicitly to make their point. Criticism may be delivered illegally to remain polite and avoid offense, but a Cypriot’s intention and meaning are usually clear.

  • Cypriots are known for being loud and fast speakers. You may have to politely ask them to lower the volume of their voice in certain situations. This request is unlikely to offend people

  • It is very common for Cypriots to interrupt and talk over one another in social situations. Multiple people may speak at once to contest or add to what others are saying. often it simply shows a Cypriot’s interest in the conversation.

  • Cypriots enjoy telling stories to make their company laugh.

  • Cypriot communication is generally very informal. However, people may be slightly more reserved when first meeting someone.

  • It is inappropriate to swear around family members, superiors, or people that have a professional relationship with you.

  • Cypriots usually keep about an arm’s length distance between one another when talking. When sitting, people may be seated further apart.

  • Direct eye contact is expected in conversation. It implies sincerity.

  • Cypriots may use more gestures in conversation. People often move their hands and faces to emphasize their points.

  • Tutting is an informal way of saying “no” in Turkey. This may occur in the Turkish Cypriot side of Cyprus. It is generally not considered rude or an expression of annoyance.

  • Some people indicate no by tilting the head backward and tutting – “ts-ts”. People may raise their eyebrows at the same time.

  • The hand gesture that signals ‘Okay’ (by putting one’s forefinger and thumb together to make a circle) is an obscenity. However, its Western meaning is more widely understood now. It is severely insulting to hold up your open palm, fingers spread, at someone’s face. This is called the ‘moútza’ in Greek or ‘kariş vermek’ in Turkish. To make this gesture with both hands at the same time is thought to double the amount of offense caused. People may imitate dusting their palms off to say “like that” or “that’s all”.


Other considerations

  • Try to show a deep interest in your Cypriot counterpart. You can expect them to ask you about your family relationships, profession, and even details of your income to get to know you.

  • Try to be generous with your time and open to performing favors.

  • Demonstrate that a Cypriot can trust and rely on you. If you let down a Cypriot, it may take a long time for them to regain trust in you.

  • Admire the rich cultural history of Cyprus as well as the country’s achievements.

  • Do not make a promise if you suspect that you cannot follow through with it or do not intend to.

  • Similarly, do not directly criticize the Cypriot people or culture. Be aware that Cypriots can be quite sensitive to criticism and may take comments personally.


Tipping

  • Due to Cyprus being a tourist area, tipping is very common. However, it’s not mandatory, so there won’t be an issue if you choose not to tip due to bad service.

  • You shouldn’t tip if your bill includes a service charge.

  • For bills that don’t include service charges, 3-4 Euros should be a sufficient tip.

  • The broader service industry does not expect a tip, but it’s always appreciated if you choose to leave one.

  • Consider a couple of Euros for housekeepers or porters and either round your taxi bill up, or, do the same for your driver.



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