A brief guide to the people – and their ways …
Turkish Cypriots are sociable and can easily engage in conversation, often showing their sense of humour. They enjoy discussing football, politics, or other hot topics, their debates becoming very lively and very loud. A stranger might think someone is about to get thumped- but there’s no real hostility.
They can behave quite emotionally, laughing loudly, and gesturing with their hands. This is not a lack of manners or respect. It just means they are interested in you. The concept of “personal space” in Cyprus is blurred. Don’t be surprised if your new-found friends pat you on the shoulder – or even give you a hug! Giving someone a light push while laughing is considered normal.
Cypriots will praise each other lavishly and genuinely, heaping praise on their friends for the most minor achievements. On the other hand, they are very sensitive to criticism. They believe that it is better to remain silent than to spoil someone’s mood. This can cause a rift with more Western-minded visitors, for example; you may think a workman has done a poor job and tell him so. The offended artisan is likely to stomp off and never come to you again. Even general but unwelcome observations about their country or their way of life can cause offence. The subjects of your disapproval may even agree with you, but you will be told: “You’re not supposed to say that.”
Cypriots enjoy life, which they have learned to take in an easygoing manner
Cypriots enjoy life, which they have learned to take in an easygoing manner. Deadlines and timescales are not their thing. Tasks and appointments will be done when the time is right. They categorically reject pressure on themselves or demands to hurry, and punctuality is not one of their strong qualities.
But they are known for their friendliness, hospitality, and smiles. They show boundless warmth to guests, regardless of where they come from, and they themselves love to make visits. A local can invite a foreigner he just met a few minutes ago to his home and introduce them to his family. In doing so, the locals, demonstrating their familiar nature, will hug and kiss an almost unfamiliar person. Once a guest becomes friends with the host, they automatically become friends with the whole family. Cypriots are naturally curious and love to ask personal questions as well as inquire about the country you come from.
Traditional dishes like kleftiko and kebabs
Cypriot cuisine is meat-heavy and a lot of the traditional dishes like kleftiko and kebabs rely on meat. In fact, many Cypriots don’t understand how some people don’t eat meat and think that no one is really a vegetarian – everyone eats at least chicken, right? It is customary to take a gift when visiting, and a dessert or a bottle of wine would be an excellent choice. Being 15-20 minutes late is perfectly acceptable. For many foreigners, such a laidback attitude may seem impossible, but over time, you may learn to cultivate that easy Mediterranean lifestyle.