Don’t get us wrong; despite the largely Muslim and Christian population, Cyprus remains a very laid-back and friendly country to vacation in for foreigners.
However, Cypriots are also very traditional and formally polite compared to what’s socially acceptable in many other countries. To make sure you fit in with the locals and make friends in your beautiful island surrounds, we’re sharing a few bits of Cypriot cultural and social etiquette to help your trip go smoothly…
1. The Reserved Nature of Cypriots
Due to the Muslim and Greek Orthodox upbringing of Cypriots, you may find residents on the reserved side compared to North American and Europeans. In this largely patriarchal society, men hold positions of power and are considered the heads of their respective family units.
2. Elders Are Treated with Respect
Unlike many North American and other European countries, Cypriots remain formal and respectful with their elders, and there is an unspoken rule that exists that if you are an elder you deserve unspoken respect from the younger population en mass. For instance, elders are typically addressed formally as Kyrie (Mister) or Kyria (Missus), followed by their first name.
3. Time is Relative, not Precise
Cypriots are on island time, which means that things might be a little more laid back than you’re used to at home. It is not uncommon for meetings and appointments to be 30-45 minutes late, while you are almost expected to be an hour late for a social engagement of any kind. So loosen up and ditch the watch on your vacation.
4. To Deny an Offering Is Considered Offensive
When it comes down to it the people of Cyprus are proud of their hospitality. This means that if you are offered a beverage of a bit of food, it’s considered impolite to deny. In most cases, even if you don’t want it, you should always accept a small sample to appear gracious and not rude to your host.
5. Friends Greet with Kisses
Among close friends (male-female and female-female, but not male-male) you will see Cypriots greet by kissing on each cheek, a very European style of greeting. Men and acquaintances tend to greet by simply shaking hands. And it is not uncommon to see young female friends walking around holding hands.
6. In-Person Encounters are Preferred
Despite the same cell phones and texting abilities are we have in North America and the rest of Europe, Cypriots prefer face-to-face meetings rather than emails, texts, or phone calls, particularly if you’re taking care of business with a Cypriot. They will always insist on doing business in person as a form of respect. This is also a good way to form business bonds of trust.
7. Confrontation is Upsetting
Public confrontations are largely frowned upon and seen as rude. This includes confrontations of any kind in public—for instance, at a restaurant or with a sales person. It’s inappropriate to raise your voice and become upset while in public.
8. Fashion Is on the Dressy Side
Cypriots are quite trendy when it comes to fashion and they dress similar to other European nations, in fact, maybe a bit dressier when going out or attending a night event. Even younger Cypriot men wear long pants and dress shirts when going-out; while women dress up but cover bare skin. You would never see a Cypriot male dining out in a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals.
9. Always Bring your Host a Gift
If you are invited to a Cypriot’s home during your vacation, it is considered polite to bring a host or hostess gift along to show your thanks. Typically, edible gifts—such as sweets or pastries are the most given. But if you opt for flowers, avoid white lilies, as they are reserved as funeral flowers in Cypriot culture.
10. Being Inebriated is Frowned Upon
Binge drinking and become socially drunk and boisterous is not part of Cypriot culture. Those that lose control in public are viewed as embarrassments. Drug use is also not tolerated in Cyprus and police have a zero tolerance policy if tourists are found with illegal drugs.