Introduction to Cyprus

First time visitors to Cyprus will easily get enchanted by the raw beauty of its landscapes and the richness of experiences the island offers. Not rarely do people describe their stay on the sunny island as “divine”.
thumb

    First time visitors to Cyprus will easily get enchanted by the raw beauty of its landscapes and the richness of experiences the island offers. Not rarely do people describe their stay on the sunny island as “divine”. Curiously enough, there may be something true about this expression. Because according to Greek mythology, Cyprus was the birthplace of Aphrodite and up to this day, Cypriots proudly show tourists a sea stack called “Aphrodite’s Rock” where the ancient goddess of love is said to have first emerged from the sea foam.

    However, while Cyprus appears in many myths and legends of the bygone eras, nowadays, the country does not have to resort to fiction in order to captivate the hearts of many visitors who every year flock to its sunny beaches. Its enduring appeal lies in the island’s everyday realities: Its natural beauty, rich historical and cultural heritage, and hospitable citizens. Out of the few million tourists that visit Cyprus each year, many become regular visitors who spend regular vacations on the island. Some, however, find the allure of the shores of Cyprus so strong that, after a couple of visits, they decide to make the island their permanent home.

    If you are one of those visitors who has been hopelessly struck by Cyprus’s charm, you may now often catch yourself daydreaming of going back - or even moving to Cyprus permanently! While this may seem a daring idea at first, statistics show that each year, more and more individuals - both from the EU and outside of it - are making their dream of moving to the island a reality. Cyprus already has the highest number of foreign nationals living on the island as a percentage of the population than any other EU member state apart from Luxembourg. The island country has proven to be especially popular with the Brits, who constitute about 14 percent of Cyprus’s current foreign population, but you will find people of many other nationalities among the island’s resident.

    Of course, moving to another country is always a serious step. In order to a make success out of such a big decision, you first need to gather as much information about your prospective new home as possible. You need to learn about the country’s history, culture, and local customs, but also about it’s social, political, and economic situation. And this is exactly the kind of information you will find in this section of our guide.





    A Map Of The Island Of Cyprus

    Fast Facts About Cyprus

    Capital city: Nicosia

    Area: 9,251 km2 or 3,572 sq mi
    (roughly ⅔ the size of Northern Ireland)

    Population: estimated 1.2 million
    (838,897 in 2011 census)

    Official languages: Greek and Turkish

    Dominant religion: Greek Orthodox

    Currency: euro

    Time zone: GMT + 2


    Cyprus: The Country and Its Citizens

    To a first-time visitor, Cyprus may feel like a place where mythology meets reality; where the past meets the present; where the influences of three different continents and half a dozen distinct cultures blend almost seamlessly in a melting pot that’s more than a few thousand years old. The island’s cultural richness and diversity of today echo the country long and often troubled history. In this section, you’ll learn the most important historical and cultural facts about Cyprus and the country’s inhabitants.

    Cyprus History in a Nutshell

    The history of a country as ancient as Cyprus cannot be told with only a few words. Still, in the following sections, you will learn only the most important facts that shaped Cyprus’s past and that still have some bearing on its present. Having this basic knowledge will help you understand better both Cyprus’s present-day situation as well as cultural nuances that otherwise may seem inexplicable.

    How Did the Island Get Its Name?

    The origin of the island’s name remains, to a large extent, a secret and a matter of speculation. Some theories suggest that the classical Greek form of the name - Κύπρος (Kýpros) - comes from the ancient Greek word for the Mediterranean cypress tree. Other suggestions derive the name of the island from the ancient word for copper in which Cyprus does indeed abound and has been known for since antiquity. According to other theories still, the name is a reference to the goddess Aphrodite as she is called Kiprida by the ancient poet Homer in his epic work - The Iliad. Whatever its true etymology, the name itself appears in various forms in many ancient texts and stories which testify to the island’s historical importance throughout the ages.

    Crossroads of Civilizations

    With its strategic location at the far-east corner of the Mediterranean Sea, not too far from the shores of Egypt to the South, Syria to the East, Turkey to the North, and Greece to the West, Cyprus has always been a coveted spot. For centuries, European and Middle-Eastern influences met and clashed on the island as a result of successive empires and kingdoms vying for dominance in the region. However, the history of Cyprus started out much more peacefully.

    Although not much is known about Cyprus’s most ancient history, it seems that the island was first inhabited by the settlers from the southernmost parts of modern-day Greece. Their influence can be readily seen throughout the country up to this day - especially in Paphos, the island’s ancient capital, featuring ruins of a temple dating back to the 12th century B.C. According to mythological tales, both the city and the temple were built by the son of ancient king Pygmalion, born to him from a marriage with Galatea - an ivory statue brought to life by the goddess Aphrodite.

    In the following centuries, Cyprus had changed hands many times, becoming a strategic vantage point on the Mediterranean Sea for different empires and their kings. It was ruled by the ancient Assyrians, Egyptians, and Persians, before falling into the hands of Greeks again when it was conquered by Alexander the Great. A few centuries later, in the year 31 B.C., Cyprus was officially annexed by the Romans and become part of their vast empire.

    Cyprus in the Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

    When the Roman Empire split into western and eastern parts, Cyprus fell under the influence of Byzantium or the Eastern Roman Empire. In the 7th century, it was targeted and successfully conquered by the Arabs whose influence on the island lasted well into the 10th century. Later, Cyprus found itself one of the targets of the Third Crusade organized by Richard the Lionheart. The English king successfully conquered the island but later sold it to the Templars. This marked the beginning of the Kingdom of Cyprus that lasted until 1489. This period marked the island with a notable Medieval European influence whose remains can be seen even today in Cyprus’s many medieval churches and a few castles such as the famous Kolossi Castle in Limassol.

    From the Ottoman Rule to the Republic of Cyprus

    The next centuries brought short-lived Venetian domination of the island that ended with the Ottoman invasion. The Ottomans were Turkish-speaking inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire who professed the Muslim faith. Their rule over Cyprus introduced a new ethnicity to the island’s population and with it - new customs and religion. It was also a reason for serious socio-political tensions that rocked the island for centuries and whose dramatic consequences could be felt even in the modern history of Cyprus. The Ottoman rule on the island ran its course in 1878 when the administration of Cyprus was handed over to the British. After a period of military occupation during World War I, Cyprus became a British colony in 1922 and remained a part of the British Empire until 16 August 1960 when the island gained independence and officially became the Republic of Cyprus.

    Split into the Southern and the Northern Part

    After the independence, growing tensions between the Greek and the Turkish population often reached boiling point during this decade marked by violent clashes. Those, in turn, resulted in the division of Nicosia, the country’s capital, into a Greek part and a Turkish part with a demilitarized zone called the Green Line in the middle. In 1974, after a military government of Greece initiated an action to annex Cyprus, Turkey invaded the island. Even though the military intervention was short-lived, it resulted in a permanent division of Cyprus into the Greek southern part and the Turkish northern part. This division was reinforced in 1983 when the Turkish Cypriots proclaimed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus - an independent country that, apart from Turkey, hasn’t been recognized by the international community.

    Despite unification efforts over the past few decades, Cyprus remains divided up to this day. However, some progress has indeed been made. For example, since the country joined the European Union in 2004, it has become much easier to cross the border between its southern and northern parts. In addition, in 2008, the wall dividing the island’s capital city, Nicosia, was demolished. In 2015, reunification talks between the leaders of the two Cypriot communities resumed and as long as these communication lines are open, the future reunification of Cyprus cannot be ruled out.

    Cultural Landscape of Cyprus

    If you have been to Cyprus before, you no doubt already know that Cypriots are a hospitable and open-minded nation, accepting of visitors and tolerant of their customs. However, if you’re planning to move to live in Cyprus, mastering the local cultural alphabet of customs and habits will help you to build lasting social and business relationships, avoid offending anyone and have a more enjoyable experience as a whole. In addition, you will be able to understand both the people around you and their actions better. In this section, you will find important information about Cyprus’s cultural values.

    A Family-Oriented Society

    Perhaps due to the centuries-old influence of Cyprus two major religion - Orthodox and Islam - the Cypriot society today are still quite respectful of family values and hierarchy based on status and age. Both close and distant relatives maintain strong bonds and are expected to help each other out. It is not uncommon for a few generations of one family to live together as children are expected to take care of their parents in their old age. Respect for the elderly is an important part of the culture and it is often explicitly shown - for example, in a social setting, the oldest person might be introduced and served before others.

    Religious Customs

    As mentioned, the two major religions in Cyprus are Orthodox Christianity and Islam but as much as 72% of the population consider themselves Christian. While most people in the northern part of the island are Muslims and actively profess their faith, you will find only a few mosques in the south. Importantly, freedom of religion is enshrined in the country’s constitution and protected by the government. In addition, a growing number of Cypriots declare to have no religious affiliation at all.

    Social Etiquette

    For a person coming from a more relaxed cultural setting, social customs on the island may seem a little formal. For example, it is customary to address the elderly using the formal title Kyrie (Mister) or Kyria (Missus). In general, you should only address people by their first name if you have been explicitly invited to. In addition, at the beginning and at the end of a social event, you are expected to personally acknowledge every guest and shake hands with them. At smaller gatherings, you may expect the host to introduce you to others.




    Greetings

    While it is customary for Greek Cypriots to maintain eye contact and smile, especially during a greeting, you may expect many Turkish Cypriots to lower their eyes as a sign of respect. You should also be aware that among Greek Cypriots, a greeting by kissing on the cheek is customary between a man and a woman and two women. Men, however, usually greet with a handshake.


    Punctuality

    Interestingly enough, it seems that this apparent formality of Cypriot society does not extend to the attitudes toward time and punctuality. Time arrangements are rather flexible. For example, meetings rarely start on time and when you are invited to a social gathering, it is almost expected that you come late.




    Hospitality

    Hospitality on Cyprus is somewhat of a national custom and Cypriots are proud of it. Therefore, if you make any Cypriot friends, you are likely to be invited for lunch or dinner. If you are, here are some important things you should remember about:

    1: Always bring your host a small gift such as sweets or pastries.

    2: For social occasions, it is customary to dress up rather than come in a relaxed attire such as a t-shirt and shorts.

    3: First, in a traditional Cypriot household, you should remain standing until asked to sit down.

    4: You should also know that it may be perceived rude if you start eating before the hostess or if you pass dishes with your left hand.

    5: In addition, you may want to remember that even though eating everything you have been served may be challenging - as you may expect being offered multiple portions - failing to clean the plate is usually perceived as bad manners.

    Hospitality

    Hospitality on Cyprus is somewhat of a national custom and Cypriots are proud of it. Therefore, if you make any Cypriot friends, you are likely to be invited for lunch or dinner. If you are, here are some important things you should remember about:

    In a Business Setting

    Cypriots prefer doing business face-to-face rather than over the phone or an email so if you want to achieve the best business results you need to take that into consideration. Meeting in person is preferred because it is taken as a sign of respect and it is conducive to establishing trust which is extremely important for Cypriots when doing business.

    You must also know that a Cypriot’s loyalty in a business setting will be direct towards a person rather than an organization, company, or institution. Therefore, changing a company’s representative may engender a need to re-establish trust and a successful relationship. In addition, try to avoid direct confrontation or contradicting your business partner in a direct way - this can be seen as rude, especially if done in public or on a meeting.




    NICOSIA WEATHER


    Religious Customs

    Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea with 648 km of coastline. At its largest point, the island measures 225 km and it is also 97 km wide in its widest point. The island features a diverse landscape with large flat plains in the middle (called the Mesaoria) and various mountain ranges all around. The plains are encircled by the Mediterranean Sea to the east and to the west as well as by the Troodos mountains in the south and the Kyrenia mountains in the north. The highest peak in Cyprus is Mount Olympus with the elevation of 1,952 meters (or 6,404 ft).

    Excellent weather is one of the foremost reasons you may want to move to Cyprus for good especially if you come from one of the countries in Northern Europe where sunshine always seems too scarce. In Cyprus, you can enjoy the sun for over 300 days a year, every year! The average annual daytime temperature reaches 24°C but in the summer it can go up to 40°C! Summers are usually dry and really hot but winters, with an average daytime temperature of 18°C, are pleasantly warm.

    However, it is advisable to check year-round weather in the zone you’re going to live in order to find proper accommodation as well as prepare appropriate clothing - for example, during the cooler winter months (from December to February) you can expect rains that make coastal areas feel significantly colder.

    Moving to Cyprus

    After learning more about Cyprus history and culture, you have no doubt come to a renewed and stronger appreciation of the island’s richness, variety and sheer beauty of experiences it can offer. However, as much as you may feel drawn and enticed by Cyprus as a vacation destination, you may still be wondering if moving to Cyprus is really something for you and your family. Such doubts are completely understandable yet we would like to quickly disperse them - many foreigners found it extremely easy to both move and adapt to living in Cyprus. In this section, you will find three main reasons why the number of both EU and non-EU citizens who move to Cyprus every year keeps growing - namely, the country’s political system, its tax laws, and immigration policies.

    Political System

    Cyprus has become a European Union member state on 1 May 2004. Even though the EU decided to grant the membership to Cyprus as a whole, but the application of EU procedures, processes, and legislation is currently suspended in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus until a settlement or unification deal has been reached.

    The most important political powers in Cyprus are held by the office of the president who is both Chief of State and Head of Government. The president is elected by a popular vote for a 5-year term. Nikos Anastasiades is the current president of Cyprus after having been elected in 2018 for another 5-year term.

    The Parliament of Cyprus consists of the House of Representatives with 80 seats out of which only 56 are occupied - the remaining 30% is allocated to Turkish Cypriots but has been vacant since 1964. Parliament elections are held every 5 years. There are currently 9 parties in the parliament. The current ruling party is Dimokratikós Sinagermós or the Democratic Rally which is classified as conservative and Christian-democratic.

    Tax Laws

    Cyprus is considered to have one of the most advantageous taxation systems in the European Union. You can learn more about it in our detailed article on Cyprus tax laws. However, one of the most important features of the country’s taxation is a large tax-free allowance €19500. Above this amount, income tax is levied at a favorable progressive rate. In addition, residents can enjoy multiple tax benefits including generous deductions and exemptions. Cyprus taxation system is beneficial to companies as well - as the country has the lowest corporate income tax rate in Europe.

    Immigration Policies

    Cyprus immigration laws and policies are largely governed by and unified with relevant European Union regulations. This makes it especially easy for EU residents to immigrate to Cyprus and work there with very little to none paperwork required. For example, all EU-citizens are allowed to stay and work legally in Cyprus.

    Workers from non-EU countries require an employment permit to be able to work in Cyprus but the procedures to obtain this kind of permit are relatively simple. In addition, individuals who are non-EU citizens need to obtain a temporary residence permit in an immigration office. The procedure, however, isn’t overly complicated either but an important requirement to obtain such permit is to own a property in Cyprus.

    When in Cyprus - Practical Considerations on Life

    How easy is it to get to Cyprus? Will you be able to quickly and conveniently go back to your country in case of a family emergency or some other important reasons? How convenient is it to move around the island itself? What are the basic costs of living? In this section, we will try to disperse some doubts you may have when it comes to the practical aspects of life in Cyprus.



    Larnaca International Airport is located just 4 kilometers from the city of Larnaca and is operated by over 30 airlines including many cheap airlines such as WizzAir. In addition,
    Paphos International Airport is likewise operated by a great number of European airlines including British Airways, Finnair, Lufthansa, Norwegian as well as many cheap airlines such as Ryanair, easyJet or TUI Airways.


    Flights to Cyprus

    There are currently two international airports in the Republic of Cyprus and one in the Turkish occupied area (the flights to the latter are banned internationally and so all flights to Northern Cyprus from other countries have to stop over in Turkey). The main airports are:

    Larnaca International Airport

    Paphos International Airport

    Ercan International Airport (Northern Cyprus)


    Moving Around: Transportation in Cyprus

    Cyprus boasts an excellent network of roads and highways throughout the island. However, some tourists may note that the driving standards aren’t precisely stellar with many motorists driving chaotically and with varying levels of respect to traffic lights and signs. The speed limit on highways is either 80 or 100 km/h. In residential, or built-up areas, the limit goes down to 50 km/h but in the near vicinity of schools and other places with high pedestrian traffic it goes down even further to 30 km/h. If you come to Cyprus for the first time, you may want to rent a car as the prices aren’t too high - often starting from as little as €12 per day. Here are some recommendable car rental sites:

    www.kaittanishirecy.com - rental in Limassol only


    www.sixt.com - rental in the southern part of the island (including Larnaca, Limassol, Paphos, and Nicosia)


    www.kyreniacastle.com - rental in the north

    Moving around the island onboard a bus is also a viable idea. However, if you try to look for a physical bus schedule or a detailed timetable near a bus stop, you may be in for a disappointment. Timetables are only available in information centers or on the Internet (http://www.cyprusbybus.com/). What makes traveling on a bus especially appealing is the price - you usually pay only €1.5 irregardless of the distance your travel.

    Costs of Living

    Costs of living in Cyprus are considered to be low in comparison with other European Union countries especially for expats from other countries. For example, the cost of rent of a one bedroom apartment in one of the major cities totals at around €700 with basic utilities included. A meal in an inexpensive restaurant will cost you around €10. A combo meal in a fast-food restaurant costs around €6. You can find detailed and up-to-date information about prices in Cyprus on websites like Numbeo or Expatistan.

    Food

    We don’t know if you will end up moving to Cyprus but if you do we can assure you that you will love the local food. Cypriot cuisine is as rich and flavorful as the island’s long cultural and historical legacy. It is rich in different kinds of meat and spices with recipes featuring an interesting mix of ideas and flavors from Greece, the Middle East, and Turkey. Here are some of our favorite dishes that you have to try during your stay - regardless of how long it will be:

    Halloumi - a cheese made of a mixture of goat and sheep milk, tastes great fried, grilled or served cold



    Souvlakia and sheftalia - strongly influenced by the Greek cuisine, souvlakia is charcoal-grilled meat served on a skewer or a inside pitta bread. The dish often comes accompanied by sheftalia which is flavorful, grilled sausage



    Kolokouthkia me ta afka - literally meaning courgettes with eggs, this dish is excellent for vegetarians



    Loukoumades - a fantastic dessert or snack option. These are deep-fried, honey-soaked balls of dough coated in crushed nuts, sesame seeds, and cinnamon.

    Need More Information About Cyprus?

    If the information in this introduction made you hungry for more or if you have any questions, please browse through other section of our guide for specific details on other aspects of life in Cyprus. In addition, if you have any questions about moving there, you can always contact one of our dedicated advisers.

    Didn’t find what you were looking for? Got any questions?

    Didn’t find what you were looking for? Got any questions?