British Expat Living in Cyprus - Interview With Mimi

Published: 29 Apr at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Cyprus
Mimi is a London girl who swapped roast dinners and rain for Mediterranean culture and beach days. With youth unemployment in London spiraling out of control, it was as good a time as any to try expat life in Cyprus. With three suitcases and some savings she jumped head first into life on the sunnier side of Europe. And after two years she is starting to miss the roast dinners, four seasons and efficient public transport. Her blog started during life in London and followed along with her expat adventure to Cyprus. It now chronicles life on a small Mediterranean island from food, to beach days, culture and trips to the mountains as well as personal passions for fashion, photography and discussions of the daily emotions of an expat! Mimi's expat blog is called Love and Life in Nicosia (see listing here)

Meet Mimi - British expat living in Cyprus
Meet Mimi - British expat living in Cyprus

Here's the interview with Mimi...


Where are you originally from?
South-west London.

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus (which unfortunately means there are no beaches on my doorstep!)

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have been here since October 2010. I never said it would be forever, probably incase something went horribly wrong! And now given the situation in Cyprus I can't tell how long we will stay. We are not tied to Cyprus and I guess expats always have itchy feet in a way; knowing you set up life in one country makes doing it in another not so scary!

Why did you move and what do you do?
At the time I graduated, youth unemployment in London was spiraling out of control and my boyfriend, who is half Cypriot and still has family on the island, and I had talked many times about moving here.
So we saved our pennies, booked flights, packed three suitcases and didn’t look back. The timing just felt right.

I work for a financial services company; I was very lucky to get the job just two months after moving here, especially since I speak no Greek. But working on the international team means I can really use my skills, and my language to my advantage.

Old town Nicosia; if buildings could talk
Old town Nicosia; if buildings could talk
Did you bring family with you?
Yes, I moved together with my boyfriend.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Moving alone is a stressful process, but when you factor in oceans and baggage allowances and language barriers, it can really freak you out if your not careful.
We were very lucky in that we had family here and were able to stay with my boyfriend’s granny until we had our feet on the ground. In the first few weeks the boyfriend landed a job because he has the lingo mastered from his childhood; it meant I had a lot of alone time which was quite unsettling but it was one those hurdles you have to clear. You have to really motivate yourself to get out there and make this the experience you always wanted it to be.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Naturally, I am quite a shy person. As such meeting friends was quite difficult. Luckily I landed a job with some fantastic people and working for an international company meant that there were other expats to share advice and experiences with. And that has allowed me to really develop my confidence. I never expected to make such amazing friendships as I did, but they have certainly made being an expat a lot easier.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know about communities such as Expats Blog, back when we first moved here. They would have been extremely helpful in terms of meeting likeminded people.

Fresh fish meze is a must when visiting Cyprus
Fresh fish meze is a must when visiting Cyprus
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
While Nicosia has no beach (being the capital and all) there is a lot to do! The Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre (http://www.nimac.org.cy/en) is an old power station that is now home to contemporary art. Getting lost in the old town is one of my favourite things to do, the architecture is amazing, and the history (houses complete with bullet holes from the war) jumps at you from every angle. Just don’t take photographs near the green line otherwise you will have some angry soldiers after you. And for summer days in the city, head to Eleon swimming pool (http://www.eleonpark.com/pool.php). Food is very important for me, and I highly recommend a visit to Casa Vieja (http://www.casavieja.com.cy/about.htm) for tapas, Loxandras (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/cyprus/the-republic-of-cyprus/lefkosia-south-nicosia/restaurants/mezes/steki-tis-loxandras) for traditional Cypriot meze and Limoncello for the best burger in Cyprus!

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The thing I enjoy most about living in Cyprus….the weather! Sun shines almost every day in even the winter months. And the variety of traditional food is amazing; after two years of living here, I still don’t think I have tried everything; I love fresh fish and there are some great food markets here. And wherever you are on the island, the beach is never far!

There is always an adventure to be had when finding unknown beach spots!
There is always an adventure to be had when finding unknown beach spots!
How does the cost of living compare to home?
Actually I think the cost of living is about the same as England. Expenses like rent and bills are generally cheaper but food is a little more expensive depending if you buy local or imported products. Electrical items and toiletries are a lot more expensive. And going out for food or drinks can be more expensive; but most bars in Cyprus don’t measure so you do get more for your money!

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
As an expat there are the obvious negatives to living in Cyprus; missing family and friends, missing out on important events and the differing cultural attitudes can be difficult to embrace and mastering the language can feel like an uphill struggle. As someone who lived in a big city her whole life, living on a small island can also be testing. And when summer months hit 45 degrees, your internal thermometer can be pushed to its limit. But I made the decision to move and as such, I try not to dwell on the negatives.
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Learn the language. Yes nearly everyone speaks English and yes you can live happily without speaking Greek, but I still would highly recommend some basic language skills. I have a pretty good understanding and can speak a little, but I have never had proper lessons. However the more I learn, the more comfortable I feel living here.

Shopping with the locals
Shopping with the locals
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I think the hardest part of the expat experience is feeling isolated. When we first moved here, my boyfriend got a job pretty quickly because he speaks Greek. And while I was actively looking for a job, not having any friends to just go for a coffee with, made my days very lonely. And even now, after two years, isolation is a regular feeling. When important, exciting and sad events happen back in London, to friends and family, you realize your not part of that. And the simplest thing like a bad day at work can feel monumental when you remember how far the people you love the most, are from you. But like I said before, for the most part expats choose this life for many reasons, most of which are positive, and so that’s where your focus should stay.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
Our time in Cyprus is undefined. We packed three suitcases and came with hopes and dreams. While for the most part we love life in Cyprus, maybe two years is enough. But returning to England is not an option we want to explore right now. Maybe we will continue expat life in another country. If and when we return home, well, bouncing back into to London life is never going to be easy.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Don’t look back – if your going to be an expat you have to jump in with both feet and really give it a chance. Don’t give up at the first hurdle.
  2. Research – do as much research as you can; areas to live, cost of living, permits for working, medical care etc. The information you have the more prepared you will be.
  3. Learn the language – while English may be widely used in Cyprus, learning even basics like yes, no, good morning, thank you, will make a difference to your confidence in a new country.

  4. Be brave – you were brave enough to swap countries, so try new things, explore, find expat communities and events where you might meet likeminded people. Put yourself out there and accept all invitations; friends are just around the corner.

  5. Embrace the culture – food in Cyprus is a big deal and the choice of restaurants, tavernas and take aways is endless. But always eat where the locals eat; and take note – the oldest, most unattractive places have the best food. Trust me!


Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog started under a different name, when I graduated from university back in London. When we moved to Cyprus I thought it would be a good way to combine my love of writing, fashion, art, food and culture with keeping family and friends updated about our shenanigans! So I renamed (Love and Life in Nicosia – at least for as long as we are in Cyprus) and refocused.

It’s a bit of everything, from food, photography, local hotspots, fashion, lifestyle and my general ramblings about daily life in Cyprus.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can contact me via the blog, google+ or email me.

Mimi blogs at http://loveandlifein.blogspot.co.uk which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Love and Life in Nicosia has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Mimi, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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