American Expat in Cyprus - Interviewing Fashionista

Published: 16 May at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Cyprus
“Fashionista,” married to a history and classics professor, never knew that being a professor’s wife could lead to a life of adventure, especially a life of abroad for the entire family. When her husband, then graduate student boyfriend, made a trip over ten years ago to the island of Cyprus for week long visit, who knew that it would lead them to a life abroad in Cyprus as a family of four? She shares her stories chronicling the journey of a Korean-American family experiencing work, school, and home life in Cyprus, as well as other traveling experiences to Greece, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Egypt, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Read about her experiences of travel and adventure on The Seoul of Cyprus (see listing here)

Meet Fashionista - US expat in Cyprus
Meet Fashionista - US expat in Cyprus - A rare couple photo at Machairas Park in the Troodos mountains

Here's the interview with Fashionista...


Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in Texas; however, I have lived on the east coast and Midwest regions of the U.S.

In which country and city are you living now?
My family and I live in Nicosia, Cyprus.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We moved to Cyprus in August 2012 and plan on leaving in July 2013.

Why did you move and what do you do?
My husband, aka “Prof,” received a fellowship grant to write his book on the life and work of an archbishop who lived on the island of Cyprus in the late 4th century. We moved as a family for one academic school year for his research and writing.

I am a stay-at-home mom to two amazing little boys, a five-year old and nearly two-year old.

Did you bring family with you?
Yes, we did. =)

How our family likes to spend time together-visiting sites and museums
How our family likes to spend time together-visiting sites and museums
How did you find the transition to living in Cyprus?
Well, after a long three-flight journey across the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, we made it safely to Cyprus with just the clothes on our backs, two backpacks, a car seat, and stroller. Our ride wasn’t there at the airport since we didn’t have a phone to communicate that our flights were delayed. Our seven checked-in bags were lost in transit. It took about a week for our luggage to arrive, and the last minute carry on luggage had to be checked on the last leg because the flight attendant said our 22-inch roll on was too big for the small jet plane. (It contained our DSLR camera, which was stolen out of our luggage somewhere during gate check-in to our apartment.)

The kids and I passed out from sheer exhaustion when we got in the taxi. My husband, on the other hand, had so much adrenaline that he stayed awake during the hour-long drive from the airport to our sleeping quarters for the first night. The taxi never heard of the place where we were going, so it took even longer to get there. Needless to say, the first few days were a tough one on us physically.

However, I’d say it took about us about three months to find our family rhythm with work, school, and life. With that being said, it has been a pretty good transition with a few hiccups along the way.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
You know, surprisingly, it went quite well. We managed to find an international church that is in English, which has been helpful in meeting other people. Also, our five-year old’s international school has a great parent network. The parents in his class are very supportive, and we regularly meet as a class so that both parents and kids can socialize.

One of our family's favorite holiday - celebrating Halloween at Piano Man's school
One of our family's favorite holiday - celebrating Halloween at Piano Man's school
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
We mainly did family activities. After all, we have two young boys, so our activities are sometimes based on their preferences. Here are some of our favorite spots in Cyprus:

Play4Kidz – indoor playgrounds are very popular in Cyprus
http://theseoulofcyprus.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/store-review-a-going-away-party-play-date-birthday-party-at-play4kidz/

Agios Dimitrios Park – free open and clean outdoor playground/park
http://theseoulofcyprus.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/agios-dimitrios-park/

Nissi Beach – this is our favorite beach of all time!
http://theseoulofcyprus.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/agia-napa-nissi-beach/

St. Hilarion Castle – supposedly Disney used the design of this castle in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
http://theseoulofcyprus.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/st-hilarion-castle/

We have so many other places we’d like to see (such as the Camel Park, which is next on our list), so we’ll let everyone know on the blog when we do go.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
Making friends from all around the world. We would have never expected to meet people from Australia, Indonesia, UK, India, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, South Africa, South Korea, Lebanon, Egypt, Canada, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Israel, and of course Cyprus and the U.S.

Celebrating wedding anniversary dinner at Zanetto's Restaurant - lots of excellent meze dishes
Celebrating wedding anniversary dinner at Zanetto's Restaurant - lots of excellent meze dishes
How does the cost of living compare to home?
Before we left the States, we knew the euro was stronger than the dollar. After the banking crisis in Cyprus and the struggle to deal with the economic bailout plan from the EU Troika, then it became another story. The euro is still stronger than the dollar, but definitely not what it used to be.

With that said, while items in general are more expensive from meat and other imported grocery goods, we have learned to waste less and purchase in smaller quantities. So in some ways, it feels like we are spending less.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Cypriots can be a bit insular due to its geography and long history of occupation for thousands of years. However, after getting to know some of the Cypriots in my neighborhood, I have been able to have meaningful conversations. If Cypriots don’t smile immediately when you say hi, just know that it takes time to build relationships in Cyprus. But once you have made a connection, the bond is there and the smiles just keep on coming.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
If you are living on the southern side of the buffer zone, learn some basic Greek phrases, such as “Hi,” “How are you,” “Where are you from,” “What is your name,” as well as the responses to those questions in Greek. Trust me, it will take you far.

Many British expats live on the island, and so many Greek-Cypriots will know English, but they like to see a foreigner try to speak to them in Greek. Wouldn’t you? I think it is also courteous to try to show politeness and say hello and how are you the country you live.

Linus helping us pack for a short trip to Greece
Linus helping us pack for a short trip to Greece
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Wow, this is a tough question, but I’d have to say to not take things seriously. I tend to be that way back home, so before making the move abroad, I knew I couldn’t think like that. I’d probably be much more stressed out and frazzled all the time, and that is not a healthy way to adjust to life abroad, which would also make for a tough home environment for our kids.

In many ways, the more easy-going I was about the things, especially the things I couldn’t control, the easier it was to adjust to life in Cyprus.

What is your most hilarious cultural exchange moment in Cyprus?
That is easy. We get asked this question a lot:
Cypriot: Where are you from?
Prof or Me: From America.
Cypriot: Where are you really from?
Prof or Me: My parents are from Korea.
Cypriot: North or South?
Prof or Me: South.

It has happened every single time we share our national and ethnic background in Cyprus, as well as in Egypt. It’s been quite comical to have this conversation, since it reveals to me a little of the rest of the world’s view regarding the Korean peninsula.

Date night with Piano Man
Date night with Piano Man
When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
We are coming to the end of our journey in Cyprus, and we are thinking about how to prepare ourselves for repatriation back in the U.S. While we have had an amazing and sometimes our version of wild experience for a family with two little boys, we also know that we have to be aware that our friends and family back home may not have the same enthusiasm about our experiences in Cyprus.

If you have seen the episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” when Howard Wolowitz came back from a NASA space mission, you know that he talked on and on about how he was an astronaut. The entire group basically told him enough about being an astronaut. We don’t want to be like a Howard Wolowitz.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn basic phrases and responses in Greek.
  2. Take your time in building relationships with people in Cyprus.
  3. If you are bringing your family abroad, give your kids space and time to adjust to a new country, school, friends, food, etc.
  4. Give yourself a break. Meaning, there will be good days and bad days. Such is life, whether you are in your hometown of 30 years or if you just moved to some foreign country.
  5. Write a blog! Seriously. Writing practically daily about our personal experiences in Cyprus helped me to adjust, deal, and process the many, many things we have experienced while living abroad.


Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
The Seoul of Cyprus is a family blog chronicling our journey of our abroad experiences in Cyprus. I write almost five days a week about the places we visited, the things we experienced, foods we tried (or missed eating), and the silly things our kids do for our friends and loved ones to see how we are doing.

What are your aliases and why do you have them?
My husband’s alias is “Prof.”
Our elder son’s alias is “Piano Man” because he loves music.
Our younger son’s alias is “Linus” from Charles Schulz’s comic strip, Peanuts. Much like the Peanuts’ character, Linus who carries a blue blanket, our “Linus” also takes his blue fleece blanket everywhere.
My alias is “Fashionista,” not because I know fashion, but because I thought I could try to work on finding my sense of style as a stay-at-home mom. (I’m still trying to find it in Cyprus.)

This being my first blog, it was intimidating to share our real names and our real stories about our adventures and mishaps about living abroad. I created aliases for the family, so that I could write without having to call our kids elder and younger son.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
If you have any questions about Cyprus or just want to say hi, please leave a comment on the blog. I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for reading the interview about The Seoul of Cyprus.

Fashionista blogs at http://www.theseoulofcyprus.wordpress.com which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. The Seoul of Cyprus has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Fashionista, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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Comments » There is 1 comment

Fatimah wrote 4 years ago:

Thanks for highlighting a wonderful temporary addition to Cyprus. I also live in Cyprus as an expat and have enjoyed reading Fashionista's entries. Hearing someone else's opinions on some of the same experiences I have had has made me laugh, shake my head, and yell "YES" many times. I have also learned about wonderful places to try. I recommend this blog to anyone moving to/living in Cyrpus.

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