12 tips for easy expat life in Cyprus
By: Mimi Finerty
1: Learn the Lingo
My main regret about my expat experience is not learning Greek earlier on. It would have made such a big difference to the first few months of my life here in Cyprus. I say this because, whilst the majority of people on the island speak English, moving to a new country can feel totally isolating whether you speak the same language or not. However, I have no doubt that being able to hold a basic conversation in those first few weeks would have made the transition a whole lot easier. And in knowing the language, the job opportunities you are presented with are so much greater!
There are government run classes, classes through one of the local universities or private lessons, depending on what best suits your learning style. And then there is learning Greek from work friends and the boyfriends family, which means my vocabularly extends to basic greetings, food products and swear words. Maybe stick to the university classes.
2: Do you research
With any new move, research is the key. Understanding where you are going, the culture, the social system and in my opinion, the food, will make your life a lot easier once you have landed. This is particularly true when it comes to those first few important activities like immigration, social insurance, renting and setting up utilities.
For example, I found the immigration office a hard one to tackle and ended up needing my boyfriends father to come with me because there were some serious communication issues. Mainly the fact that no one could speak English very well. At the immigration office. Go figure! If you have friends or family that are local, definitely call on them for assistance.
Additionally, ensure that you have all possible paperwork just incase; passport, birth certificate, employment contract (if applicable) passport photographs, completed forms and the fees, ready to prevent multiple trips. And remember to take copies unless they absolutely require the original documents. Even then, take copies!
If your planning to rent, don't go through an agent; many people advertise apartments with signs on the buildings. You may come across some difficulties as a foreigner, but my best advice is have enough money saved for a few months rent and your deposit.
Similarly, save for utilities because these are the stinger. To set up water, electricity, internet etc, most utilities will request a deposit if your a foreigner. This could be anything up to a few hurndred euros and the same goes for mobile phone contracts. So save as much as you can before you move. You will need it! And thats before you even get to ikea.
3: There are laws and then there is the Cyprus way
In Cyprus, like any other country there are laws. And rules. But dont expect them to be followed. In my head there is the legal way and the Cypriot way for everything. And whether you know someone or not will make a big difference. The sooner you understand this, or make a good connection, the better your life will be.
4: If your gonna drive, you have to drive like them
This goes for driving too. The rules of the road do not apply here. I don't drive and all I am going to say is I am happy I don't. They are somewhat unpredictable on the roads and as pedestrian I would be even more careful. Because red lights in Cyprus dont necessarily mean stop. And even if your crossing on a green man and your in the middle of the road, never let your guard down. I speak from experience. Near death experiences crossing the road; too many to remember.
5: If you walk you will get some strange looks
Everyone in Cyprus drives. I mean everyone. So an English girl walking is a bit of a strange sight. Especially when its cold or pouring with rain. You will get some strange looks if you walk. And have to be on your guard as many roads dont have pavements and driving in Cyprus, is well, not of the best standard.
6: Olive oil and oregano are your new best friends
The most essential items in your shopping basket will always be olive oil and oregano. Oh and lemons. If you want to cook like a Cypriot, these are the essentials. Whether its on chicken, potatoes or salad, this trio is the foundation of Cypriot cooking. And salt. Lets not forget about salt. In England we are taught not to put salt on stuff. Here salt is a standard.
7: Alpha mega is expat heaven
If, however you need a little taste of home, Alpah Mega is your destination. Alpha mega could also be considered my comfort zone since they started bringing Tesco products. But in general it is packed with international products that make you feel right at home. And as a foodie, having certain home comforts like Tesco strawberry jam, is important.
8: Invest in an electric blanket; winters happen and they are COLD!
Yes Cyprus is a Mediterranean Island. Yes it is close to the Middle East. But yes we still have winter. And boy oh boy are they cold. Winter in Cyprus doesnt really get going until the end of December, but there is no transition phase and definitely no autumn to prepare you for the colder months.
One day it is summer and the next you will wake up to winter. And you have to factor in that houses in Cyprus are built for summer, which means marble, big glass doors and in the large part, no central heating. The best present I have been gifted since moving to Cyprus was an electric blanket. Seriously I am no grandma but it makes life so much better when you get into a warm bed. Even if it is in a freezing cold room!
9: Learn how to live like a Cypriot in the summer
Which brings us on nicely to dealing with the summer. Summer is at the other extreme and being close to the Middle East, the island experiences similar weather. Summers are dusty, hot and humid. And temperatures can reach 40+. So learning how to live in those conditions is a fundamental part of life in Cyprus.
You have to go about life the Cypriot way. Which means slowly. And not outside between 12pm and 4pm. And nap in the afternoon. And drink lots of water. And keep your apartment cool with the blinds closed and choose one which will give you as much air as possible. Because the summers here are stifling.
10: Queues and personal space are two things you will loose
Get used to this one. A queue in England is a straight, orderly line. A queue in Cyprus is a big bundle of people all fighting for their turn. And cutting in. It took me a while, but I am used to it by now and stand my ground in any queuing situation. The personal space thing goes hand in hand with the lack of queuing. People will stand barely cm's away from you, for no apparent reason. It can be a little disconcerting coming from a country where people do not talk to each other, let alone invade each others personal space. But again, a few trips to the bank or the supermarket and you will be used to it.
11: Cyprus is more than a beach lovers paradise, so take advantage
Sure Cyprus is a Mediterranean island which means beaches and sunshine but there is a lot more to the island than that and living here means you get to enjoy that part freely. There are hundreds of cultural and historical sights across the island, plus the Troodos mountains for nature lovers, or skiers, depending on the time of year. And then there is Latchi. My favourite part of the whole island for its beautiful national forest, breathtaking landscape and unbelievably clear sea. Plus it is a tiny fishing village, so even during peak summer months, it is quiet.
12: Find your comfort zone
As with any transition to a new country, you have to find your comfort zone. The balance between your old culture and your new one. If you dont have Cypriot family on the island this may be easier as you dont have to necessarily have to adopt as many parts of the culture. But I think finding the balance is important; embracing your new environment but not forgetting where you came from is the key to an easy expat life in Cyprus or anywhere. P.s I think my comfort zone is in Alpha Mega with the Tesco strawberry jam!
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Contest Comments » There are 24 comments
I am so glad of having this opportunity to express my admiration for Mimi's writings. I am a Cypriot but through her blog I caught my self thinking out of the box about what other ethnicities think about Cypriot way of living or she reminded me of myself living in another country years ago. She has an attractive way of expressing herself and is contagious from the very first time. I can't wait to buy her first book (I hope soon) from a bookshop and say proudly to the salesman "I know the writer :)"! Keep walking Mimako!x
I love Mimi's blog. She always had great advice for people that are going to be travelling to Cyprus. By reading her posts I have become familiar with daily life in Cyprus and would love to visit one day.
totally agree with all of them. No. 3 is a bit difficult to get used to if you are an expat even for a Greek one..
My personal favourite 7,8 and 9:) your blogs is a true inspiration to all of us, not only expats! Well done Mimi and looking forward to your next post.
Mimi's essay on navigating through life in Cyprus is right on the mark for expats. She wrote a thoughtful essay, and I personally empathize with her on points 3, 5, and 8. =) Mimi, I look forward to staying in touch with everything happening in Cyprus through your blog. Cheers!
I love reading Mimi's blog- she speaks such simple truth & always puts a smile on my face :-) I also love how much she loves writing it!
I just love, reading Mimi's blog! The way she writes always puts a smile on my face! And as a Cypriot i can honestly say she knows what she is talking about, when it comes to our "strange" little island :)
Very good advice, it's very easy to move here without thinking it through or trying to make it something it's not but its so much easier if you learn to adapt.
When in Cyprus do as the Cypriots! Eat a lot, drink a lot, go to the beach, take it slowly and most importantly do not care about the pedestrians, they should either stay at home or get a car. One more thing... if your not up to the challenge of the 40°C degrees summer then do not come in the summer months. Mimi, I guess you nailed it.
Amazing blog and writing style :) Always puts a smile on my face!
As a foreigner in Cyprus I totally agree with all you wrote Mimi. Especially with point No4! :)
As a Cypriot living in the UK for the past 2 years, reading Mimi's blog makes me miss Cyprus and brings happy memories of a place I call home. Mimi's blog accurately depicts the everyday reality of Cyprus and gives great advice for expats. From fashion and photography to Cypriot food, Mimi always finds an interesting theme to talk about and her writing makes it even more interesting and exciting!
I love reading mimi's blog - it's a gem! Her blog makes me want to go to cyprus - NOW!!
Mimi's blog is one of the things I like reading while relaxing on the couch after work! I like seeing how an expat perceives life in Cyprus and I adore her tips about restaurants and food ;)
Love reading Mimi's blogs.always so interesting and easy to read. written in a way you just want to read more and more. She has a lovely way with words and never fails to make me smile. Think she should take up writing as a profession.
Great post! A really interesting and fun way to describe the Cypriot culture :-)
I really enjoy reading Mimi's blog. In particular i like her sugestions about restaurants and food.
Always enjoy Miriam's blog as it's good to travel to other places in the mind.
Always love reading this blog. It is so easy to follow, straight from the heart combined with the use of a touch of humour!! Love it!!
As a Cypriot i couldn't give this detailed picture to the public for my country! Well done Miriam and thank you for reminding us the beauty of thus island!
Love Mimi's blog, she has such a lovely writing style that is honest and personal. Really enjoy hearing about her Cyprus adventures!
I'm really enjoy reading Mimi's blog and her Cyprus adventures
I am a big fan of Mimi's blog!! Well done... :)
Mimi - my favourite blogger in the whole world!! I love reading about the ups and downs of her ex-pat life in Cyprus. She keeps us entertained with her musings about food, fashion and all things fun!!! Keep it up Mimi - love it!