Intercultural Shocks in Cyprus

Drive left, Paphos, Cyprus

My favorite, and already traditional post in which I always share my observation of the things that I somewhat find different from what I’m used to in my country. Here are the ones I noticed in Cyprus.

Welcome to the Great Britain number 2

I was surprised when I first time landed in Cyprus. Only until I realized that the whole island had been a British colony for a very long time (until 1960). And even now – in 21st century – you really feel the British influence, as soon as you’ve landed on the island.

Don’t forget to ride on the left side!

A very important to know at the very beginning! Since it’s an island where nobody arrives by car, before you hire one here, like many people do, it’s critical to know that in Cyprus (also the Turkish part) they ride on the left side and it takes a while to get used to taking the roundabout on the left, and checking the correct side when crossing the road as a pedestrian. Well, better check both sides (twice) anyway.

British sockets

Besides British driving rules, they also use British sockets. But no worries if you forget to buy a European adaptor, they are well prepared here due the high number of tourists, you can get them basically in any shop.

Everybody speaks English (half of the island)

But only on the “Greek” side. The influence of the former British Empire is in many ways, even after the tens of years, still pretty noticeable. In the Cypriot part of the island, you really won’t have any problem, even cashiers at supermarkets speak pretty good English. And they automatically do when they see you are a foreigner.

Also, everything is written in and translated into English – products, signs, descriptions etc. – so you won’t have to care much about learning Greek letters (though you should do it from the principal), either. 

The problem comes in the north – on the Turkish side, though. People in Nicosia and Girne are used to tourists and foreign students, so the chance to ran into someone who can say at least a few words is pretty high. If you go anywhere else, however, don’t expect miracles. English won’t work, unless you run into British people living here.

Many British people everywhere

Last but not least, and at this point I’m not sure how much this has to do with the former British occupancy, but there are many, really many British tourists all around the island. They not only come in big bulks as visitors of the island, but many British people also live here.

Three countries

Even though that not everyone may be aware of that, it’s generally known that Cyprus is divided into two countries. The bigger part (  “southern”) of the island is officially the republic of Cyprus, inhabited by the Cypriots, speaking Greek. The other part – “northern” – is, since 1964, under the occupation of Turkey and inhabited by the Turks. North Cyprus, called by the Turks the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, is an autonomous country managed by Turkey itself, but officially not recognized by any other institution. For the UN, the whole island is considered Cyprus.

Not many people know, though, that on this island we can find a small bit of another country too. Strange? Well, as a matter of fact, there are two territories in Cyprus that still belong to the UK. They are called Akrotiri – near Limassol (south Cyprus) and Dhekelia -near Famagusta (north Cyprus), and the United Kingdom still keep them as they are important military bases in the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed.

Cyprus_UK military
Source: Wikipedia

Temperatures below 25°C are too cold for locals to swim

As mentioned before, I’ve come to Cyprus to escape the Czech cold, ugly winter. Well, in February there is a winter in Cyprus too indeed, but it’s definitely much much nicer and warmer. During those three February weeks I had around 17°C, but I also caught around 20 for a few days. Still not enough for the locals, however 🙂 I’ve heard that they only dare to swim in the summer months, even though the weather as well as the sea is pretty warm in autumn/spring too. But for the Cypriots it’s just too cold anyway. While I’ve taken a dip in the sea three times, they worn winter jackets most of the time. 🙂

Swimming on Akamas, Cyprus+Swimming on Akamas, Cyprus
Akamas, Cyprus

Cyprus also has its own Mount Olympus

I got confused when I heard about Mount Olympus in Cyprus. I always thought the famous Olympus can be found in Greece. Well, it is true, the famous Olympus you know from all these Greek legends really is located in Greece. But Cyprus has its own Olympus, which is the highest peak in Cyprus (1.952 m), located in the Troodos mountains. Basically, the only place in Cyprus where you can find snow. 

And I did hike there in winter, of course. I wanted to do the cool thing everyone always wishes to do – go from the beach to the mountains, in other words from sea to snow (wearing summer clothes). To be honest with you, the peak itself is not that impressive. Once you get there, you find out that there is literally nothing, but a military observatory. In fact, there is not even a proper road/path! The surrounding nature and, with a good weather, nice view over most of the island is definitely worth the effort! Well, and you can say you’ve reached the highest point of Cyprus and that counts as well, doesn’t it?!

Mount Olympos, Cyprus

Missing pedestrian crossings (or traffic lights)

A strange thing I noticed here. I’ve occurred to be in many places where I wanted to cross the road at traffic lights. While the traffic lights for pedestrians had red and green like anywhere else, many times there was no zebra crossing on the road. Well, you still have the lights so it’s not such a big deal, you would say….but sometimes there was not even a sidewalk or anything and you would have to also cross a curb. At the crosswalks, really? Look at the pic to know what I’m walking about.

Crosswalks, Cyprus

But let’s move it to an even higher level. Now imagine the same situation at a big intersection, just the other way around. So there is a zebra crossing, but no traffic lights. Does that sound normal? Not really at the intersection…. How do you actually know when you can cross the road without being run over by a truck? This is like a survival game. Have a look again at the photo.

Crosswalks, Famagusta, Cyprus
Famagusta, Cyprus

 

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