A Practical Guide to the Way of Life in Cyprus

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  • Fjodor Andersen

    I can't wait for Cyprus expat events to take off in the InterNations Community!

Life in Cyprus

At a glance:

  • The main language and cultural heritage in Cyprus is Greek. You should familiarize yourself with some basic Greek before arriving.
  • Healthcare in Cyprus is highly advanced, creating an industry of medical tourism.
  • The only public transportation is buses, whilst driving can be dangerous here.

Turkish and Greek Heritage

Expats in Cyprus will get to know a culture which is as old as it is fascinating — no wonder, seeing how the island has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The earliest human activity on Cyprus dates back a mind-boggling 12 millennia. The strategic importance of the island for major cultures in the Mediterranean and adjacent regions has led to its occupation and colonization by a large number of ancient civilizations, all of which have left indelible marks.

While the Ottoman Turks and the British have had the most recent impact on shaping life in Cyprus, the most obvious and strongest influence on the people living in Cyprus today has been that of the Greeks. At least as far as the Republic of Cyprus — the subject of this guide — is concerned, the Greek settlement, which began about 4,000 years ago, has most profoundly shaped local language and culture.

However, you should not expect living in Cyprus to be just like living in Greece. There are definite cultural differences and peculiarities which are typically Cypriot, ranging from music to food. The Cypriot cuisine includes exquisite wines and the world-renowned Halloumi cheese.

Cyprus is a sovereign nation and a member state of the European Union. The island as well as the capital city of Nicosia is divided into two parts: the Northern part which is occupied by the Turks and a Greek south. Yet the Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognized, with the exception of Turkey, as one single independent state.

A Bilingual Island

Today, the majority of people in Cyprus are young, educated, and often fluent in more than two languages. English is spoken by almost everyone in Cyprus while other languages such as Russian, French, or German are also prevalent. However, it would be both unwise and detrimental to the experience of expats living in Cyprus to have no previous knowledge of Greek.

Familiarizing yourself with at least a few common phrases and the Greek alphabet will not only be a strong signal that you are ready for living in Cyprus as an expat, rather than just being a temporary ‘visitor’ of sorts, it will also be very well received by those around you. Needless to say that knowing the local language always helps when dealing with administrative issues. The two official languages in Cyprus are Greek and Turkish, used predominantly in each respective part.

As far as the business aspect of your new expat life abroad is concerned, you might be able to work with your Cypriot colleagues without any knowledge of the Greek language and not encounter too many obstacles. Again, this is due to the widespread bilingualism on the island. However, we strongly advise you to take a few classes in Greek before embarking on your overseas adventure of living in Cyprus.

An Economy in Recovery

Looking at the GDP per capita in Cyprus, the island is currently in the lower range among other European countries. The capital, Nicosia, is the center of financial and business activity on the island and a hotspot for expats living in Cyprus. The island has suffered from the financial and economic crisis of previous years and reported high unemployment rates, but it is now steadily recovering. The country is currently finding its way back to steady economic growth. Having been an important strategic outpost and trade center for millennia, Cyprus made the best of its location — despite the ongoing territorial dispute with Turkey that has left the country divided.

Nonetheless, the quality of life in Cyprus is, of course, not only determined by the figures on your paycheck. In Cyprus, you get to enjoy a welcoming, warmhearted culture, the Mediterranean climate, unique scenery, advanced infrastructure in most respects, and a safe environment, as the nation has a fairly low crime rate.

Healthcare and Transportation in Cyprus

Cutting Edge Healthcare

Seeing how the Republic of Cyprus is a highly advanced, modern country in every respect, it should not come as a surprise that the nation’s healthcare system and its institutions are of very good quality. In fact, the population of Cyprus is considered one of the healthiest in the Mediterranean area.

The Cypriot government is actively promoting the idea of medical tourism to the island. Cyprus has many benefits: fees and prices for treatments and other services are comparatively low, relative to their standard, English is spoken and understood all over the country, and the exposure to the Mediterranean climate can itself be healing. Thus, the Cypriot tourism sector attracts patients from all over the world.

Cyprus has continuously upgraded the quality of healthcare facilities and opened several new, specialized clinics for treatments that previously had to be performed abroad. Nowadays, even complex operations, such as open heart surgery, can be taken care of in the country.

Healthcare Infrastructure

The average expat will, of course, not think too much about how the country can benefit from its healthcare system and rather worry whether they are in good hands. They definitely are. Doctors, clinics and hospitals abound in Cyprus and its large expat-friendly municipalities. There is a choice between public and private healthcare institutions, both of which are of similar quality and complement each other.

The Allianz Worldwide Care homepage offers a comprehensive search engine for medical services in Cyprus, which gives you the opportunity to search by region and provider (hospitals or doctors).

Health Insurance and Fees

Emergency care is provided free of charge in government hospitals. Short-term visitors from EU countries who have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can also lay claim to free essential care during their stay. Note that the EHIC does not cover repatriation, routine examination and treatment in private institutions.

Under the National Health Insurance System (NHIS) of Cyprus, basic healthcare services in public clinics are free of charge or offered for low fees to selected groups of Cypriot citizens and EU nationals with permanent residence status. They are entitled to these services if their annual income does not exceed a certain limit. For further information, please contact the Ministry of Health.

If you are not an EU member, you should look into buying international health insurance with coverage in Cyprus or consult one of the local insurance companies on the island to avoid high bills. Alternatively, you can discuss your inclusion in a company healthcare scheme with your future employer. As soon as you start working in Cyprus you must register for social insurance with the District Labour Office.

Getting Around

As advanced as the healthcare system may be, the public transportation infrastructure still has room for improvement. The island does not have any kind of railway system. The public transportation options are limited to buses. These can be found almost anywhere and operate in a nationwide intercity network. The website Cyprus by Bus provides highly useful information on bus routes in all main regions of the country.

Nonetheless, driving remains the preferred means of transportation in Cyprus, both actively and as a passenger in one of the island’s countless taxis. A fact that you will discover right after setting foot on the island is that traffic moves on the left side of the road (since Cyprus was formerly part of the British Empire). Road conditions are generally up to the standards of developed European countries.

The local driving style is rather adventurous, though, which may account for Cyprus ranking second in the EU when it comes to fatal car accidents involving young people. Imitating the Cypriot way of driving is less than recommended, especially in mountainous areas where roads tend to be rather narrow and curvy and therefore dangerous for risky drivers and their passengers.

Visitors to Cyprus are allowed to drive a vehicle if they hold an international driver’s license or a license issued in an EU member state. Alternatively, if you hail from one of the countries that have an exchange agreement with Cyprus, you may apply for a full Cypriot driver’s license after having been a resident for at least six months. These countries include, for instance, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the US. For a complete list of such states and details on the application for a Cypriot driving permit, please get in touch with the Department of Road Transport.

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  • Fjodor Andersen

    I can't wait for Cyprus expat events to take off in the InterNations Community!

  • Therese Yeboah

    I was happy to meet a couple of fellow Africans in the Cyprus expat community.

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