With a blazing warm sun, sparkling sapphire sea, breathtaking scenery, and wonderful people, Cyprus is an amazing country; the country is teeming with stunning sights, memorable experiences, exquisite Mediterranean cuisine, and a magnificent dose of ancient legends. Dubbed as the “Island of Love,” Cyprus is said to be the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty and love. Legend states that the lovestruck Anthony gave the isle as a gift to his love Cleopatra, a sensational Mediterranean isle boasting more than 340 days of sunshine a year.
Geography & Demographics
Geologically speaking, Cyprus is known as an ophiolite believed to have risen out of the sea around 20 million years ago. An independent island situated in the easternmost part of the Mediterranean Sea, the island’s borders are closest to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. Cyprus is a divided country separated by a “Green Line,” which serves as a United Nations buffer zone, running between the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Greek-controlled south.
Home to over one million Cypriots, the island is divided into two main ethnic populations, Greek Cypriots comprising over 75 percent of the nation. Since the Turkish invasion in 1974, Greek Cypriots now reside in the Republic of Cyprus, while Turkish Cypriots occupy Northern Cyprus. These two ethnic communities share many similar customs and traditions, but maintain distinctive religions, cultural traditions, and languages, all representative of their respective motherland.
Cyprus enjoys an intense Mediterranean climate characterized by mild winters from November to mid-March and hot summers from mid-May until mid-September. The hottest weather visits in the months of July and August, while the coldest weather comes in January. With virtually clear skies and sunshine all year-round, the nation offers pleasant conditions for any short or long term stay. Days are pleasantly warm during the summer, but the temperature can drop in the evening. Very light summer clothing is typically worn from June to August, but visitors should be prepared with light jackets and sweaters for chilly evenings.
Winter in Cyprus can be felt only in December and January, when there are occasional rains. If planning a visit during these months, pack winter clothing but lose the heavy coats, as winters in Cyprus feel more like a typical autumn. Winter apparel should also be prepared for for trips during February and March, because the weather tends to be very unpredictable early in the year. Any visit to Cyprus should be equipped with some spare warm weather clothes, because there is thankfully always the promise of beautiful, mild sunny weather.
Food & Culture
Two main languages are spoken nationally, Cypriot Greek and Cypriot Turkish. The language varies by the side of the island. Those who do not know how to speak these languages should not feel anxious about a visit, as English is also widely spoken all around the island. Within the tourist industry, German and French are also used for communication frequently. Cypriot Greek, predominantly spoken in the South, is a variety of the Modern Greek language. The differences it has with Standard Greek are due to the country’s extensive influences of other languages, its geographically isolated location, and divergent settlement patterns. Known locally as Kıbrıs Türkçesi, Cypriot Turkish is a dialect derived from Turkish and is spoken mostly in the northern part of Cyprus.
In terms of currency, Cyprus previously used the Cyprus pound (CY£). But since January 1st, 2008, the pound was replaced by the Euro, which has became the country’s legal tender. Around one Cypriot Pound (CYP) is equal to one and half Euros or just over two U.S. dollars.
Cypriot cuisine is closely related to Greek cuisine, with influences from Italian, Catalan, French, Middle Eastern, and Ottoman cultures. At present, fast foods featuring modern Western cuisine form part of the island’s daily gastronomic offerings. The flavors of Cypriot dishes are so diverse, they will surely open a whole new scope of tastes for any foreigner. While in Cyprus, eat where the locals eat to get a good grasp of the country’s food culture. Grains, pulses, vegetables, and meat make up a large part of the local diet. However, goat milk, olives, cheese, potatoes, capers, wild greens, nuts, and herbs form the basis of almost all Cypriot dishes.
Almost every street corner in Cyprus has traditional souvlaki shops, serving pork or chicken kebabs and delectable gyros with beef. Cyprus taverns may serve food upon request in a meze, meaning small dishes, a dining style where different courses are featured with each one containing only a little of each delicacy. Meze style meals provide just enough for everyone to taste. Vegetarians can also request specific meals to suit their palettes throughout the country. Some famous dishes and staples include: afelia a specialty made from pork, mushrooms, red wine, coriander seeds, and potatoes, horiatiki salata a salad made of olive oil, tomatoes, green peppers, feta cheese, olives, cucumbers, and vinegar, and moussaka a layered dish of lamb, eggplant, and tomatoes. Sweet tooth pleasers range from souzouko, a favorite at Cyprus festivals and fairs, strips of nuts dipped into heated grape juice to loukoumades (sweet, small, Cyprus style doughnuts with honey) and kadeifi, baklava, or galatopureko, which are all very sweet cakes made with honey. The traditional New Year’s cake, vasilopita is served with one gold coin in it and the person who gets the slice with the coin is said to have good luck in the coming year.
Drinks and liquor are considered a specialty of Cyprus. It is good to note that in Cyprus, the legal drinking age is 17. Nationally famous drinks span from zivania, a potent Cypriot alcohol made from grapes, and commandaria, traditional sweet dessert wine, to cloudy ouzo, an anise (licorice) flavored alcohol mixed with water and KEO or Cypriot beer.
Although the people of Cyprus are called Cypriots, there is always a distinction of whether they associate themselves with the Greek or Turkish populations. Cypriots are a little more traditional or reserved when forging friendships, compared to other cultures, but are known to have very close relationships once friendships are well-developed. They tend to be rather formal and show great respect to their elders, whether they are part of the family or not. Punctuality may be a virtue well-practiced in other countries, but not entirely adhered to in Cyprus. Being late to an event or engagement, although not preferred, is almost always expected.
Hospitality is one of Cyprus’ strongest cultural traits. The peoples are cordial and polite, often receiving what is offered to them even if they do not want it to avoid offending the giver. They are also vocal speakers, expressing themselves loudly with apparent facial and hand gestures. To a visitor, a friendly conversation may even seem like an argument. A handshake is an accepted greeting, but a kiss on the cheek is common among friends, except for females to males. When it comes to fashion and clothing, Cypriots are quite trendy. They have a great deal of U.S. and Western influences, but are usually a little bit dressier and avoid sandals and shorts when going out.
The nation is deep rooted in religion and church,and citizens maintain an extremely high level of worship. Over three-fourths of the entire population believes in Christianity. However, Turkish Cypriots are mostly Muslims and other religions are still present such as Roman Catholicism and Jewish.
Things to Do
Cyprus is the host of numerous festivals in arts, history, religion, and sports. Many festivals occur between autumn and spring when the weather is at its best. One of the important cultural events is the Limassol Carnival held in February and March, filled with festive masquerading that lasts for 10 days and definitely provides a cultural experience. Other festivals related to nature include the Anthestiria of Flower Festival held in May in honor of the God Dionysus, equipped with flower parades and plant and flora exhibitions and the Kataklysmos or Festival of the Flood which occurs in June, a festival originating from ancient ceremonies honoring Aphrodite and Adonis. The Festival of the Flood entails throwing lake, river, or sea water at one another, complete with lots of singing and dancing.
Teaching in Cyprus
Cypriots place a high value on education, in fact it was recently named the second most educated country in Europe. A country where almost half of the population have completed degrees. The educational system of Cyprus is managed by a well-organized and comprehensive network of schools, colleges, and universities. Consequently, teaching is a highly-regarded profession in Cyprus and it is considered a rewarding job to be a teacher in Cyprus. Government policies in the country on education focus on establishing Cyprus as a center for international students and a teach abroad destination.
Teaching in Cyprus is an exciting adventure, where aspiring or established teachers can gain the opportunity to live out their passion for teaching while immersing themselves in the wondrous culture of Cyprus. Teaching opportunities in Cyprus are traditionally offered all year round, although most hirings take place in August and teaching opportunities are often for native English speakers only.
It can sometimes be a challenge to secure teaching positions in public schools in Cyprus, but relatively easy to find international private schools who accepts international teachers. Most teach abroad program providers have established connections with private institutions and they can therefore assist qualified teachers in finding the appropriate career opportunity. Although classes typically use English as the medium of instruction, the curriculum adheres to the country’s educational laws and guidelines. It is usually the discretion of the teacher where he or she wants to stay while teaching in Cyprus. Some choose to reside in an apartment, either alone or shared with other international teachers, but others opt for homestays. For economical reasons, it is recommended to stay in less metropolitan areas to avoid higher living costs.