Cypriot Culture

Communication

Verbal

  • Direct Communication: Cypriots generally have a direct communication style. People speak honestly, clearly and explicitly to make their point. Criticism may be delivered vaguely in order to remain polite and avoid offence, but a Cypriot’s intention and meaning is usually clear. While they speak very directly, this does not necessarily mean communication is concise. It is common for Cypriots to draw out conversation, taking their turn to speak for as long as possible.
  • Volume: Cypriots are known for being loud and fast speakers. You may have to politely ask them to lower the volume of their voice in certain situations. This request is unlikely to offend people
  • Interruption: It is very common for Cypriots to interrupt and talk over one another in social situations. Multiple people may speak at once to contest or add to what others are saying. As an example, a table of four people can have five different tangents of conversation going at once. Some foreigners from more reserved cultures may misinterpret this to mean that people are arguing. However, often it simply shows a Cypriot’s conviction and interest in the conversation.
  • Humour: Cypriots enjoy telling stories to make their company laugh. One generally finds that Cypriots have a lot of anecdotes that they are prepared to tell at the right opportunity. Sometimes these stories involve a person’s mistake or blunder. However, consider that people can be sensitive to criticism and it is not always acceptable to directly point out people’s shortcomings as a joke.
  • Formality: Cypriot communication is generally very informal. However, people may be slightly more reserved when first meeting someone.
  • Authority: In Greek, people use a different form of language to speak to those that are older or superior to themselves by using plurals to address them. This implies that they have the esteem to represent many people.
  • Swearing: It is inappropriate to swear around family members, superiors or people that have a professional relationship with you.

 

Non-Verbal

  • Personal Space: Cypriots usually keep about an arm’s length distance between one another when talking. When sitting, people may be seated further apart.
  • Personal Contact: Personal contact is acceptable, but is generally limited after first greeting someone. For example, people often kiss to greet one another and friends may backslap or hug. However, after the first few moments of interaction, people tend not to touch very much. Public displays of affection between couples are normal and accepted.
  • Eye Contact: Direct eye contact is expected in conversation. It implies sincerity; thus Cypriots tend to hold the other person’s gaze for prolonged amounts of time during serious conversations. Staring is not necessarily considered impolite. However, devout Muslims may divert their gaze away from those of the opposite gender out of modesty.
  • Body Language: Cypriots may use more gestures in conversation. People often move their hands and face to emphasise their points.
  • Tutting: Tutting is an informal way of saying “no” in Turkey. This may occur in the Turkish Cypriot side of Cyprus. It is generally not considered rude or an expression of annoyance.
  • “No”: Some people indicate no by tilting the head backward and tutting – “ts-ts”. People may raise their eyebrows at the same time.
  • Gestures: The hand gesture that signals ‘Okay’ (by putting one’s forefinger and thumb together to make a circle) is an obscenity. However, its Western meaning is more widely understood now. It is severely insulting to hold up your open palm, fingers spread, at someone’s face. This is called the ‘moútza’ in Greek or ‘kariş vermek’ in Turkish. To make this gesture with both hands at the same time is thought to double the amount of offence caused. People may imitate dusting their palms off to say “like that” or “that’s all”.
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