Cypriot Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette

  • In both Greek and Turkish Cypriot culture, ‘on time’ can mean 20, 30 or even 45 minutes late. However, if you are late yourself, give a heartfelt apology and a legitimate excuse.
  • Refusing something offered can be interpreted as an insult. For example, a refusal of food implies you do not trust the person’s cooking skills. It is best to accept everything offered.  
  • It is important to be on best behaviour around elders, family members (including friends’ family), superiors, professional colleagues or anyone in uniform.
  • People may keep less personal space when queuing. It is not considered rude for your belongings to make contact with the person in front of you or behind you when waiting in line.
  • Do not walk around with bare feet in public.
  • It is rude to yawn when talking with people of authority or family.
  • Binge drinking and heavy drunkenness is frowned upon.
  • It is not always obligatory to tip, though people in service jobs will greatly appreciate it. It is unlikely to be expected at cafés and bars. However, employees at restaurants and hotels generally do expect tips.
  • It is customary for men to open doors for women and help them with their coats.
  • Littering and spitting on the street are strongly frowned upon.
  • It is normal to find people grooming in public bathrooms.
  • Smoking in public is normal and widely accepted.
  • Remove your hat and do not place your hands on your hips when talking to the elderly.

 

Visiting

  • Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots have a reputation for being very hospitable to guests.
  • It is common for people to be offered an invitation to visit someone’s home quite early on in a friendship. Women often like to make impromptu visits to their neighbours’ homes.
  • Remove your hat when entering someone’s home.
  • Greet and say goodbye to everyone present when arriving and leaving.
  • Large groups tend to naturally segregate by gender and age, with men mingling together, women talking together and children playing together.
  • Try to accept anything offered by the host during your visit as a gesture of politeness. This could be an invitation for you to stay longer, eat, drink or even take something home with you when you leave. As a general guideline, if the host has insisted on anything several times, you should appease them by accommodating their request.
  • Tea or coffee is usually offered at every opportunity, as well as a small snack.
  • Upon your exit, make a recognisable effort to show that you would have liked to stay longer. This sentiment compliments their hospitality and shows you enjoy their company.

 

Eating

  • Do not begin eating until the host has indicated it is time for everyone to do so.
  • Both Turkish and Greek Cypriots tend to offer food several times and prompt you to have multiple servings. You can say that you do not want any more food, but consider that they may take initial refusals as politeness and serve more anyway. You might have to clearly insist you are full.
  • It is best to take a small initial serving so you can accept more later and show how much you enjoy the meal.
  • It is best to eat everything on your plate to show that your host provided sufficiently and you enjoyed the food.
  • Cypriot food could be described as a fusion between Greek, Lebanese and Turkish cuisines. Often, there are many components to a meal, including vegetarian dishes (i.e. dolmades) and meat-based dishes (i.e. souvlaki). People help themselves to each dish to fill their own plate.
  • Let your Cypriot counterpart know if you have a dietary requirement so that they can help you eat appropriately. Some meals may appear to be vegetarian despite containing meat. For example, lamb kibbeh can be mistaken for a falafel.
  • Though the north is predominantly Muslim, it is still common to drink alcohol at special occasions.
  • Drink any alcohol served slowly at the same pace as everyone at the table. It is frowned upon to get drunk at a meal.
  • Do not rest your elbows on the table or put your hand under your chin as if you are bored.
  • It is rude to lean back in your seat and put your hands behind your head unless in a very casual situation. Around family, it would imply disrespect.
  • It is polite to offer to help the host or hostess in preparing and cleaning up after the meal. However, do not expect your gesture to be accepted unless you insist.

 

Gift Giving

  • Present any gift at the beginning of a visit.
  • Offer and receive gifts with two hands.
  • Flowers often make good gifts; however, be aware that white lilies are only given at funerals.
  • It is a good idea to bring something edible when visiting someone’s home, such as wine, salad or dessert.
  • Money may be a permissible gift for larger occasions such as weddings and birthdays.
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