The family unit is the most important foundation of Cypriot society, providing emotional and economic support to the individual. Cypriots tend to think of their extended family as . For example, one may be as close with their cousin as they are with their sibling. Relatives try to live within a close proximity to one another. They are usually the basis for each other’s social circles. Extended families are generally very large. It is common for members of the older generation to have ten siblings or even more, each of which often has children of their own. While it is now the common preference to have around two to four children, many Cypriots have dozens of cousins, aunts and uncles.
Age gives authority in Cypriot families and society at large. The elderly are traditionally given utmost respect and are consulted when any major decision is made. Many observe that the younger generation of Cypriots are becoming more . Nevertheless, Cypriot parents continue to hold a lot of influence over their children’s decisions throughout their lives. Grandparents are often deeply devoted to the family. They may help to raise children and also play a role in organising family events and keeping the extended family together and involved with one another. Among Cypriots, the older generation tends to become responsible for keeping younger family members educated in their language, culture and religion.
The structure forms the basis of Cypriots’ households (i.e. a couple and their children). However, children generally live with their parents longer than what is common in the English-speaking West, often throughout their early adulthood. This cultural pattern reflects the closeness of family relationships; however, it is often necessitated by the high cost of living and economic struggles from the Global Financial Crisis. While children may not always have the opportunity to be financially independent, it is generally a common ambition.
Adult children are expected to care for elderly parents into their old age. Therefore, grandparents often move in with the once they reach a certain age or they become widowed. Newlywed couples may also live in the home of their in-laws until they have enough money to build or buy their own. Usually, it is the groom that moves in with the bride’s family for this interim period. It used to be traditional for a bride’s parents to buy or build a house for her nearby or next door to their own as a wedding gift. However, this is rarely practised nowadays.
Cypriot society has been traditionally male dominated. Men are generally expected to be the main income provider and head of the family. Today, most Cypriot women receive a high level of education and work to contribute to the household income; however, they are still expected to be responsible for the majority of the household duties. This is changing for some families as it is becoming common to hire migrant workers to help with childcare or domestic chores. Furthermore, the younger generation is becoming increasingly independent. The average age for a woman to have her first child in Cyprus is 29.1
There is often a gender divide visible in the way the older generation and rural villages of Cyprus socialise and undertake certain activities. For example, older men often gather at coffee shops (‘kafeneios’ in Greek) or teahouses (‘çayhane’ in Turkish) to sit, eat, smoke and play board games. Meanwhile, older women tend to socialise at each other’s homes, taking impromptu coffee breaks and visits at neighbours’ houses.
Dating and Marriage
Most Cypriots date in a way that is similar to the norm of the English-speaking West. Dining out, attending shows and going dancing are common activities. Parents rarely exercise control over their children’s choice in partners. However, Cypriots may be expected to marry someone that shares the same language and religion. Therefore, it is very uncommon for a Greek Cypriot to marry a Turkish Cypriot. Young people may also experience pressure from their parents to marry if they have not by the age of 30. The average age of first marriage is 30 for men and 29 for women, though this age tends to be slightly lower in rural areas.2
Marriage is a highly respected convention in Cypriot society, especially among devout Christians and Muslims. However, the dynamics of a couple’s union have changed with modern times. The Church and the Qur’an condemn premarital sex and having children outside of wedlock. Cyprus has one of the lowest proportions of extramarital births in Europe. Nevertheless, more couples are choosing to live together before marriage or get married after having a child.
Among residents of Cyprus, it is more common to have ecclesiastical marriage (Christian marriage) than a civil service. Prospective partners of Greek Cypriots may be required to be baptised before the wedding (whether they truly convert or not) so that the ceremony can be officiated in the Church. However, civil services are gaining popularity. Cypriot weddings are very big and lavish with hundreds of guests. There is a traditional Cypriot custom at weddings where guests pin money to the clothes of the bride and groom as they dance. However, this is now more common in Turkish Cypriot weddings. Greek Cypriot weddings may incorporate traditional Greek customs, such as plate smashing.
In 2016, only 17.1% of marriages were between two Cypriot spouses. More than half of the marriages that occurred were between two people of foreign nationality (56.5%) or between a Cypriot and a foreign national (26.2%).3 Most foreign brides were from Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and the Philippines. Citizens of Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Romania made up the majority of foreign grooms.
The total divorce rate has increased markedly since the turn of the century, from 4.2% in 1980 to 31% in 2016.4 The stigma around it has generally lifted, making it easier for both men and women to remarry. However, same-sex marriage and homosexual relationships remain highly stigmatised.
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