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Cyprus culture




Cyprus is an informal place and people are pretty laid back when it comes to social conventions and etiquette. However, it is customary to shake hands when greeting somebody or saying 'goodbye'. Casual wear is usual but beach wear should be confined to the beach or poolside. When visiting churches or monasteries, dress conservatively, covering arms and legs.

Cypriots are very friendly and gregarious, so don't be surprised if you are invited to dine with a complete stranger. Conversation is a national pastime, best enjoyed over a cup of coffee or a glass of ouzo, and maybe a game of backgammon.

As in Greece, family values are very strong throughout the island and the family is the nucleus of the social structure. Elders are respected and children expect to take care of their parents and grandparents as they become older.

For security reasons, photography is forbidden near military installations, particularly along the border of the Turkish-controlled zone.

Service charges are included in most hotel, restaurant and taverna bills. However, a small additional tip is always appreciated as a reward for excellent service.


Southern Cypriots are mostly Greek Orthodox, whereas northerners are Sunni Muslim. Church attendance is relatively high and the country is well known as one of the most religious countries in the European Union. The Greek Orthodox Church has been the main stay of religion in Cyprus since the 1st century A.D., with old style values being maintained and keeping the colourful customs alive.

There are also smaller Maronite, Armenian, Roman Catholic and Anglican Christian communities on the island.


Life in Cyprus dates back to at least 8500 BC, but it was in 333 BC that the island was really put on the map, when Alexander the Great claimed it for part of his empire. By 58BC Cyprus had become part of the Roman Empire, and later became part of Byzantium, with Constantinople as its capital.

In 1191 AD, Richard the Lionheart docked at Limassol on his way to the Crusades to liberate it from tyrannical rule, although he then proceeded to liberate it of most of its cash too! For the next 300 years or so, the island was ruled under a feudal system and Roman Catholicism became the main religion. However, by 1571, Ottoman Turks had invaded and re-established Islam and the Greek Orthodox Church side by side.

300 years later Turkey was the 'sick man of Europe', and the British laid claim to strategically placed Cyprus, and by 1925 the island had become a Crown colony. In 1955 there began an armed struggle against colonial rule, and the island was finally given its independence in 1960.

Prolonged disputes between Turkey and Greece over administration of the island resulted in an invasion by Turkish troops, and finally in the creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983. Despite moves towards reunification the island remains divided. Cyprus joined the EU as a full member in May 2004.


Cyprus is divided into two, with the Cypriot Turks living in the north and the Greek Cypriots in the south. The population is around 784,000, not counting those living in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. 77% of the population are Greek, 18% Turkish and 5% other ethnicity.

Greek is the first language in the south and Turkish in the north. As Cyprus was a British colony for 35 years, it's no surprise that English is widely spoken throughout the island, particularly in the major resorts and cities. In rural areas, such as the Troodos Mountains, this is not the case and a smattering of Greek will help you on your way.

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