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Learning the Social Customs of Cyprus

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The population of Cyprus is mainly Greek by ethnicity, but there is also a large Turkish minority in the country. These sects speak their respective languages, Greek and Turkish, though Greek is the official language of the country. Those who speak Armenian and Arabic also likely know how to speak Greek. Most of the Greeks in Cyprus are Greek Orthodox. People are known to be more religious in the rural areas, and women tend to go to church more frequently than men. People in urban areas who are educated do not observe religion as much. The Turkish people in Cyprus are mostly Muslims who observe Ramadan.

The family takes a very important role in Cyprus’ society, and people are close with their extended families. People rely on their families as a support network. Grandparents on both sides of the family are usually very close with their grandchildren. Younger members of the family are supposed to respect their elders, and children are supposed to take care of their parents when they become old. People in Cyprus, both Greek and Turkish, acknowledge an existing hierarchy. Elders are respected very much, and seen as wise; they are always introduced first in social and business gatherings.

In terms of greeting, the typical gesture is to shake hands and smile while giving eye contact to the other person. Some Turkish Cypriots will lower their eyes while they are greeting to show respect. Muslims who are very religious will not touch members of the opposite sex.

If you are invited to someone’s house, it is polite to bring a small gift, such as pastries or something else for people to eat. If they seem like religious Muslims, do not bring alcohol. You should shake everyone’s hand when you enter and exit the house. You should dress casually, but nicely. Complement the hostess on the house, and offer to help if people are preparing or clearing up the party.

At dinner, you should wait to be told where to sit. The oldest person at the table will probably be served before anyone else. Do not start eating until the hostess initiates. Make sure to only pass dishes using your right hand, and expect to be offered second and third helpings of the food. It is polite to eat all of the food on your plate.

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