Cypriot people are well known for their hospitality, accompanied by authentic smiles and friendly faces. As you will quickly notice upon your arrival, Cypriots are very welcoming towards foreigners.
The tradition of hospitality does have Greek roots, with Xenios Dias, the god Zeus being a patron god of strangers. However, whereas in modern Greece this tradition has mostly faded unless you are in rural areas, in Cyrpus it is still quite prominent. You will hear the words 'Kalosorisate' (which means, 'welcome') and 'Kopiaste' (which translates to 'come join us') very often, whenever about to enter a taverna, a shop, or a friend's home. In fact, the word hospitality in Greek, the official language spoken on the island is called “filoksenia” which has two stems namely, “filos” meaning “friend” and “ksenos” meaning “guest” or “tourist”.
Cypriots are generally friendly, and they will be glad to start a conversation with you on the street and help you out if you need directions. The fact that most of them speak several languages makes intercultural communication that much easier.
There is multilingualism on the island and although the official languages are Greek and Turkish, English is also widely used and when it comes to business transactions and everyday conversations with people from overseas. Other languages such as French, Russian, Romanian and German are also spoken in Cyprus, since a lot of the business transactions involve people coming from these countries.
Cyprus maintains a traditional culture with the family at its heart. Families are usually large, especially when aunts, uncles, cousins are added in and remain very close. And they will all meet regularly at a family members home for a family feast of some description.
In Cyprus, social and religious celebrations are intertwined. For instance, one's name day is celebrated almost as much as one's birthday ' sometimes even more. This is because most people are named after Christian saints, so the day they celebrate their name day, it's also the name day celebration for that particular saint.
Food is at the centre of many Cypriot customs and traditions. There are many traditional foods made and eaten at certain times of the year. At Easter, Cypriots make a specific type of bread or pastry called Flaouna which is made to celebrate the breaking of fasting period during Lent. They are made with pastry, cheese and often have raisons and sesame seeds and are traditionally prepared on the Good Friday and eaten on Easter Sunday.
For Christmas a cake called Vasilopita is baked and hidden inside it there will be a coin which supposedly brings good luck to the person who receives it. Green Monday is a feast that occurs at the beginning of the 7th week before Orthodox Easter Sunday. It is marked by the family getting together and eating typical fasting foods, such as fish, vegetables, salads, dips and breads. On Green Monday, a special type of bread is made called Lagana.
And then there are the many other food items which are made and consumed all year-round. Cyprus is well known for Halloumi, Ouzo, Mousaka, Koupepia which is meat and rice wrapped in vine leaves.
If you consider the fact that the island has been inhabited since the Neolithic era, you can understand that Cypriot culture cannot easily be defined in one article. Cyprus is a cornucopia of archaeological sites, and the different civilisations that have passed through the island all left their mark. However, the majority of customs and traditions come from Greece but with a Cypriot spin.