Nicosia, Cyprus Report of what it's like to live there - 12/13/09

Personal Experiences from Nicosia, Cyprus

Nicosia, Cyprus 12/13/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I've also lived in London and Amsterdam.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, D.C.- The trip is usually just under 14 hours with a stop-over in London, Amsterdam or Germany.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government - affiliated with the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Very good. I lived in one of the many spacious apartments located close to Embassy and my commute time was less than 5 minutes walking distance. However, many families wind up in big houses a bit outside of town. Construction standards are generally very good. All homes/apartments have some outdoor space.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Much more expensive than in the U.S., although you will find almost all the products you're looking for.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

In Cyprus, you'll find almost everything, but because it's so expensive it really pays to ship as much as you can. Toiletries were one thing I'd always buy online from the States.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything, including McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and TGIFridays. They're roughly the same price as in the States. There are also plenty of inexpensive kebab and gyro places.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No problems.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The embassy has DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

There are plenty of domestics looking for work in Cyprus. I paid about 30 euros per half-day for my cleaning person.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but they are a bit on the pricey side.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No issues with this, they're accepted everywhere.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. For all Christian denominations, Muslims, Buddhists, etc., you'll find a place of worship in Nicosia that should meet your needs. Jewish people, however, will need to travel to either Kyrenia or Larnaca.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Very little. Almost every Greek Cypriot and most Turkish Cypriots speak english well.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Lots. In most of Nicosia, there are simply no sidewalks. When there is a sidewalk, people will often park their car on it. There are some handicapped parking spaces, but they'll often be used by non-handicapped people.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are safe and affordable. Buses are generally only used by domestics and the eldery.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You definitely need a car to get by in Nicosia. Any type should work, but you might want to consider buying or bringing a right hand drive car, since Cypriots drive on the right hand side of the road.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cytanet works well and is preferable to MTN.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

From what I can see, not that many.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Very formal, except for the summertime, when people will dress business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good, no issues.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Very, very few. I never encountered any crime myself and have never heard a complaint from other expats. I would have to say it's much safer than your average U.S. city.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Generally, the medical care is quite good. No special health concerns.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Cyprus is, as you would imagine, hot and dry. While the weather reports will never indicate anything higher than the low 90's, in the summer the temerature is often well over 100 degrees.(This is done so the law requiring outdoor workers to stop working in excessive heat won't kick in).The spring and fall are great and you can easily enjoy the beaches between April and October. Winters are mild, although the Troodos does see some snow and there will always be a few weekends that allow for skiing. Generally, it rains heavily only one month of the year, most often February.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No experience with this, but friends seemed happy with the American School and the English School.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Again, so experience here, but it seemed to me that there were plenty of nannies available and finding one shouldn't be an issue.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

From what I hear, yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

In Nicosia, there's a fairly big diplomatic community. In Limassol, Paphos and Kyrenia, there are loads of tourists and retired British.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good. The big complaint is how expensive it can be. Also, it's good to get off the island every once in a while to shake things up.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There's a fair amount within the embassy community.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes for all. I would imagine that families must enjoy all of the outdoor activities Cyprus offers on any given weekend. There are also plenty of restaurants and clubs, although it's definitely not as exciting as bigger cities in Europe.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Nope, not really. The gay scene is very underground in both communities. Very few Cypriots are out, and in fact many are married with children. There's no gay club or bar in Nicosia, but you will find one in Larnaca, another in Limassol and an "unofficial" one in Kyrenia. They're certainly nothing to write home about and are only worth checking out on Saturdays. If you're gay you'll definitely need to get off the island and go to Tel Aviv, Athens and/or Istanbul every so often to keep your sanity.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Unfortunately, I would have to say so. Minority friends of mine reported that they were often treated rudely in stores and restaurants.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

In Nicosia, you can wander the streets of the old town (on both sides of the Green line), enjoy nice restaurants and sightsee at the Cyprus Museum. Outside Nicosia, you can visit the beaches, drive up to the mountains, and view the churches, monastaries and castles that dot the country.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Lace, ceramics, art, icons, rugs.

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9. Can you save money?

It would be very, very hard, but I've heard of some people doing it.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. Cyprus isn't always the most exciting place, but its laid-back atmosphere definitely grew on me. The weather and the ability to be outdoors almost all year round was a big plus.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Walking shoes - you'll be driving everywhere.

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3. But don't forget your:

Beach gear.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Music: Anything by Anna Vissi or Michalis Hadjiyiannis

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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