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Social Life in Cyprus

Behavior

The people of Cyprus tend to be friendly and outgoing, as little seems to bother or offend them. However, due to the division of the island there are political issues that remain sensitive and the Turks have a culture rooted in Islam so there are some religious rules that must be observed when in the northern half of the island.

As a visitor to Cyprus just try to follow the lead of the locals by dressing in alike manner (see below for details), dining in the local etiquette (see our Cyprus Dining & Food Page), and avoid sensitive conversation topics, such as politics, finances, and business unless initiated by your local counterpart. Also try to avoid being loud, rude, showing off wealth, and getting noticeably drunk in public, well at least in northern Cyprus for this last one.

Dress

When people think of the traditional dress of Cyprus today they generally think of the clothing that was popular in the 1800s and early 1900s. Although all the people live on a relatively small island, the mountains had given rise to various differentiations on the dress from place to place on the island. During this time though there were many similarities; for women the traditional dress was called a sayia, which was a long-sleeved tunic with a blouse, loose-fitting pants, and boots. Despite the similarities, many women personalized their sayia with embroidery and other details, making each rather unique. Women also tended to wear something in their hair, generally a scarf of green for young girls and brown for older women. For men the dress was rather simple as loose-fitting pants, a shirt, and a jacket were commonly worn with a hat.

The traditional dress mentioned above generally only relates to the ethnic Cypriots (or Greeks); the ethnic Turks on the island in the 1800s was a minority as it is today, but for those Turks on the island, the dress was rooted in traditional Turkish dress in the 1800s, which is much more conservative than the dress in Turkey is today. Women and men were expected to over their hair, arms, and legs. Women wore loose-fitting pants called shalvar with a vest or jacket while men wore vests and shalvar as well, but with different styles, although all were fairly loose-fitting. Men also tended to wear the traditional Turkish hat called a fez.

Today the traditional dress can only be seen in Cyprus for special events and occasions. Nearly everyone, both the Turks and Greeks, wear modern western-styled clothing today. The Turks tend to be more conservative in the way they dress as they rarely show their knees or shoulders, but few women cover their hair today. The Greeks tend to also cover up significantly, but more due to tradition than anything else.

As a visitor to Cyprus you are free to wear any western-styled clothing you wish. The Greeks are used to scantily-clad tourists so care little how people dress, while the Turks tend to be a bit more conservative, but wearing shorts and shirts that show the shoulders is fine so long as they are not too revealing. The only real dress restriction is to avoid wearing anything that represents the opposite side of the island; don't wear a shirt with a Turkish flag in the south and don't wear a shirt with a Greek flag in the north. Lastly, sunbathing naked or women sunbathing topless is only permitted in certain places so always be sure to know where this is allowed before doing so.

This page was last updated: November, 2013