A paradise without angels?
“We should consider ourselves very fortunate that God and fate brought us to live in this country,” a British property buyer in Paphos told us, who after a year of permanent residence, is delighted with both the place, and the friendliness of the locals and his neighbours. Because, if we don’t praise our own home it will fall and crush us, as the old saying goes, written by this gentleman in a lengthy letter oto our office.
That is good to know, but we should also realise how foreigners view us, since the real estate market depends to a large extent on foreign buyers (2013: 27%, 2014: 26%, 2015: 27%). Let’s see what these comments are: • “The weather says it all. Do you know what it means to have nine months of summer weather and wake up every day watching the sea? It makes your day.”
• Safety, according to foreign buyers, is the second major benefit for Cyprus after the weather. Even though the rate of theft is growing, however serious crimes are few, limited mainly in tourist areas and at inappropriate hours, while thefts may be prevented by some basic precautions by tenants.
• The cost of living, that has a slightly upward trend, is not so tragic once you learn where to shop and what commercial centres you visit (especially outside of the tourist areas), albeit more expensive than in the UK and Greece
• Roads are at acceptable level and transport is relatively easy, even though local drivers need to learn better driving skills and the use of the traffic code, including parking.
• There are some foreign schools in all towns of an acceptable to high level, while local universities have yet to enjoy international reputation, with a mixture of EnglishGreek teaching, while the quality of teachers, mainly in public schools, is not the best.
• Cyprus does not have extreme natural or weather phenomena with flooded roads and boats crashing under huge waves, while the rate of forest fires has seen a downward trend.
• Locals are friendly to the point that sometimes you might be exhausted from their hospitality and their uninvited visits, even though they often bring gifts with them.
• “Neighbours are an important part of the ‘quality of life’ and offer us any help we may ask, even if several times they might be noisy.”
• The health and almost free medical care offered in the government hospitals is of a satisfactory level, despite all the “failures” published in the local press from time to time. “But, the same also happens in the UK.”
• “Bureaucracy can lead you to despair,” with unanswered letters and indifference to your problem that irritates people more, even though this affects to a greater extent mostly foreign residents, which is an unacceptable discrimination.
• Local events, concerts, festivals, involvement in charities, joining various associations, fill the time very pleasantly for foreign residents with many of them gaining new friends. “Your difficult language, however, does not help, since the local dialect is quite different from the Greek language and the locals in an effort to help us answer in pigeon-Greek or Grenglish. How are we expected to learn the language, at our advanced age, even though we may have a teacher on a weekly basis?”
• “Police, although not the best, depends, in our experience on individuals you might meet and this varies from one officer to the other, rather than a general standard.”
• “Local English-language newspapers, the various English-speaking radio stations including that of the Bases, local channels with English films keep us well informed about local news and more.”
• Praise also comes in the form of transparency. “Because you yourselves have raised the issue of corruption as seen in a number of recent cases, this is the best for the future, and do not think that we British are any better. We too have similar problems.”
• After the closure of Cyprus Airways, although some said there would be a decline in tourism, the numbers have actually risen. This is an example of privatisation that will help employment of the new generation and increase local commerce and quality of life.
• The taxes are tolerable although foreign residents often protest that they pay for public services they have not seen - such as charging for sewerage (not available), cleanliness (incomplete), street lighting (great delay in repairs), etc.
• Courts is the worst, according to foreign residents and expats, not so much for the decisions taken, but the long time it takes to try cases and implement decisions, which defeats the whole purpose of ‘swift’ justice. What is needed is great care and vigilance.
Another retired lawyer from Britain wrote to us saying “in love with Cyprus” an in comparison with other expat destinations, such as France, Spain and Italy, he concludes “as a place Cyprus is paradise, but there may be fewer angels than we would expect.”
We listed them in order to feel a little bit better and encouraged, despite the sadness and troubles we see everyday.