Turkish Cypriot HOSPITALITY is a cornerstone of the Turkish-Cypriot way of life so expect a very warm welcome in the North. Like old friends who have long been parted, visitors should expect to be embraced by the locals, sometimes literally, and being friendly is by no means a tourist charm offensive. Turkish-Cypriot hospitality is a cultural staple across the entire region, from exceptionally courteous waiters working in the tourist hub of Kyrenia to farmers working the land in the remotest parts of the Karpas peninsula, often willing to invite you into their homes to share the food on their table.
Throughout the centuries the island of Cyprus has played host to many people passing through or settling on her soil, from the Persian invasions BC to the British protectorate in the nineteenth and twentieth century; with the Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Lusignans, Venetians and Ottomans in-between. The North-South divide that exists today followed the final invasion from the Turkish in 1974.
Yet despite this turbulent history the Turkish-Cypriot people pride themselves on their laidback way of life and they continue to welcome visitors with open arms. Indeed, it was the North who opened the first border over a decade ago to visitors from the South.
Northern Cyprus is one of those rare places where people still have time for one other and will help a stranger out as a gesture of good manners and goodwill, something that is often sadly lacking in many parts of the Mediterranean. It is not unheard of for a hotel courtesy-bus to stop to offer a ride to children returning home from school or one of the locals struggling with shopping bags. More than anything, Turkish Cypriots are warm-hearted, kind and courteous.
Historically hospitable, local custom and tradition dictates that guests are honoured. This hospitality extends not only to material wellbeing, with good food and drink in abundance, but also to great conversation. Many Northern Cypriots speak excellent English and delight in the company of newfound friends, conversing at length and showing off their linguistic skills.
Indeed, aspects of British culture and heritage are visible everywhere, not least driving on the left plus the English pound sterling is welcomed by many businesses as an alternative payment to the New Turkish Lira. This legacy of the British rule really makes Northern Cyprus a home-from-home for UK visitors, with a much better climate of course.
As a visitor to North Cyprus, tourists and ex-pats alike, this all makes for a most relaxing stay without the awkwardness of a terse waiter expecting a tip or the glare of a shopkeeper when you make an enquiry in English. You will not be over-charged and waiters don’t hold their hands out, except of course to bid you good-day. It is even commonplace for a shopkeeper to offer you a complimentary cold drink or a traditional Turkish coffee although etiquette dictates that it is not polite to leave before the cup gets cold.
Indeed, beware of offending your host, particularly if you are invited into the home of a local or to join in with customary celebrations and public holidays. As an honoured guest or ‘misafir’ you will be plied with an endless stream of drinks and snacks and expected to savour every offering. The Turkish-Cypriot people are fiercely proud of their traditions and could easily take offence if their generous hospitality is refused. That said, if an overdose of hospitality is the only complaint then we can see why everyone smiles this side of the island!