While it may be difficult to draw any real conclusions about a place after you've only been living there for six months, I guess one can still share some observations and feelings about what's going on around.
I guess one thing that's been most difficult for me here on Cyprus is simply the feeling of disorientation when it comes to simple, day-to-day things. People here don't post much useful stuff on the internet, so just finding information when you need it can be difficult. I mean, routine things like choosing a doctor or translating the label on a bottle of bleach at the supermarket (or just making sure it is indeed bleach). It makes you feel uncomfortable, especially when you compare yourself to locals, who just go about their business not experiencing any trouble at all. And asking around doesn't help much either since for some strange reason Russians who live here often try to use you in order to earn some money, rather then simply help you out. Plus, being surrounded by a foreign language can be daunting; when you say a simple 'thank you' and get a Greek 'parakalo' in return, it makes you shiver...
Why does one have to go through this 'rejection stage', as they call it? We were waiting for the bus one day, and next to us there was a big Chinese tour group. They might have been very nice people; but since here in Cyprus you have to board the bus through the front door, we all had to wait for ten minutes or more, while the driver tried to explain to the Chinese (who were all shouting and gesticulating wildly) that they needed to get in through the front door one by one and pay him for the ride, instead of trying to elbow their way through all the other doors, while acting like some kind of victims of discrimination. Let's put it another way: once you get used to the way things are done in your own country, it becomes hard to accept others' ways, and even to understand what they expect from you.
The good news is, this condition is treatable - usually it takes five to six months, depending on how bad your case is. And bit by bit, as you learn to reassess your priorities and standards, you reach a new stage - the stage of acceptance. At this stage, stubborn and somewhat lazy Cypriots don't seem that annoying anymore, and you start actually enjoying life in a new place. And by the way, it is useless to try and treat the rejection feeling with the 'we've chosen to come to their country, not they to ours' kind of attitude,since of course you do understand all that rationally, but it doesn't help the rejection one bit. And the thought that now you live in a lovely warm climate and see the sea out of your window, while all your friends are freezing in harsh St. Petersburg January doesn't help, either. I mean, you may realize that you are actually being ungrateful towards your life, considering how kind it (life) has been to you, and that thought can potentially lead to depression (there's a good article on the topic on zagran.me, entitled "I am bloody depressed!"). In general the friends and acquaintances left back home can be broadly divided into two categories - 'living at the seaside, how romantic!' and 'gettin' your lazy ass nice and tanned, huh?' -, there's no point talking to them about your feelings in any case; they just won't understand.
Actually, Cyprus winter can be tough for an unprepared person, first of all, because it gets cold... I mean it, really cold; it is not year-round summer, as many tend to think at first. I was lucky to have prepared well, I've done lots of research before moving, so I guess it turned out better than I expected. Perhaps it's just that we get lots of sunshine in our living room, but we were ok at home, and when we kept AC running in heating mode (which was almost all the time), we felt just fine, and we didn't get any mold, either. High humidity plus no heating, plus thin walls and low night temperatures tend to generate lots of mold in local homes. By the way, and perhaps it is just a coincidence, seasons seem to change almost on an exact schedule here - in October you still go swimming, and then on the 1st of November it starts pouring down and gets much cooler, then on the 1st of December you start freezing, and on the 1st of March your average day temperature of 10 degrees suddenly jumps to 20, birds start chirping and trees start blooming. And while driving around the island, you get used to the sight of sun-heated water containers on rooftops and solar panels on every corner.
You may have heard it said that in winter all life in Cyprus goes into dormancy, waiting for the next tourist season. Sure, lots of public venues close and there are not many events happening, by Cypriots don't waste their time - they don their parkas and use every occasion to sit at a cafe and enjoy the sunshine. Morning or evening, weekday or weekend, it is difficult to find a free seat at just about any decent cafe.
One of the first things you notice in Cyprus is how many Russians there are, how many shop signs in Russians, how many Russian (or, rather, Slav) stores. The most common way of moving to Cyprus is getting married (for ladies; for guys, it is business immigration), and you have to give credit to Russian wives - they speak perfect Greek and adapt very quickly. I guess, Cyprus is one of a few places in Europe where locals really like and appreciate immigrants from Russia. Maybe it's because our compatriots invest a lot in the local economy, or because we share the Orthodox faith; in any case, Cypriots treat Russians warmly and with respect. And this attitude is not affected by the fact that there are Russian language magazines published in Cyprus, - in fact, there is even a Russian radio station - locals do not exhibit any negative reaction of the 'gosh, they are invading us!' kind. Apart from Cypriots, Brits, and Russians, on the island (I'm speaking about the southern part, where I live) there are lots of people from Southeast Asia (Thais and Vietnamese), so many little stores stock Vietnamese and Indian food. By the way, right across from my apartment there are an Arab and an Oriental family, and we get along very well.
So, during my first six months here, I managed to proceed to the acceptance stage, enroll in a course of Greek organized by the local authorities and almost complete its first (A) study level, visit most of the attractions of the south part of the island and start exploring the north part, and get used to the local lifestyle.
Here’s some advice to myself regarding moving to Cyprus in the autumn-winter period:
- Communicates with the Cypriots, because they know what and how it works here, it helps a lot not to stress on petty things;
- Take advantage of the opportunities that the hotels give. One way or another, hotels are one of the centers of life in the country, where the main income comes from the tourism sector, and even for the locals when the season is over, they can offer good packages to relax which will cost you a fairly modest amount;
- Take it easy. Life is a journey, and everything around us is not eternal, we need to enjoy the moment, instead of concentrating on the negative;
- Think up a hobby and get busy with your body. Bikini - season in Cyprus is almost 7 months and you do not want to look too fat in a climate that does not need an extra fat layer, in addition, beach vacation does not necessarily have to be lazy. If lying at the beach is just boring for you, there is a reason to try beach sports. This is another good opportunity to become healthier and more active;
- Think more often if you are moving in the right direction. When everything around is turned upside down and there is no tangible incentive to achieve your goals, it is easy enough to forget about the limited time and stop actively doing something, especially in the prevailing idle atmosphere;
- Be a tourist. Read a book on a bench by the sea, go for a run (after all, everyone thinks that he will necessarily run along the coast as soon as he moves to warm countries, right?), enjoy the dish or the view, it’s not prohibited even if you are no longer a tourist.
In conclusion, I promise to apply my own philosophy in the second half of the year and share the results in the annual "verdict" after summer - the best time in the year. I cannot wait, despite the fact that it’s going to be a Saharan drought and a lot of insects on the streets.