By Leila Thanopoulos

A story of the warm-hearted people in Cyprus

I still remember the first time I visited Cyprus. I didn’t realise there was such a thing as entering a fully heated oven until I walked outside of the airport. There I was, with a suitcase bigger than my body in one hand, and a bottle of water in the other. I was told to wait outside for the bus, however, I wasn’t told that the bus could take over an hour to arrive, or that Cypriot people are even warmer than Cypriot summer heat. I noticed an older gentleman sitting beside me. He looked up and smiled, so I took the opportunity to ask him if he knew what time the bus was scheduled to arrive. He reassured me that it would be here any minute and introduced himself. We were headed in different directions; he was on the way back to a village near Larnaca, and I was trying to get to Ayia Napa. Despite the generation gap between us, his sincerity and urge to put my travel anxiety at ease took all the warmth I felt from the heat outside and placed it inside my heart.

The feeling didn’t stop there – when the bus arrived, a young Cypriot lady on board was directing passengers and selling bus tickets. Her accent was strong, and although I was Greek myself, I was nervous to approach her. It turns out, I didn’t need to. She looked up at me and asked ‘Where would you like to go, my daughter?”. At first, I felt like laughing as I found it adorable to be called by such an affection term. Soon enough, I realised that her affectionate vocabulary was a big part of the Cypriot-Greek language.

Upon arriving in Ayia Napa, I got off the bus and found myself lost in front of the bus stand. I had no internet, and therefore, no way of locating my rental apartment. Two elderly Greek-Cypriot men called out “daughter, daughter” aka me, and offered to help. I jumped into a black taxi that was long enough to resemble a limousine. As I was dropped off, l walked around aimlessly looking for the correct apartment. An older lady squinted through the sun’s rays and asked me if I was lost. She pulled out a chair from her house and asked me to sit in the shade. I was then offered a drink to cool down; although I kindly declined, she couldn’t help but bring out some juice anyway.

The following morning, I walked down to the corner shop as I realised I had forgotten my travel adaptor back home. The young chap at the counter insisted that there was no need to buy anything, and began to recommend the best views of the sunset. After a few minutes, a friend of his walked in with a travel adaptor in his hands. “You can give it back at the end of your stay,” he said with a smile. It was a warm and generous gesture, especially at a time of need where I was travelling alone and didn’t know anybody.

The Cypriot hospitality always stayed with me – in fact, it came back with me to Cyprus not long after, when I decided to move to the island. Not much has changed; I called to enquire about health insurance and got invited to discuss my options over coffee. I went to hire a car and not only got invited inside for a coffee, but we went on a day trip to the beach together. Whether you have known a Cypriot for years or you have literally just met, their hospitality will welcome you time after time.