I spend a fair amount of time in Cyprus.
My parents retired here and I lived here for a while.
I have a holiday home not far from Limassol.
It’s beautiful. It’s hot and sunny.
Cyprus, island of Aphrodite, sits in the eastern Mediterranean, not far from the coast of Lebanon. As islands go, it has seen more than its fair share of turbulence and invasion.
For many years it was a part of the Ottoman empire and laterly was a Crown colony of the United Kingdom. In 1960 it became an independent republic.
Recent history is complicated – Greek Cypriots in the 1950s were fighting for ‘Enosis’ – union with Greece.
Instead, they got an independent republic, where ethnic Turkish Cypriots had protected rights.
The Republic never really worked and in 1974, the Greek Cypriots staged a military coup (egged on by the Junta in control of Greece) with an eye to achieving Enosis.
Turkey resisted this with an old fashioned, but effective counter.
The island was partitioned and remains so to this day.
The above is a gross over-simplification, I am no historian.
There is a fascinating book called the Cyprus Conspiracy by Brendan O’Malley that does a good job of shedding some light on a dark corner of geo-politics. Well worth a read.
The United Kingdom, throughout all of this upheaval, has largely managed to maintain a strong relationship with the part of the island that was not occupied by Turkey.
The Royal Air Force has an airfield here and there are several other UK military installations on the island.
Cyprus is reliant on tourism and the lion’s share of visitors have always been British.
Certainly, one would never struggle to find an English Breakfast on the coast.
While I would not necessarily see the ubiquitous availability of an English breakfast as a positive, there can be no denying that the universal use of English and affinity with the British does make Cyprus ‘easy’ to work for the Brits.
This affinity, together with the tourist industry and turnover of military personnel means that thousands of UK citizens make Cyprus their home in retirement.
Greek is a tough language, and the British are notoriously bad at learning languages anyway.
In Cyprus, this never mattered. Cypriots speak excellent English and many have attended university in the UK or the USA.
Over the last couple of years though, I have noticed a trend.
A sort of militant “Greek only” trend.
In equipping the holiday home, I have visited that famous Swedish furniture giant – Ikea. As Cyprus is a small island, rather than invest directly, multinational firms tend to grant franchises. Ikea is no exception.
Everything in Ikea – from the labels on the goods, to the leaflets, to the signs on the door is in Greek and only Greek.
I have never seen that in Cyprus before.
Adjoining the Ikea store is a shopping mall. The mall has a food court where can be found the usual fast food suspects.
There is also a fast food version of more traditional Cypriot food.
Again – all of the signage was in Greek only.
A reasonable percentage of consumers in Cyprus will speak little or no Greek. Tourists generally don’t, and many expats don’t either.
Therefore this policy has a cost to the business.
Perhaps I am reading too much into it – but there seems a sort of militance to it – an intentional statement.
I am not sure why it should be happening and whether it might have a broader connotation.