BrainRocket's new series of relocation stories kicks off with Karina Luneva's exciting 18-year journey in Cyprus, following her relocation. As with most adventures, this journey consists of many highs and lows, as well as lots of lessons learnt along the way. Read along to discover some interesting aspects to keep in mind when looking to relocate to Cyprus.
- You moved to Cyprus more than 15 years ago. Why did you decide to move here and what was your relocation process like?
I came to Cyprus in October 2005 and was planning to stay for just one year, as I transferred here for my 4th year of studies, to complete my Bachelor degree in Hospitality and Management and initially, my plan was to leave after. I was studying Hospitality Management at the Tourism and Hospitality Management college in Nicosia. I came here by myself without any contacts or friends on the island. The reason I chose this destination was because back then, tourism was booming and the field I was studying in was exactly about this. At the college, I had the opportunity to meet and make friends with students who were similar to me, as well as others from Russia and Bulgaria, very few were from Ukraine. During my school year I also found a job in a hotel, so my first year was very intense, working and studying at the same time. While living in Nicosia, I had no intention of staying as the city was very urban and I did not feel like I was living on a holiday island, with beaches and the sea nearby.
After graduating I decided to stay here “for the summer” and work. Then I was offered a job in Limassol. So I moved again and started over, completely alone, with no friends. Back then, as you can understand (2006), there was no mobile internet, no social media, and no Google Maps, which all exist today. I was working a lot (6 days a week, about 15-17 hrs a day) so I did not really have time to enjoy anything. However, I managed to meet very valuable people who are still my friends to this very day. In my view, having trustworthy friends in a foreign country is one of the most important things. It is not the same friendship as your friends in your home country. However, in a country where one has no relatives, one’s friends become family. This is one of the many reasons that kept me on the island!
- Looking back, how would you describe your experience of getting settled into life in Cyprus? Were there any challenges or surprises that you came across?
I started off all alone, with no support. I was also constantly searching for information from different sources. It was my first time driving here, without the use of Google Maps or even street numbers or any helpful directions.
Throughout the years here I have been through many experiences, both easy as well as difficult, ranging from driving, changing my licence, to taking a bank loan, purchasing a property, getting a Cypriot passport, giving birth and even getting divorced. Of course, looking back, everything looks simple, but I had to do it the hard way.
- We know that you helped make the relocation process smoother for a lot of employees. In your opinion, would your experience be much different if you did it with BrainRocket?
In our company, the HR department provides you with information and assistance on several different areas. They help with your visa to Cyprus, as well as buying you an aeroplane ticket. They also provide transport from the airport and accommodation upon arrival in Cyprus, until you find/rent a property.
This is followed by a lot of assistance on how to open a bank account as well as registering you in the General Health Care System (most companies only give you information on how to do it). The company also provides medical insurance (including the full service and additional information). Of course, BrainRocket helps you get a good car and assists you on acquiring a learners’ permit or changing your licence.
Lastly, they will give you all the necessary information regarding key shops, working hours and places to visit. The team will also help you with any potential language barrier – offering English and Greek lessons, as well as providing assistance with personal issues
It is hard to imagine how truly valuable this is when you have no other company to compare it to! – This saves you lots of time and is important for overcoming so many barriers, difficulties, and avoiding many mistakes. This support is priceless!
- How has Cyprus changed since you first moved here?
When I first came here, Cyprus looked like a cute village on an island with limited technology, no malls, only basic shops in Anexartisias that were open for a limited number of hours, no high rise buildings, very few russian speaking people.
Nowadays a lot has changed! Google maps is very well-connected to the island, making it easier to find the different areas. There are also an array of different restaurants with all sorts of cuisines and styles for everyone to enjoy, as well as lots of shops. We have a large number of Russian speaking people around the island. This has made Cyprus a lot more lively and there are more activities for everyone to enjoy on the island.
- What do you appreciate most about living in Cyprus? Are there any aspects of the culture or lifestyle that you like or enjoy?
Although my start on this island was tough, because I had to learn everything the hard way, nowadays, this experience has made me love it here and today I feel it like my home. My favourite aspects are the short distances, the 8 months of summer, my good friends, and of course, the food! I like simple food; seafood, cheese, bread, fruit and vegetables, which I find lots of. Lastly, the streets are extremely safe and one can walk around without fear or worry. It is also a very safe environment for children.
In terms of cultural life, I personally do not like theatres, operas etc. What I enjoy is endless walks by the sea, cycling (you can do that all year round) and the sun puts you in a good mood, encouraging you to enjoy the outdoors and find time to meet your friends.
Within one year you can learn about the different places to visit and get to know many people, which will make you feel safe and cosy. On the contrary, if one gets bored here, it is easy to travel every 6-8 weeks even just for a few days and fulfil one’s need for variety and/or cultural life.
- What are the key things to consider before relocation?
Cypriot people are very well-known for their hospitality, generosity and honesty. Oftentimes, they do things for others that are beyond their own self-interest, whether it be for their family, friends or country. They were raised to appreciate their personal time and their family values. They do not need complicated technology as they enjoy a stress-free, simple life. This is one of the reasons they are so friendly, soulful and easy going.
One thing to know is that when they tell you that something will be ready tomorrow, expect it to be ready in at least one week :), so be sure to keep in mind that there will be delays. However, it is the way of life here and although delays happen, challenges are then resolved. I have no doubt that you will quickly get used to the lifestyle here.
Cypriot people are very respectful and honourable to each other, as well as other cultures - discrimination almost never happens. Many Cypriots say that their sense of honour is the reason why there is such a low crime rate in Cyprus. Another bright side of living in Cyprus is that you will not feel alone here - there are so many foreigners like you from all over the world, that are seeking to meet and share experiences and lifestyles.
Everything closes on public holidays so plan ahead and do your shopping before. This enables most people to actually rest during the holidays. The shops nowadays have improved dramatically in comparison with how they did in the past. Although shopping is still very limited. However, you can find international online shopping websites that deliver straight to your door.
Lastly, for the last 18 years, I have found that Cyprus has been the perfect place for me, which is the reason why I am still here and have no plans to move. I look forward to continuing my journey in this lovely country, alongside the many friends I have made along the way.