The Cypriot Dream

I decided to end 2020 with a dream and more specifically with “The Cypriot Dream.” I remember when I was in high school, for my English literature class, we had to read and analyze “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. The novella focuses on the idea of the American Dream during the time of the Great Depression. So, it dawned on me. What’s the equivalent dream in Cyprus? What makes living in Cyprus appealing and how success is defined by the Cypriot culture?

What you will read is the perspective of some dear friends whom I truly appreciate their views and critical evaluation on this issue and they’re directly or indirectly involved in the political matters in Cyprus. What I asked them was to define what “The Cypriot Dream” is for them and then, express their opinion on it. After reading what they sent me and the political situation in Cyprus at this moment, which has left many of us frustrated, I humbly believe this post kindles a path to ponder upon how we want to act as a society rather than as individuals.

What is the Cypriot Dream? Is it anything like the American version? I would say that whereas the American dream is all about working hard and acquiring wealth, the Cypriot dream is a more toned down version of that. It’s more so the “I want a house and a family with kids and some wealth would be nice” kind of dream. Is this dream attainable? Is the American one? I would say that any Dream that promises equality for all and opportunity is probably somewhat misleading. Afterall, I believe it has long been established that equality of opportunity is unattainable, as many factors, including your socio-economic status, gender and racial background, may put you at a considerable disadvantage.

But what about the Cypriot dream? Most Cypriots have been raised with a certain lifestyle and it is somewhat expected that by the time you are in your thirties, you will want to settle down, have a family and build a house. There is definitely this idea that Cyprus can offer you that dream, the safety, stability and prosperity to do all these things and in a timely manner as well.

Is that true, however? We have been raised by generations who witnessed certain financial stability, good salaries, their front doors unlocked at night and close, trusting communities. This is, without a doubt, an over-generalisation, I know, and I suspect that it was not true for everyone back then, but it is certainly not the case for most people anymore. After the 2012-13 financial crisis, and well into the depths of a second one happening as we speak, there is no financial security, nor is an average annual income sufficient for a young family to build or even buy a ready-made house.

Nonetheless, we Cypriots have a great familial support system, and it is generally common that parents – and grandparents – will give strong financial aid where possible, especially for the purposes of marriage and buying a house. It is also still a relatively safe country, although don’t count on this article to give you any solid statistics. This is my personal opinion, especially in comparison to living abroad, although I am sure this feeling of safety holds generally true in small communities and areas.

Another aspect of this Dream is one that makes many foreigners – especially retirees – move to Cyprus. It is the idea that this is a sunny, slow-pace, relaxing island that offers good quality of life. It is certainly true to some extent; just visit Cyprus during the summer months and you’ll just witness how laid-back and slow-pace it truly is. Even public services are shut down for a little swim at the beach. It does come with its drawbacks; younger generations may not share this dream anymore, and it is a good reason for many young Cypriots moving abroad, as they are seeking a more challenging and fast-pace lifestyle that Cyprus cannot offer. It is often enough two steps behind the Western world in many aspects, professionally, technologically, and socially. However, as someone who has lived abroad and suffered from a lot of anxiety living in a fast-paced world, Cyprus does indeed offer a safety bubble in a way that cannot be easily replicated. The food is pretty awesome too.

All in all, I would say that the Cypriot dream is somewhat attainable. And for those who wish to live like stress-free retirees and have the money for it, Cyprus is a dream island indeed. For the rest, it probably is like any other country, with its own qualities and flaws. At the end of the day, people shape their dreams out of their personal experiences and circumstances, and it is through our dreams that we maintain a possibility of a better, more meaningful life.V.C.

Much like all dreams, the Cypriot dream is based on individual aspirations. It consists of a decent-paying job and a 9:00 to 17:00 workday, a house in a safe neighborhood, a happy home with kids whom you watch growing up to become successful, a familial safety net which involves weekly lunches with three generations and summer weekends at the beach. The upper echelons of society that dream may even include a playroom for the kids, a Mercedes Benz, a pool and a beach house.

A question arises as to how this dream is distinctly ‘Cypriot’ (as opposed to, for example, the equivalent American dream). You could point to some obvious distinctions on the individual level. For example, the weather is surely better in the Cypriot dream as opposed to the British dream and I’m sure we would agree that the Cypriot dream isn’t centred around your professional and financial ambitions like its American counterpart.

For me, the distinctly Cypriot element of the dream is one which goes to our collective existence as a society. As Cypriots, we have the misfortune of building our dreams like castles in the sand (i.e. we pursue our individual aspirations on increasingly unstable foundations owing to the division and occupation of our country). There is always a risk that, even if we manage to have the kids, design the house or even build the pool and buy the car, everything could be lost in the blink of an eye. This is something previous generations are painfully aware of but which seems lost on those born after 1974. For this reason, the Cypriot dream must incorporate a collective aspiration for our country and for our society. For me, the Cypriot dream involves the family, the house and all that but it also involves walking around my city without having to show my passport. It encompasses exploring parts of my country which have shaped me even though I have never visited them, like Kyrenia or Famagusta. It must necessarily include setting up a peaceful society so that my kids can flourish without the fear that their life’s work will be taken from them in the blink of an eye.A.D.

The Cypriot dream huh? I’d wish to have something positive to say as the word dream implies at least some positivity involved. However, as I believe the theme is to be a comparison with the much-discussed concept of the American Dream, I decided to approach it from this perspective. What dream drives the Cypriot mentality, and pushes people in their life, community and career choices, as well as their personal aspirations, behaviour towards themselves and towards others? A lot can be said about the relationship of Cypriots with money, and money certainly plays an important / formative role in the minds of Cypriots and their aspirations. However, I believe that money is only instrumental in its role in the Cypriot Dream. Something positive can be said for this part, as understanding money as instrumental, rather than an end in itself is something not all people / nations have managed to grasp, but I’m afraid the positivity ends here.

The Cypriot Dream, as I see it, is quite simple: we want rules to apply to everyone but ourselves, we want partiality and exception. This is the whole concept behind the much dreaded, much discussed, and much sought after Cypriot concept of “Meson.”

Cypriots, although publicly condemning the unfairness of people using “Meson” to skip queues, gain promotions or employment, gain privileged access to information, gain discounts at stores, have penalties forgiven to them, get their sons to a better “stratopedon” or even get the best meat from their local butchers, LOVE using this themselves, and see nothing wrong with the dissonance described above. Meson for the Cypriot, even if it is as trivial as getting an 8 euro parking ticket erased, (and that’s why money is only instrumental in the Cypriot dream) is a sign that you “made it” in Cyprus. It’s an affirmation that you have social worth and the utmost affirmation of your individuality, after all “na men mou to kameis EMENA?!” is a thought that passes through the minds of most Cypriots, when they are denied a favor in virtue of some existing law or procedure.

In Cyprus, you have self-actualized if you reach a social position, (it can be as random as being a minister’s hairdresser), where you have “meson”, and also importantly, you can provide “meson” to others. This is the Cypriot Dream.

As with the American dream, a lot can be said about the social and historical routes of the Cypriot Dream, but due to the word limit, I will only hint at one possible explanation: namely, the huge chunk of history where the island was under foreign rule and the large number of foreign rulers on the island, imposing laws in which Cypriots themselves had very little say. Having very little say on the laws and procedures imposed upon you, can lead to people acknowledging that, because they can’t change the rules for everyone, and also don’t have to be involved in understanding why certain rules are imposed, their only choice is to find a way to bypass the rules for themselves and their loved ones.A. C.