Did Cypriots Paint Themselves into a Corner by Living Excessively?
The Cypriot newspaper Phileftheros published an anonymous letter written in a Cypriot village dialect, that many Cypriots are saying is clever and effective, spot-on criticism of everything that is wrong with Cyprus including the following: Cypriot banks paid interest rates much higher than rates paid by other European banks despite warnings that this could not be maintained, Cyprus invested in high risk Greek bonds while other European countries were dumping them, public teachers are paid more and work less than their European counterparts allowing them double their salaries by teaching illegal private lessons on the side, and Cypriots live in much larger houses than other Europeans and drive luxury vehicles, to name a few.
The letter lists many other such characteristics and highlights the fact that Cypriots have done these things with an attitude of superiority over other Europeans who live simpler, more sustainable lifestyles and that now Cypriots are blaming Europe for the financial situation in which the country finds itself.
When my husband and I moved to Cyprus from California I was dismayed by the culture of excess that I encountered here. I wondered how people, with what I would consider mid-income jobs, owned such huge houses decorated in marble and fitted with top of the line appliances, furnished with Italian furniture costing thousands of euros per piece, and with maids to clean it all.
I saw a high percentage of BMWs and Mercedes on the roads, their drivers holding cigarettes and cell phones. I saw cars parked on the pedestrian walkways, in the middle of the streets, and blocking driveways not their own. I saw piles of trash discarded in lots, even in posh neighborhoods. I saw that many Cypriots do not recycle, but throw recyclables in the trash (or apparently in the nearest empty lot) a fact that was confirmed by a study stating that Cypriots produce the largest amount of trash per person in the EU.
When my husband and I wanted to buy furniture, we wished for Craigslist, an online community whereby people buy, sell, trade and donate anything legal. This is where we were used to shopping for great furniture, and we are not alone. People from all socioeconomic levels trade on Craiglist. I found out that many Cypriots think it's gross to buy used anything. We learned about Angloinfo, which is primarily used by foreigners, but it does not yet have the search convenience, availability of items or high use that Cragslist has.
When I wanted to buy shoes for our baby, I discovered that there was almost no middle market. Any shoes I found that were a reasonable price (and there were few) were poor quality. Cypriots were paying 60 euros and more for baby and toddler shoes from Poblosky and Kickers. I was stunned. How can so many people with normal jobs spend this amount of money on children's shoes? And why do they want to? Most American mothers would think this stupid. I now order shoes (and clothing) for my child online where I can find good quality at normal prices. I would like to shop in Cyprus but I am not willing to waste my money! I'm waiting for the middle market to develop.
When I express my surprise at the culture of excess, many Cypriots are themselves surprised and say to me, "But you're American!" It's true that there is a small cross section of America which live famously excessive lifestyles, but most Americans do not live like this. We say things like "Reduce, Re-use, Recycle." Alternative fuel cars are trendy. There is a middle market. We pay as little as possible for the level of quality that we want or can afford. Everyone recycles.
I was also having a difficult time reconciling the high frequency of excessive lifestyles with the fact that 30-35% of Cypriots self-identify as Communist. What kind of Communists are these? There are Communists in Cyprus living more posh lives than most of America, a country considered the most extremely capitalistic in the world!
Certainly not all Cypriots are excessive, I also know many who live moderate and frugal lifestyles, but so many people who should be living mid-income lifestyles are living like they are wealthy, that I have wondered how it is sustained.
Although I do say it sometimes, I generally try to avoid starting sentences with "In America..." because people don't like it and I don't want to give the wrong perception that I think America or Americans are better than Cyprus and Cypriots. America has its problems for sure. My husband and I choose to live in Cyprus for its many good qualities and we are raising our child here because we believe Cyprus is a nice, safe place to raise children.
But come on, recycle already!