Expats doing business in Cyprus will find themselves in a relaxed working environment. The island has a long history of doing business with foreigners, so locals are generally open to and welcoming of expat business partners. Trust and personal relationships are at the core of business in Cyprus.
Services dominate the market in Cyprus, and tourism is especially prominent. Doing business here is generally easy, with friendly locals, and the main language of business on the island is English.
8am or 9am to 5pm or 6pm.
English is largely spoken in the business world, but proficiency in Greek is highly useful.
Conservative dark suits for men, while women should wear a conservative dress or business suit.
Gifts are not expected in a business setting. Expats who are invited to a colleague’s house should present a consumable gift, like chocolates or wine.
Women are treated as equals in the workplace, although there are proportionally fewer women than men in many senior positions.
A handshake with direct eye contact is appropriate. Some devout Muslim Cypriots do not shake hands with members of the opposite sex, preferring a simple nod of the head.
Business culture in Cyprus
Business culture in Cyprus is characterised by its laid-back attitude and value of strong personal relationships. This casual Mediterranean approach may take some getting used to for expats from fast-paced business backgrounds, but it definitely has its advantages.
Trust and loyalty
Trust is a cornerstone of doing business in Cyprus. Because things move at a slower pace on the island than in many other destinations, there is enough time for partners to get to know each other well and build up a strong business relationship. This usually means that both sides are reliable, which improves the chances of a successful partnership.
Loyalty in the Cypriot business environment is typically restricted to an individual and not their company. Expats should keep this in mind when considering changing jobs or retrenching staff.
Business meetings in Cyprus have a tendency to go off-topic and may be completely lacking in concrete decisions. Expats should view meetings more as an opportunity to get to know their business associates. Only after a strong relationship has been established will actual business proceedings take place.
Expats should organise meetings well in advance and follow up on appointments closer to the date. Punctuality is always appreciated, although Cypriot business partners may arrive late.
Bargaining is commonplace, negotiations can be lengthy and proposals should be designed to leave room for concessions. That said, finalised contracts are generally followed to the letter.
Business partners, especially those meeting for the first time, usually greet each other by way of a friendly handshake. Expats should note that religious observant individuals may not touch someone of the opposite gender.
Small gifts with company logos or gifts that are useful in the office are acceptable in Cypriot business relations. If invited to a Cypriot business partner's home for dinner should bring a small gift, such as flowers or a dish. White lilies are associated with funerals on the island and should be avoided.
Dos and don’ts of doing business in Cyprus
Do be patient and allow time for business relationships to develop
Don’t bring up politics, religion or other sensitive issues while getting to know business associates
Do be prepared to bargain – this is common practice in Cyprus and the locals are adept negotiators
Don’t lose composure or show excessive emotion in a business meeting