Many of us dream of moving to a country where our kids can get away from their computer screens and play outside all year. An island where family is still at the heart of society, where violent crime is a fraction of the UK’s rate and where the food is fresh and the cost of living low. In short, Cyprus! If you want to raise your family here, read a guide from someone who did it.
Written by Helen Epaminonda-Smith
Although many British people come to live in Cyprus when they reach retirement age, there are also younger people with families who come over here to live and work. I have one or two British friends who have done this. It usually comes about when a British or American company opens an offshore office in one of the main towns in Cyprus, and an employee is requested to move to Cyprus to help in its operations. It’s possible to work on the Sovereign Bases here too, but work priority is given to the dependents of the military personnel stationed there.
The companies involved are mainly finance and shipping companies. But a growing part of the employment scene is when a young male leaves his wife and family in Cyprus to go and work in the Middle East, usually in the construction and building sectors. The attraction seems to be the salary and workers’ benefits.
A leap into the unknown
Although many people are automatically transferred from their current employment to work in that company here in Cyprus, there are others like me who want to come here to live but also need to find work. I learnt that the best employment here is in the professional sectors, like accounting, the legal profession, teaching, hairdressing or administration/management. You can also find work in the hotels/restaurants, but this is generally low paid. I also have some British friends who came out here with their families to open and run their own hotel/restaurant. It sounds easy, but it does involve a lot of stress. But it’s also exciting! Read more about making a living in Cyprus here.
I learnt that the best employment here is in the professional sectors, like accounting, the legal profession, teaching, hairdressing or administration/management.
So I want to emphasise that before you move to Cyprus, allow enough time to have a look at the online English language newspapers like The Cyprus Mail or The Cyprus Weekly and apply for work in advance. There are also online agency type places like Cyprus Employment and Ergodotosi (English version).
When you arrive in Cyprus you will need to sort out you and your family’s immigration papers. This is done through a lawyer who attends the immigration department with you and deals with this on your behalf. If you are going to work with an offshore company in Cyprus you will need to get a work permit (and also for other employment) which will need to be renewed after a fixed period. Again, a lawyer deals with this for you, but it tends to be pricey.
Ok, so you have started the process of finding work (if needed). But you also have to consider schooling for your children. Although home schooling is allowed in Cyprus, this option is rarely taken up, and I wouldn’t recommend this here. There’s a chance that your children may become isolated and this isn’t advisable in a new country. So I would advise that your children attend one of the English private schools in any of the main towns here. You will find many British and European parents where you and your children can make friends, and Cypriot children also attend these.
Each school has a kindergarten, a primary school, and a secondary school. The schools are fee paying but the standard of teaching is high, and in the secondary school there are two curricula running parallel to each other. One is the English curriculum that follows the current curriculum taught in the UK and the other is the Greek curriculum that follows the traditional Apolitirion curriculum. The timetable is arranged so that your children can follow both curricula if they wish and enter either British or other European universities or Cyprus or Greek universities. You can also choose a Cypriot state school for your children which is free, but it is advisable that they learn some Greek as English is not often used in these schools.
The American Academy School has a boarding school option for its pupils in addition to its normal day school. Here, the pupils live together under the charge of a Warden who looks after their daily care and needs. The boarding school is mainly used by Chinese and Japanese pupils.
There is a standard procedure to be followed when you have selected a private school. All pupils have to sit an entrance exam in Maths and English, and they are selected based on their results. The entrance exams are usually taken in March each year. I would recommend arranging a meeting with the Headteacher of each of the private schools in the town where you will be living to discuss your child’s attendance and school life. It will help you get a much better idea of the school than if you relied only on the school’s prospectus.
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When you arrive in Cyprus you will need to seek out a GP for your family medical needs. At the moment, you can use a European Health Card for reduced medical visit prices. There is no NHS in Cyprus, although this is due to be implemented soon but I don’t think it will be free healthcare like in Britain. In Cyprus, children go to pediatricians for health matters, who can charge €20-50 per visit, and GPs charge a similar price. Dentists charge similar prices too.
You should ensure that your employer offers medical insurance if possible so that you can claim such medical expenses and any treatment expenses back. Usually, you find a health professional via recommendations from friends, although the website AngloInfo has a Directory of all professionals available. It’s worth having a look at this for general information about moving to Cyprus too.
But what about the quality of family life in Cyprus?
Quality of Life
So, when all the stresses of moving to your new home in Cyprus are over, and you have found or started your new job, it’s time to think about enjoying general family life. Cyprus is very family oriented. Children are allowed everywhere, even in the bars and pubs. Talking of pubs, you can now go to a pub that’s typical of the British ones and it’s usually run by British couples. The only strange thing is that it’s set in the Cyprus culture and weather, but that all adds to its uniqueness here.
You could say that the main outdoor life is the sea and the sand, which is accessible throughout the year. You can do water skiing, sailing, hangliding, scuba diving, rowing and canoeing on the dams. If you don’t know how to do these, there are professional instructors who speak English to teach all ages. The Nautical Club is a great place to learn these. There are many gyms and keep fit classes, yoga classes, cross-country running activities too. There are martial arts and all kinds of modern/contemporary dance classes. You and/or your children can get involved in drama productions and you can have drama/theatre/acting/singing classes too.
Convinced already? When you plan a viewing trip to look at potential homes in Cyprus, make sure you’re fully prepared with your free Viewing Trip Guide.
A great website to have a look at is mumsincyprus.com Even though this is directed at mums, fathers can have a look too. It gives details of events that you can go to as a family and there are blogs about British parents’ experiences here. If you’re worried about making friends internations.org/cyprus is your go-to website. This is a great place to start. They arrange introductory events that are safe to attend (actually, Cyprus is still a safe place to be for adults and children) and they also advise on insurance and employment opportunities. Cypriots make friends easily too, and this helps you to become involved in the Cyprus culture to make you feel more at home.
We have theatres and cinemas here as well. The theatres have ballet, opera and musical productions as well as traditional theatre performances. You can find all the latest film releases at the cinemas. Then there are many hikes, walks, and nature trails in the mountain area of Cyprus, which is a personal favourite of mine.
But the best part is that the weather is much more reliable than the UK. So you don’t need to go abroad for a family holiday in the sun. You can relax and enjoy the wonderful hotel resorts here for your holidays. Many people over the years have said how lucky I am to live in a country like Cyprus for its wonderful weather. To be honest, I agree! Family life is quieter here than in Britain, but it really is a better quality of life.
I wish you all the best of luck, and enjoy!