Expats doing business in Cyprus will find themselves in a relaxed and internationally minded 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.
Cyprus ranked 54th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Survey, scoring particularly high in the areas of protecting minority investors (21st), paying taxes (29th) and resolving insolvency (31st). The island fell short, however, in categories such as enforcing contracts (142nd) and dealing with construction permits (125th).
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 a fast-paced business background, 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 a strong sense of trust to develop between partners. This usually means that both sides are reliable, which improves the chances of a successful partnership.
Loyalty in the Cypriot business environment is typically to the person 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 free of 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.
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.
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