15 Cypriot phrases to help you get by

The official languages of Cyprus are Greek, Turkish and English, with Turkish being the mother tongue in the north of the island and Greek in the south. Cyprus was a British colony from 1878 to 1960 and still retains British military bases as well as many an expat. In the north especially, English is seen as the second language.

While in most parts of Cyprus you’ll have no trouble communicating in English, the ability or even willingness to say even a few words in Cypriot will be warmly welcomed and you’ll gain local friends very quickly.

The Greek words below are spelled phonetically to show you what the word sounds like rather than the word in Greek which is nigh-on impossible to read unless you know the Greek alphabet.

1. 'Hello'

Walking into a restaurant or shop and saying hello in Cypriot rather than English shows you’re making an effort with the local culture, and as such, they’ll be more accommodating.

It’s also probably the easiest word you’re going to read on this list.

In the south, shake hands, smile, and maintain direct eye contact during the greeting. In the north, many Turkish Cypriots will lower their eyes during the greeting as a sign of respect.

Greek Cypriot – Herete/ Ya sou

Turkish Cypriot – Merhaba

2. 'Thank you'

Cypriots are extremely hospitable and it’s considered polite to accept at least a little of what is being offered to you, even if you don’t want it. Meet their warmth with a gracious thank you.

Greek Cypriot – Efkharisto

Turkish Cypriot – Tesekkur ederim, sagol

3. 'Do you speak English?'

Let’s face it, you’re going to get to a point where no amount of pointing and playing charades is going to help you with more complicated matters, but asking in Cypriot will gain you some serious kudos.

Greek Cypriot – Milate anglika?

Turkish Cypriot – Ingilizce biliyormusunuz?

4. 'How much is it?'

This one’s always handy whether you want to know in advance how much your taxi fare will be, the cost of an excursion or the perfect souvenir you’ve stumbled across at the local market.

Greek Cypriot – Posso kane?

Turkish Cypriot – Ne kadar?

5. 'I would like a beer'

You’ve been out sightseeing all day in the sun, you’re exhausted and all you want is an ice cold beer and a comfortable chair.

Greek Cypriot – Tha ithela mee a bira, parakalo

Turkish Cypriot – Bira istiyorum

6. 'Yes and No'

It will serve you well knowing these two simple words, especially as the Greek Cypriot word for ‘yes’ sounds like the English word for ‘no’.

Yes

Greek Cypriot – Nai

Turkish Cypriot – Evet

No

Greek Cypriot – Ochi

Turkish Cypriot – Hayir

7. 'Where is the toilet?'

The majority of public toilets in Cyprus are free but some will charge a small fee. You can also use the toilets in a bar or cafe, but it is custom to at least offer to buy a drink or offer a small sum in return.

Greek Cypriot – Pu ine i tualeta?

Turkish Cypriot – Tuvalet nerede?

8. 'I don't understand'

Sometimes it saves time to just admit defeat rather than spending 20 minutes nodding politely and leaving even more confused than you started.

Greek Cypriot – Then katalaveno

Turkish Cypriot – Anlamiyorum

9. 'Can I have the bill please?'

You’ve been seated, finally figured out the menu, ordered your food, eaten an amazing meal and now you need the bill. Surprise your waiter by asking for it in your best Cypriot.

Greek Cypriot – Tha borusa na ekho to loghargh’asmo?

Turkish Cypriot – Hesabi alabilir miyim, lutfen?

10. 'What time is it?'

Gone are the days of wearing watches, your phone battery is dead and you desperately need to know the time so you don’t miss the last bus back to your hotel.

Greek Cypriot – Ti wra einai?

Turkish Cypriot – Saat kac?

11. 'Cheers'!

Every culture has its own particular rituals to celebrate the start of drinking, yet the basic idea remains the same the world over. Raise your glass, clink with your friends and say…

Greek Cypriot – Stin iya mas!

Turkish Cypriot – Serefe!

12. 'Please'

Manners are universal and saying please will turn any question from a rough demand into a gracious request.

Greek Cypriot – Parakalo

Turkish Cypriot – Lutfen

13. 'Good Morning'

Head down to breakfast and greet the hospitable hotel staff with a bright and breezy morning greeting before sitting down and enjoying a traditional Cypriot breakfast including bread, halloumi, eggs, olives and tomatoes.

Greek Cypriot – Kalimera

Turkish Cypriot – Gunaydin

14. 'Goodbye'

If you’ve already memorised the Greek Cypriot word for ‘hello’ you’re in luck as they use the same word when bidding goodbye. The Turkish version is a bit more of a tongue twister, but with practice, it’ll be rolling off your tongue in no time. Remember to say goodbye to each person individually when leaving.

Greek Cypriot – Yah sou

Turkish Cypriot – Allahaismarladik

15. 'My hovercraft is full of eels'

Hijacked from a Monty Python sketch in the TV comedy show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, this phrase is used in a sketch about a badly translated English-Hungarian phrasebook. It’ll both impress your friends and make the locals laugh when they ask you to say something in Cypriot.

Greek Cypriot – To hoverkraft mu ine gemato helia

Turkish Cypriot – Hoverkraftim yilan baligi dolu

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