There’s a rather intriguing thread on the expat forum regarding Cyprus which at first glance may look fairly irrelevant but as you read more and more of a thread you begin to understand exactly what it is all about. In essence the thread is a criticism of foreigners in Cyprus who do not understand the language, place names or other issues regarding the country itself. The headline “Pafos or Paphos but not Pathos” is a dig at the way non-locals spell the names of towns and cities in Cyprus.
When in Rome do as the Romans
As you read the thread one of the main criticisms which appears time and time again is the fact that more and more foreign visitors to places such as Cyprus do not do their homework before relocating full-time. Many of the locals in Cyprus are both insulted and disappointed by the fact that many foreigners did not even take the time to learn how to spell place names and other simple words. But then again why did the Cypriot authorities created a department within the government to amend the spelling of places such as Paphos – now Pafos?
One of the main issues regarding the creation of a government department to standardise the spelling of place names in Cyprus was the fact that many tourists and expats were becoming very very confused. It appears that the translation of the names of certain towns and cities into English had caused more problems than it had solved so the government decided to standardise spelling in Cyprus and effectively “adjust” the spelling of place names to align them with how they were spoken.
As a consequence we saw a number of name changes which included:-
Paphos to Pafos
Larnaca to Larnaka
Nicosia to Nikosia
While it will take some time for the new spellings to filter through the Cypriot community, tourist community and expat community, in the meantime they are still causing significant problems with new visitors to the region. It would appear that many motorway signs have still not been changed and often reflect the old spelling of certain places as opposed to the new spelling which is now appearing on the vast majority of maps and in tourist guides.
There are some amusing tales of tourists looking for towns and cities on the motorway only to find they have passed a turnoff on numerous occasions without actually knowing where they were going. However, this light-hearted approach to the situation does have potentially serious consequences for motorway safety and the ability for Cyprus to attract more and more tourist in the future.
Adapting for overseas visitors
While each and every country around the world, which depends upon tourists and overseas investors, would normally accommodate non-nationals in some shape or form, very few have, or would, go as far as changing the spelling of place names. The fact that the Cypriot government has a specific department looking to align the spelling of place names is a reflection of how serious the issue could be, and the effect it could have on overseas investors and overseas visitors.
There was also a very interesting comment regarding the fact that many British expats are more than happy to join up with fellow expats in Cyprus and remain in their own little “community”. Turning this argument full circle, one of the main criticisms which British residents have of overseas visitors to the UK is the fact that many smaller foreign communities have appeared and continue to grow in the UK. It is a constant criticism by the UK public that many of these visitors, and many of those who’ve lived here for years, are not willing or not able to engage in the local culture and in some cases the local language. This is the argument which many Cypriots have regarding British visitors to their country.
Are the English lazy when it comes to foreign languages?
While the UK may be a relatively small country when compared to the likes of France, Germany, America and the vast array of other powerful nations around the world, the English language is one of the rock beds of the worldwide community. In many ways this has made English tourist and English overseas investors “lazy” with regards to local languages because there is a significant chance that the locals will have learnt English as their second language. But should this really be enough to stop English visitors learning a foreign dialect?
Aside from the fact that not being able to speak the local language will limit how you are able to embed yourself into the local community and the local culture, many locals find this disrespectful to their country and their community. The last thing you want to do when moving overseas is to distance yourself from the local community because you will miss out on a significant part of the experience of living in the country of your choice. Do not forget that you chose the country you moved to and you chose it for a reason.
The power of money
Even though the worldwide economy is struggling at the moment, the power of money has changed the make-up of many overseas economies. The need to accommodate foreign visitors and foreign investors has become paramount for many of the smaller countries around the world which require significant long-term investment into their economy. This has to some extent seen some countries around the world “give up” some of their local culture, their local styles and their local practices to accommodate those from overseas.
Dubai is probably is one of the more outstanding examples of this particular movement although after the initial flood of investment began to die down, the local authorities have now decided to step in and “reintroduce” local cultures and local laws.
While this particular thread begins with a number of “tongue in cheek” comments regarding the spelling of various areas of Cyprus there is a serious undertone to the discussion. How accommodating should governments be of overseas visitors and overseas investors and what should they be expected to give up to attract significant interest?
This is an argument which could go on forever and ever as there are many arguments and many points to be made on both sides!