Life in Cyprus by an Army wife who REALLY didn’t want to move overseas
by Carolyn Aggar, former AFF Regional Manager Cyprus
Historically, Army life and I haven’t seen eye-to-eye. Soon after meeting my husband, he deployed on a tour overseas for four months. Then came the real bombshell…he was posted to Cyprus in a few months’ time.
I guessed there were worse places to live, but worried that, as a girlfriend, I couldn’t go.
We got married eight weeks later and before long I had my first experience of military life – sitting by myself in the departure hall at Brize Norton, with a load of people in scary looking uniform, while my husband was whisked away for a drugs test!
“Wonderful”, I thought. “They better not drugs test me, I’m like a walking pharmacy!”
After a five-hour flight on ‘the Trooper’, we landed in Cyprus filled with excitement at our new adventure, and nervous being so far from home.
Our two-bed house was bigger than I’d expected, with a huge garden.
It was a good job we’d opted for Army furniture as our shipped items took six weeks to arrive. The wooden items were quite nice actually, and the carpet inoffensive… but that sofa and curtains! If matching soft furnishings are your thing, be prepared to use throws and buy new curtains.
Soon after arriving, I popped into the HIVE for useful information and numbers, and to sign up for job notifications. It was great to chat with Jo, the HIVE Information Officer, about what life in Cyprus was like.
A month later I became a co-ordinator for AFF. This was a god send as there’s only so much daytime television a woman can watch!
There aren’t as many job opportunities for spouses as in the UK, however, the education centre runs courses and there tends to be quite a few volunteering opportunities to keep you busy.
Life here can be very different.
Food is more expensive, and you may need to visit several different shops to get the best prices.
Surprisingly, if you’ve got a food intolerance or allergy, you might find the choice in the supermarkets is much better than expected. Many offer gluten and lactose free options.
Buying fruit, vegetables and olive oil direct from the farms also gives you a taste of Mediterranean life, while eating in local tavernas tends to be reasonably priced, and you must try a mezze.
If you don’t drive, then I’d consider learning.
Many bases are quite isolated – there’s no public transport near Episkopi for example, and although Dhekelia has a local bus service, getting about is limited.
My quality of life is much better here.
We spend lots of time out enjoying the weather and exploring everything the island has to offer. I’m less stressed and generally healthier than when I was in Surrey. We’re also much better off financially as we’re not paying the ridiculously-priced Surrey rent.
Though we don’t have children, there’s plenty to do for families and the fact that the schools, which are generally very good, start and finish earlier than in the UK, means that during the summer there’s time to spend at the beach.
But, don’t be fooled by the fact that Cyprus is a holiday destination.
Your soldier will work very hard and the daily chores still need doing – the only difference is that you might be doing them in 40-degree heat! Tip: you will need a portable air conditioning unit over summer.
So, if I could go back and decline the posting, would I? Absolutely not.
I love Cyprus and the lifestyle out here is a fantastic experience. Keep an open mind, embrace the culture and, hopefully, you’ll love it just as much as I do!