Americans in Cyprus?

Traveling to Cyprus, what immediately stood out to me was the lack of American influence and presence. I know that may sound naive or funny, but I had never traveled to a country where Americans were not everywhere. In my time here, I have been the first American someone had ever met, and that came as both a privilege and a surprise.

My shock first came when I was in line at the airport entering the country. In the “all other passports” line, no one else around me had an American passport. Sure, there were plenty of nations represented, but I was surprised when the immigration authorities say “wow, you came a long way to get here.”  That, followed by taking a bus driving on the left side of the freeway, reminded me I was far away from home. As school began, most of the students from around Europe met Americans, but many of the actual Cypriots were very surprised to meet Americans. However, this makes sense. When talking to friends about going abroad in Cyprus, many had not heard of the island or about its unique history–but this all spans from the fact that there are few “Cypriot-Americans” and that the island is relatively small economically and geopolitically. 

It still feels weird when someone says “wow, you are the first American I have ever met!” I definitely appreciate their excitement, but also I anticipate all the questions they have for me as well. Everyone wants to know about American football, our universities, our healthcare system, and our governmental branches. Truly, it’s an honor to help educate and share about our amazing nation. Still, it’s difficult. America is such a huge nation with amazing diversity and often it can be hard to capture exactly what America is when I speak to a foreigner. Further, it’s always interesting to hear what American events receive coverage in news and see how our culture reflects on theirs. 

With every question and inquiry comes the opportunity to learn, and I have been sure to take full advantage. Whether it’s about press coverage or healthcare, I am always sure to ask back what they think about America as an outsider and how their system works as well. In a way, their own inquiries have allowed me to learn more about America and Cyprus as a whole, and I am very grateful for all the wonderful people and conversations I have had here.

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