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North Cyprus Life – Banking


It has always been said that the French invented bureaucracy, so that may be, but to us who live here it seems that the Cypriots who have taken it to a stratospheric level! We have all encountered unwieldy working methods in civil service departments whilst living in Cyprus, and there is nothing that can be done about it but go with the flow. Life is too short to get upset about something that we cannot change. In time it may become less frustrating but as each civil servant tries hard to justify his job it seems unlikely in the near future.

Theoretically the banks should operate on a system that is somewhat easier to understand and I thought when I first opened an account here that it would be like the UK. Quick spin into the bank, stand in line, see next available teller, cash cheque and away again in a matter of minutes. How quickly I was disabused of this idea!Banking in North Cyprus

Because I am English, I am used to standing in an orderly queue awaiting my turn. Cypriots do not queue for anything. They just push in to an available gap and get served irrespective of where they are, whether it is in banks, shops or airport check-ins. Generally polite and reserved, the British on the whole will tolerate this and accept that this is Cyprus and we are guests here, therefore we put up with the way the system works and defer to our hosts. But there was light at the end of the tunnel. The Q-matic system was installed and everyone has to take a number and be seen in turn. Now it is the turn of the Cypriots to be frustrated as they have no chance to queue barge and if they do attempt it someone else, patiently waiting, and it could be a Cypriot or a foreigner, will explode into an unseemly fit of “queue rage.”

It still takes ages to visit the bank and transact ones business. Paying bills generates reams of paper that need signatures. Changing money from one currency to another does the same. Paying in money to an interest fixed term account can only be done on the day the account is brought up to date! Paying in a UK cheque WILL take twenty eight working days to clear into the local account. If it is a personal cheque it is easy to see that the funds will have been deducted from your account within about fourteen days but you will not get those funds placed into the local account until the full twenty days is up! So who is getting the benefit of the money during the interim period? It is a rhetorical question, as the answer is, the bank!

Negative points maybe, so what about the positive ones? In the UK, I go into my bank and speak to the teller through a piece of bullet proof glass. Money I am either withdrawing or paying in has to be placed in a drawer to be removed either by me or the teller. There is little conversation and certainly not a chance to catch up on local gossip. Here we have the chance for both. Once the Q-matic machine has dispensed my number I can sit in a comfortable chair and wait for my turn. There are always people to talk to, some maybe only ever seen on bank visits, and in a country that issues bills every month, these are frequent. There is always some choice item of news to exchange and soon the time passes. And when my number comes up, I don’t have to stand behind a bullet-proof screen, I sit down in another comfortable chair and exchange greetings with a girl who smiles and has time for me as an individual, who furthermore knows my name. And when I want to withdraw money from my account, she will get it out of a drawer in her desk, count it out and HAND it to me. This is Cyprus life, we must be grateful that it is not so tied up in security as other parts of Europe, and it is here to be enjoyed with all its quirkiness. Let us make the most of it because if the EU ever impinges its ridiculous rules here so much will change, and not necessarily for the better.

Lavinia Neville Smith
Lavinia Neville Smith
Lavinia Neville Smith first came to North Cyprus in 1995, and fell in love with the country and the Turkish Cypriot people. A self confessed dilettante, with a varied working career, it was not until she returned in 1997 and went into tourism that she was able to put to good use her knowledge of history, ancient and modern, acquired long ago at school. She is a co-author of the Landmark Visitors Guide to North Cyprus, and continues to promote this beautiful country as far afield as possible.