Cyprus and the SE Asia Connection
Assuming that this gets by Stickman’s posting requirements – and there is a SE Asia connection – I submit this as an informational piece for ex-pats and potential ex-pats.
I moved to Cyprus about three and a half years ago, when I retired from a job that had made me cynical and jaded – and had indirectly cost me my marriage (but with, of course, a little help from my own shortcomings). Fortunately, my ex and my adult children and I are all good friends, and fortunately the Queen writes to me every month to say ‘thanks’ and sends me money (I’m lying about her writing to me, but not about the money – which is the important thing).
I should say at this stage that I am not keen on being called an ex-pat, because to many (not least me) it conjures up an image of unattractive ‘biggers’ (i.e. my house is bigger than yours, my pool is bigger than yours, etc.) who go to the supermarket every week, stock up on cheap gin and vodka, and spend the rest of the week in an alcoholic haze by the pool.
Cyprus has an enviable climate with, on average, about forty days of rain a year. This leads, of course, to severe water shortages but these do not affect Cypriots. They still wash down patios, cars and pavements because, as you quickly learn here, laws and regulations do not apply to Cypriots. And if you want to talk about corruption, laziness, bureaucracy …
Cyprus is a very small country (less than 1 million people), divided since 1974 and a member of the EU since 2004. It is very close to the Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Egypt and the local saying that ‘Cypriots are Arabs with their shirts tucked in’ may not be far wrong.
Cyprus is also known as ‘Fantasy Island’ because so many people come here with fantasies about what / who they were before they came here and what they are now and what they are going to be ….
In theory at least, Cyprus is a very proper, well-behaved and god-fearing country. The church has tremendous influence at all levels, from primary school onwards. It is a significant political and economic force in the country. It is also corrupt to the core, as is much of Cypriot society when the veneer is scratched off. ‘Family’ is a big thing here so – for example – whilst recorded child abuse levels are low, there is little doubt that that may be because things are kept ‘within the family’ to avoid disgrace. Divorce levels are fairly low because on marriage the bride and groom are given a house and / or land by the parents, and perhaps up to £100,000 cash by the wedding guests (no, not a misprint, up to one hundred thousand sterling).
‘Face’ is a big thing here – which is why many people have a big Mercedes parked in the drive while they sit inside and worry about how to keep up the payments.
And perhaps most telling of all, 30 years ago the family was extremely poor, running a goat farm (yes, they eat a lot of goat here) until suddenly they sold their land for many millions of pounds and a new hotel / timeshare complex / apartment bock was built.
My barber has a client who buys a new Mercedes every six months. He has a haircut about every three days. The client’s father sold his land, died a couple of years ago and left his only son the money, and the client (who was a goat farmer’s assistant a few years ago, left school with a less than basic education and has no social skills) has to find ways to fill his time.
In my opinion and experience, Cypriot men are some of the most racist and misogynistic in the world. When I first moved here, I asked a friend why Cypriot women were so concerned about clothes, looks, beauty treatments, cosmetic surgery, etc. The answer was that they were paranoid about maintaining their looks and attractiveness because if they didn’t they would lose their husbands.
There is a sex industry here – government sanctioned but denied. When Cyprus wanted to join the EU it had to put in place regulations to ‘curb’ (ha ha) money laundering. Russians and others with suitcases of dollar bills. But the problem of people trafficking was different – and continues. ‘Cabaret artistes’ have a special visa class (six months). ‘Cabarets’ are run by Russians or Cypriots and the weekly stories of arson or bomb attacks are usually centred around them. Years ago ‘artistes’ tended to be mainly Filipina, now they are usually eastern European and, of course, fellow EU citizens ….
And so (belatedly, sorry) to the SE Asia connection and particularly to the treatment of SE Asian women here.
Back home in the UK, I just would not have had the opportunity to interact with some of the people I have met here. For example the beautiful Brahmin Hindu girl from Kathmandu who works as a waitress here to get through university. In her own country she would not be allowed to even drink water that had been drawn by an ‘untouchable’.
In my local bar (and we don’t have ‘naughty’ bars here) I met a Filipina girl (woman, actually, she was 37) who worked there until it became too dangerous for her English employer and who introduced me to the Filipina ‘scene’ here. To put this in context, Cyprus immigration laws will allow a Filipina to come here to do a specified job for a specified employer. The visa lasts four years and the only permitted jobs are housemaid or care worker. If she leaves her employer as specified in the visa she (and her new employer) has thirty days to register the change or the work permit / combined residence visa is rescinded and she becomes illegal.
The minimum wage here for a ‘live-in’ housemaid is about £150 (sterling) per month. Working hours tend to be 6 am until 10 pm or later, six days a week. Meals are often the left-overs of what she’s cooked for her employers. Accommodation can often be shockingly bad (one I saw was like an outside garage would be in the UK, bare concrete walls with a mattress on the floor and a couple of nails in the wall for hanging clothes). Sunday is supposed to the ‘day off’ – and many Filipinas are practising Catholics who like to attend Mass – but I have met a few who were required to clean the house and cook on Sundays before they were released.
Curfews on ‘days off’ seem to be common, with the girls being required to be home by 5 pm (winter) or 6 pm (summer). Sunday afternoons in the central park, or round by the local Filipina store (where yes, they can buy ‘whitening’ soap) are a revelation. A local newspaper recently suggested that this an are / opportunity for prostitution. The local bowling alley is packed with Filipinas – they have their ‘OFW’ meetings there (OFW is the national association of overseas Filipina workers) and I found it all quite charming and in a way, naive. I was asked to be a judge recently in the ‘Miss Cute Filipina’ contest. They had rented a local theatre and there were hundreds of Filipinas / os there. I was treated like a VIP, and the entry requirement for the competition was that the girls had to be under 5’00” tall. Many had obviously spent many hours and much money on costumes. The girl who chose a sheer mini-dress with only a black thong underneath won. She recently married a bus driver from the UK but was shagging others the night before and the night after her wedding. Her new in-laws were here for the wedding and what could I do but agree that she was a beautiful, charming, good girl and wish the bride and groom all good luck?
Many Filipinas / Filipinos I have met are absolutely charming. Many have husbands / wives / children back home and send all their money back for support.
But there is a much, much darker side to all this.
Many employers (of all nationalities) believe that paying the minimum wage entitles them to all of the girls’ charms. Refusal can lead to dismissal – and remember that the girls have only 30 days to find a new employer and register until their visa / work permit expires and they can only work in specified jobs.
As they walk along the street – at any time of the day – taxis will pull up and offer them a ‘free’ ride in return for a BJ. (This happened to my Thai girlfriend many times. Her usual response was to tell them to fxxx off and offer to buy their taxi.)
The girls (no, people, just like you and me) can do a month’s work cleaning or whatever and don’t get paid – ‘You make a fuss and I’ll call Immigration’. A ‘date’ can lead to rape – ‘You make a fuss and I’ll call Immigration’.
And yet … they keep on smiling and get through. I have several Brit friends who have married Filipinas and are very very happy. It wouldn’t work for me because I need an intelligent, strong, opinionated woman to be equal in all things, not just someone to clean, cook, cut my toenails and … whatever.
But just to show that they can play the game – I have a Filipina friend. She is incredibly sexy but you could never pin down why – she just is. She has a husband and child in the Philippines, a Filipino boyfriend here and she is shagging her Cypriot employer. He (the Cyp) recently bought her a new scooter and a new mobile phone for her birthday. She went ballistic when she found that the phone was not the latest model! To make it worse, her Cyp employer’s wife went to the phone shop and found out who hubbie had bought the phone for … and decided to take the cost of the phone out of my Filipina friend’s wages for the next few months. Funny but sad – the Filipina has had four abortions so far – boyfriend doesn’t like wearing a party hat.
And to bring it back to context, the Thai community here is much smaller than the Filipinas. Both are abused, both are looked down on (bear in mind that Cyps who have never left the island have never seen a railway train, much less more advanced forms of civilisation) and are treated as third class citizens. But the Thais and the Filipinas have (in my experience) no sympathy for each other. I was told many times that ‘Filipinas will do anything for a man if they can get papers. Thai women will do anything for a man if they can get money’.
I have to say that the time I had a Filipina staying with me (long story, purely platonic) and I had a Thai GF visiting – and her Momma worked in the local Thai restaurant – the competition was such that I have never eaten better in my life ….
The plight of some Thais and Flips abroad is sad.