Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

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Cyprus Cost of Living #3

April 16, 2010

The phone and internet bill is due once more.

Actually, it feels like there is always a phone & internet bill due; billing is monthly in arrears and is meant to be paid manually, so in the store 30 minutes drive away or at an ATM which is also 30 minutes drive away.  In the previous house our bill came in three parts, in three envelopes so a massive 36 phone bills every year.  Happily we now get a consolidated bill so just a dozen a year.

Our connection is with Cyta who, until fairly recently, pretty much had the market sewn up.  The four month process to get a phone line installed in the house in Aradippou doesn’t bear re-counting, suffice to say that it generated a number of grey hairs all round.  When we moved to the hills we rather expected that we would have to do without a broadband connection.  The bigger village further up the valley has broadband but the lower village is so small we didn’t expect it here.  A discussion with Cyta however confirmed that broadband was available.  Later, whilst talking with one of the engineers it became clear why.

Ahhh, I know your village.  When broadband was first rolled out one of the Ministers had a house there that he used on weekends.  He needed a broadband connection so it was installed there before most other places!

Such is life here.  This time it worked in our favour so we just smiled and said no more.

So, there is broadband but in comparison to the UK it is both slow and expensive.  To have a connection via Cyta we have to have a phone line through them, even though we no longer use a land line.  Mobile, or cell, phone packages are so cheap here that we use those pretty much exclusively.  So we are paying for a phone line that we don’t want or need.

All told the monthly bill comes to a little over 50€ (£45, $65 at the time of writing) for a 1 Meg connection.  600€ per annum seems an awful lot for what is a pretty slow connection.

For a while we’ve been talking about whether there’s a solution and in the last month there’s been talk of a couple of other providers who either offer better packages for similar money or would allow us to drop the land line and save on the cost there.  One isn’t available in our village but another looks like it might be suitable.  Ignoring upfront costs it looks like we could double the connection speed whilst reducing the costs by somewhere between 20-30% per month.  That has to be a saving worth having.

The company are inundated with new applications at the moment so it will make sense to wait for a month or two until things settle down.  Then the battle to extricate ourselves from Cyta, as well as try to reclaim the deposit we were required to leave with them when we first opened our account.  From memory it was £100CYP, so 171€ and this a deposit that is only requested for non-Cypriots.

For an island where internet usage is still relatively rare, less than 20% of the population have computers and less than 15% of households have internet access, it’s not surprising that the market isn’t as developed as elsewhere.  It is an example however of one of those areas where costs are unexpectedly high.

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Cyprus Cost of Living #2

March 26, 2010

We were due in town for an appointment this morning; an early appointment.

Despite many years as corporate wage slaves we have adapted, far too easily, to a gentler life here so early starts hit hard.  Apologies to those readers who have morning commutes.  We’re out of practice, ok?

We were in town before 8am, having left home not much after 7am, only to discover that the plans of the guy we were meeting had changed.  Could we re-schedule for 11am and he’d try to see us then?  Hmmm no choice on our part really, it was a “take it or leave it” sort of offer.  So, we headed off to run some errands and tried again at 11am.  “Sorry, something else has come up.  Try 1pm.”  In the end we got 10 minutes with him a little after 1 o’clock.  Had we known that’d happen the day would have been very different, but no matter.

Meanwhile having been in the centre of town in time for the first, delayed, appointment we had time to kill.  But we also had a list of errands that could be done should such a thing happen.  When the meeting was shifted back to 1pm we dug deeper into the list and knocked off a whole host of other small jobs.

We go into the weekend with a fridge full of fruit and veg, an empty postbox, a tour of famous local church under our belts, a first catch-up with a friend post-surgery, our once-a-year long and lazy Starbucks coffee fix satiated and a clean car.

We also took the chance to drop into a sportswear store in town and do the annual stocking up on trainers – runners or sneakers to our North American readers.

Long experience has shown that, for both of us, Reebok are the best choice.  The fit is good for us both and there are enough styles to be able to find sturdy enough soles to cope with the off-track walking that we do regularly.  The rough ground and vegetation that we typically walk over and through, known colloquially as bondu, can be fierce on both clothing and footwear.  Having a good thick running or walking shoe goes some way to offsetting that.

But buying running shoes?  Well, that’s somewhere near the bottom 10% of enjoyable jobs during the year.  It’s a necessary, and usually, expensive evil.  Who’d do that by choice?

But today we were round the corner from one of the more useful stores and we had time to kill and, frankly, the job was so overdue that existing trainers were starting to look rather tired.  So, we headed inside and started searching.

45 minutes later we walked out with two brand new pairs of Reeboks each.  Total cost?  125€ ($165, £110) at current exchange rates.  In the UK we’d expect to spend really quite a bit more than than; perhaps two or three pairs of trainers for that price.  To get four pairs seemed a bargain.

Once more, some things are much more expensive than the UK.  With some careful shopping some things are not, and perhaps not always the expected things.

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Cyprus Cost of Living #1

March 3, 2010

We’ve finally had a calculation for our 2009 rates.

For UK readers, this is the equivalent to the council tax and water rates.  For other readers this is our contribution to communal village costs, village improvements, water consumption and the cost of our twice weekly refuse collection.

For 2009 the total bill is 170€, or 14€ a month.

At today’s exchange rates that is about $230 or £155.  For the entire of 2009.

Sadly, we are being charged an 11€ penalty for failing to pay the bill before the end of the the year.  That we didn’t actually receive a bill is a moot point and, considering the total charge, it seems rather churlish to complain about the penalty.  According to village gossip the penalty is fixed; so, if we choose not to pay the rates for another 6 months the penalty will still be 11€.

In the previous house our water was metered.  Here, is seems, it is included in the village costs.  Maybe we should get a swimming pool?

There are some things that are significantly more expensive here than in England.

This, clearly, is not one of them.

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Paphos, Cyprus, runs out of petrol

February 25, 2010

The Cyprus petrol station strike continues.

Paphos now has no petrol, according to the the Cyprus Mail.

PAPHOS residents have become the unwitting pawns in the ongoing face-off between the Commerce Minister and petrol station owners, who have shut up shop over a freeze in petrol prices.

Many motorists are down to the last drops of fuel in their tanks, with no way of filling up.

Not a single petrol station was open in the coastal town yesterday, with locals resorting to carpooling and skipping work altogether, rather than run the risk of running out of petrol.

The town seems to be forgotten, with at least two stations open in the rest of the island’s major towns.

A police spokeswoman told the Cyprus Mail, “It’s a real problem for us – we have so many people calling us and shouting that they have no petrol, but it’s not our fault.

Neither side, the petrol station chains nor the government, show any signs of backing down yet.

The umbrella organisation for the petrol stations is now demanding that the oil companies compensate them for losses incurred during the strike.

President of POVEK’s petrol station operators’ section, Stefanos Stefanou, said his members’ main demand now is that the estimated €150,000-200,000 cost of the price-cap for the eight days covered by the order should be borne by the oil companies, whose wholesale prices to the station operators are determining the price at the pump.

Cyprus Weekly reports that government officials are meeting this morning to discuss the situation.

NICOSIA – The House Commerce committee is this morning discussing the island-wide petrol station strike.

The strike has created chaos and inconvenienced motorists, since Tuesday, following a decree by Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides imposing a ceiling on pump prices.

A bill by Edek that would allow the Minister to issue a decree for a ceiling on wholesale prices by petrol companies will be tabled at the House.

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Petrol station strike – update

February 24, 2010

Update as at Wednesday evening.

The strike has taken firm hold.  Yesterday government officials calculated that around 20% of petrol stations were still open; today there appear to be less than a handful.

There are active discussions on some of the Cyprus forums regarding which are open and have stocks.  For anyone on the island needing petrol this might be of use as the situation is changing by the hour.

The discussion on the Eastern Cyprus forum can be found here, and here on Cyprus Living.

The Cyprus Mail quote the Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides:

Paschalides said that the government had “fulfilled its duty to the consumer” by issuing its order on Monday to cap fuel prices at 95 cents a litre for 95-octane petrol, 97 cents per litre for 98-octane petrol, and 87.5 cents per litre for low-sulphur diesel.

As consumers who are stranded in a village with no shops we’re not entirely sure how we feel about the Commerce Minister’s support at this time;-)

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Sorry … what?

December 16, 2009

Oxygen is the answer!

Excuse me?  “The Oxygen answer for a healthier” what exactly?

Slightly worryingly, this flyer was put into a bag with some purchases at our local pharmacy.  The advert seems to be for concentrated oxygen tablets.

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Olives from the tree

December 4, 2009

Chaos theory at its finest.  Isn’t it strange how two random observations can come together in the mind?

A week or two ago cyber-friends Chris & Catherine updated their blog, The World is our Lobster.  At the risk of a paraphrase too far, they decided to step out of the rat race and take a different track.  They sold their home, quit their jobs and bought a camper van to allow them to tour Europe.  Actually, the order was rather different and a massive amount of planning went into their adventure.

They are currently in Italy, in Hector the campervan, having done about 4,500 miles so far.  Their intention is to visit all 47 countries in Europe; for an explanation of how they decided on 47 it’d be best to read their RAQs/FAQs.  All being well we hope to see them in Cyprus early next spring.

While they were back in Northern Italy Catherine complained that her idyllic image of wandering through olive grove was being ruined by the olive harvest.  Poor old Hector’s roof was, once more, at risk from falling things as they were parked under a tree due to be harvested.

However, keen to see the benefits of all the work that goes into harvesting olives they tried olives straight from the tree … and were not impressed.

“Four hours for one tree! I taste an olive and it’s disgustingly bitter, obviously the cheap oil variety rather than the marinate-in-garlic type.”

We sometimes exchange emails with them after each weekly update but didn’t get a chance that week.  Had we been able we intended to mention that olives are not edible straight from the tree, not something we knew until we arrived here.   They need to be split and washed and soaked in a brine solution.  The brine solution needs to be changed every three days.  This part of the process takes at least a couple of weeks.  Then, and only then, are the olives fit to be tasted and possibly flavoured.

All of which begs the question;  who first discovered that the olive becomes edible when treated in this way?

Anyway, we didn’t get the chance to email them and then the moment passed and then the whole thing disappeared from the mind.  Until this week, thanks to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.

Their Personal Finance section has a regular finance/entertainment cross-over piece where a celebrity is asked about how they handle money.  Articles typically cover types of investments, property purchases, financial mistakes, the importance of family and lessons learnt.

This week’s interviewee was Peter Andre.  Peter has strong ties to Cyprus, his family are Greek Cypriot and many of them still live on the island.  He visits regularly and he refers to it as his second home; he and his ex-wife Jordan/Katie Price built a large house over towards Pervolia.  During his acrimonious separation from his wife he came to the island to be with by his extended family.  Occasionally we see him and members of his family in Larnaca.

In the Telegraph he comes across as surprisingly level headed.  Presumably the reason for agreeing to the article was to put behind him much of the recent speculation and gossip about his life.  The aim of the piece seems to be to get across how down to earth he is.  How important family is to him.  How he’s worked hard to stay close to his roots.

WHAT DIFFICULT LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT MONEY?

I think the biggest problem people have is spending money before they earn it. If you learn to live so big, there will come a time when the money isn’t flowing in, so what do you do?

Yes, I do have a beautiful home in Cyprus, and dad and I like to sit outside and eat olives right from the tree. We do love the simple things. Making a conscious effort like that does make it easier to adapt your lifestyle if you’re ever forced to.

So, until we moved here we didn’t know the work that goes into making olives edible.  Neither did our fellow cyber-blogging friends.  But Peter Andre … how is it he, with his time spent here and with his family and still close to his roots, didn’t know?

The full interview is here.  We’ll leave you to wonder whether one careless statement may lead to people wonder about the remainder of the piece.