WHEN people say that mentality never changes, I usually play devil’s advocate and support the contrary, despite my admission that it takes a dramatic event to alter the mindset of the general population. Something so dramatic, for example, as for a country to arrive at the brink of destruction and on the verge of bankruptcy. This is exactly what happened to Cyprus, and no matter how hard some circles try to convince us that our suffering – which we are already beginning to experience – is the fault of others, we, the system and our mentality are equally to blame. And lately, I have started to believe that the events of the past months were not dramatic enough.
Recently, I found myself with a friend at a beach restaurant/bar in Larnaca, which offers its customers the opportunity to select from a limited menu of drinks and light lunches, even serving them right on the sea-front. At around lunchtime we too decided not to abandon our privileged post on the beach (wave-front sunbeds) and to order something that the restaurant was offering. And that is where all of our “odyssey” began.
It took about 15-20 minutes and a lot of effort before we could grab the attention of one of the four or five waiters (all Cypriots by the way). With that task complete, it took even more effort to get someone to take our order – two sandwiches and a drink. Simple order, I hear you say, and we were sure to get what we ordered soon. However, 35 minutes later we had not received any of it, and I politely asked a waiter what was holding up our order. He said he would check what the problem was, and while someone might have expected him to return and brief us on how our order was progressing, another 15 minutes elapsed, during which people that had ordered after us were getting trays of food and drinks.
Extremely disgruntled, I got up and informed the same waiter that he had to cancel the order because we would be leaving. We packed up our things, went through the ritual of washing the sand off our feet, and while we were departing another waiter arrived holding a tray of drinks and inquiring whether we had ordered something. I plainly informed him that it has already been an hour since we did so and I had cancelled the order.
My grievance is not with the delay, mistakes happen and something clearly went wrong. The problem is the treatment I received as a paying customer. The lack of awareness for the customer’s needs, the total lack of service, the indifference displayed – both when I was cancelling the order and when I was informing the last waiter that we were leaving, I was met with a shrug of the shoulders and an “oh well” mentality – the overall mindset. And these are not isolated incidents, nor are they limited to the services sector. This is the general picture of Cyprus.
In the streets, in our homes, at our workplace. As if others should adjust to us and our whims or even our impotence. That others – the “immigrants stealing our jobs” – are of a lower cast, despite their capacity to excel at what they do.
Without the superiority complex that pervades many “locals.” This is where I stopped to believe that the mentality and way things operate in Cyprus could ever change. And I started seeing a country and its people joyfully prancing towards the abyss. Because when we finally wake up, like has happened countless other times, it will be too late.
In the end we visited another restaurant for lunch, where the service was impeccable and where coincidentally none of the waiters was a Cypriot. Needless to say that everything we had ordered was at our table in under 20 minutes from being seated.
Kyriakos Demetriou, Communication Consultant/Political Analyst