‘In Cyprus, when you’re rich, everyone wants to know you. If you’re not, good luck finding friends!’ Alix Norman meets the man helping the island form lasting friendships
Cypriots are the most family-oriented people in Europe. In a recent study, just three in 10,000 Cypriots claim to have no relatives. And more than 50 per cent get together with their kin on a daily basis.
But it’s a wildly different story when it comes to friends. According to the same research, seven per cent of the island’s lower earners (those who make less than €1,200 per month), have ‘no friends’. It’s by far the highest rate in Europe. And it intersects heavily with the younger sections of the population.
“I think it’s far more difficult for younger people to make friends,” says Andreas Koumoudis. “Whether you’re a Cypriot returning from university or a foreigner arriving on the island for a job, forming new friendships is hard for the under-40s – your childhood friend group has either dwindled, changed, or is now in another country.”
It’s a story that’s becoming increasingly familiar. A recent study found that adults need to spend 50 hours with each other to become casual friends, 200 hours to be bosom buddies.
“But how do you do that,” asks Andreas, “when you’ve lived abroad and developed interests that may not match those of your previous friends? Or you’re desperately trying to build your career and family, and you simply don’t have the money to go out and meet new people?”
Andreas is the founder of an exciting new app that remedies this situation. It’s called Vevivo, and it’s designed to take the hard work out of forming friendships by connecting you directly with others who share your interests.
Because in Cyprus, where family often substitutes for other relationships, real-life friendships can be few and far between.
“On this island, our endless aunts, uncles and cousins are a constant fall-back,” says Andreas. “But they may not always share your hobbies or passions; they may not understand the changes that studying or living abroad have wrought.
“You also need to factor Cyprus culture into forming friendships,” he adds. “I’ve lived in the States, in Europe. In bigger places, everyone is a stranger – and also, potentially, a friend! It’s more relaxed; there’s less social stigma attached to meeting up with someone you don’t really know!
“But here, you’re often sitting at home alone wondering where everyone went. And why you can’t find anyone to go to the movies with!”
This actually happened to Andreas. And it sparked the development of Vevivo.
“When Bladerunner came out, none of my friends were interested – I was the only one in my group who liked sci-fi. So I went to the cinema by myself. When the lights came on at the end, I looked around and saw loads of others were also alone. People who probably would have liked to go for a drink and discuss the film if only we were friends!”
Walking back home, Andreas began wondering how to meet people who shared his interests. He recalled friends who had a passion for table top gaming but didn’t know where to meet similar groups. Acquaintances who’d been searching for fellow climbers, yet couldn’t find people at their level. Students he’d known who were passionate about art but struggled to find local communities.
“Of course there’s the Meetup app,” he explains. “I’ve tried it myself. But you need to pay to organise an event, and often to attend as well. That’s hard if you’re a struggling student or on a lower salary. And Facebook, as a whole, is an incredibly bloated platform. You scroll and search, but may never come across the right group for you…
“That’s what’s different at Vevivo,” he reveals. “You’re not endlessly scrolling in the hope of finding someone who shares your interests, who might become a friend. You simply log in, state your interests, and then either find an event or organise your own. No money required!”
It’s a bit more complex than that, but the platform Andreas has launched is certainly an elegant solution. Best of all, it’s currently completely free to use and, in the future, will be monetised in the main by advertisers.
Andreas had the initial idea in 2018. Years of research, market exploration, app development, and team-building followed. And, in September 2023, backed by an angel investor, the four-strong Vevivo team launched their app.
Two months on, the app has already been featured at Reflect Festival and Cyprus Comic Con. And more than 1,000 users have joined, creating meet-ups all over the island.
“At Vevivo, we’re leveraging digital technology to get us back into the real world, creating the real-life engagement that many of us are so sorely missing,” says Andreas.
“So you could join a hub about cycling and immediately be invited to an upcoming meet. You could post about Warhammer and instantly encounter three other people who share your passion. Or you could join the table top gaming hub and start a jigsaw community to see if others want to exchange puzzles.”
Unlike other social channels, Vevivo doesn’t allow for the dumpster of memes, gifs and snarky comments that often populate online forums. Instead, it puts the focus firmly on real friendship.
“Vevivo,” Andreas asserts, “takes the fear out of friendship. In Cyprus, friends can be increasingly hard to find, especially for younger people without disposable income. But when you know you have something in common, it’s much easier to meet.”
Many of Vevivo’s users are university students, sports enthusiasts, and table top gamers. But the ultimate goal is to make the app a boon to everyone: couples, families, new arrivals on the island, older expats, tourists…
“In Cyprus, when you’re rich,” Andreas jokes, “everyone wants to know you. But if you’re not – if you’re just starting out, just moved here, or saving your pennies – good luck finding friends.
“Vevivo is free. So you don’t have to hang out at a café or a bar in the hope of meeting someone with your interests. Instead,” he concludes, “you can directly access like-minded people, and then organise your game night, hike, or basketball game.
“It makes it easier – and cheaper – to meet exactly the right people at exactly the right time. And, hopefully, make real-life friends who will last forever!”
For more information, visit www.vevivo.com. The app is available island-wide