‘I’m just trying to live off the peanuts I’m given!’ ALIX NORMAN looks at why the island’s youth are struggling financially, and the cost cuts they’re using to survive

 

In a recent study, 40 per cent of Cypriots admitted it was either “very difficult or difficult to cope on their present income.”

Another 40 per cent revealed they were just about managing.

A mere 20 per cent said they could live comfortably on their monthly salary!

Along with Latvia, Cyprus scored the highest in these rankings. And, apparently, it’s getting worse – especially for the island’s younger generations!

Expert economist and financial analyst Les Mansion recently highlighted Cyprus’ youth unemployment rate of 16 per cent. He noted the challenges of getting on the property ladder; a tax system that places a heavier burden on young people; and “wide and increasing income inequalities between the younger and older generations.”

In short, for anyone under the age of 40, it’s a bleak outlook.

But Cyprus is nothing if not a place of resilience. Countless invasions and conflicts throughout history have made this a land of creativity in the face of hardship. Faced with rocketing rents, low salaries and a rising cost of living, the island’s younger residents are finding clever ways to cope…

“We are the hustle generation,” says Pascale Farah. “We have to hustle every day simply to survive.”

From the age of 19, Nicosia resident Pascale has always had at least two jobs. Currently, she’s both an administrative assistant and a small business owner, and spends all her spare time creating hand-poured, eco-friendly soy candles…

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“If it weren’t for Pixie Flames, I couldn’t cope financially,” says the 30-year-old. “February was particularly bad: I had rent, food, electricity, water, internet and phone. I needed an MOT, which meant new tyres. And then I got the flu, and had to drop €50 on vitamins and medicine. Not one single cent went on my personal life.”

Pascale suggests that everything from inflation to conflict to viruses is pushing expenses up and salaries down. And for those who don’t have the luxury of family money, life is punishing.

“I finish work at 4pm, rest for an hour, then start making candles. And every second weekend I host four workshops. I really love what I do,” she adds. “But by the time Sunday evening rolls around, I can’t feel my legs. I’m constantly exhausted; I can’t remember the last time I went out; and I hardly get to see my loved ones anymore.”

The European Social Survey suggests that 52 per centof Cypriots are either ‘often or always too tired after work to enjoy things they like doing at home’ and 48 per cent admit their job ‘often or always prevents them from giving time to their partner’!

“If you can’t start a sideline, or find a major cost to cut, you’re in trouble,” says Harry Demetriou.

The 24-year-old architect opted for the latter. “I sold my car to fund my degree and never looked back,” he reveals. “I’m young and broke; I’m just trying to live off the peanuts I’m given. There’s simply no budget for a vehicle!”

The average monthly cost of operating a car in Europe (including petrol, maintenance, road tax, insurance and MOT) ranges from €364 in Hungary to €708 in Norway. Data for Cyprus is unavailable.

But, on top of the initial outlay – “even third-hand vehicles have rocketed in price; have you seen Bazaraki?” – Harry reckons he’s saving about €300 a month. “Plus, with traffic these days, I reckon I’m actually getting around town faster by walking!”

Food is another major cost, especially with disrupted supply lines causing prices to soar.

The latest report suggests a monthly shop costs €270 per person in Cyprus (slightly higher than in the UK, and considerably above both Spain and Italy).

But Nicosia web developer Nas Andronicou and founder of wildonecyprus.com has discovered how to eat (almost) for free!

picture of 'to hani' co living space for further down

Shared living space To Hani

“Growing up in Surrey, we had a big garden full of everything that reminded my mum of Cyprus: plums, apple, pears, loganberry, all sorts of veg. I was always out weeding and planting! So when I moved back to the island, the first thing I did was start my own garden – and learn to forage locally…”

Though 39-year-old Nas still buys the odd cut of meat, he grows beetroot, garlic, aubergine, chillies, cucumbers, tomatoes, lemons, clementines and herbs. “And, according to the season, I forage,” he adds.

“Few people know how many greens grow in the fields of Cyprus: dandelions, wild asparagus, mallow, sorrel, thistles – all are very filling and highly nutritious. You have to get your eye in, learn where and what to look for. But once you do, you can get away with buying hardly anything – just flour really. If I wanted,” he acknowledges, “I could live almost entirely off the land.”

Meanwhile, in the hills above Limassol, 35-year-old Christy Melinioti’s unique co-living space tackles what is often the biggest expense: rent.

While the monthly cost of a simple city studio is roughly €1,500, To Hani offers residents a fully-furnished bedroom, private bathroom, utilities, activities, and skillshares for less than €1,000 per month. Residents stay for a few months at a time, and include everyone from digital nomads to remote or hybrid workers from Limassol.

“What co-living offers is value,” says Christy. “Rather than sitting alone in your cramped city flat, paying for a co-working space and nights out, you’re part of a vibrant countryside community where everything is included in the price. For younger people, co-living is the future!”

26-year-old graphic designer Zoe Monioti does rent her own flat. “But all I can afford is an unfurnished one-bed,” reveals the Larnaca resident. “There’s no money left over for IKEA! So I took to dumpster diving…”

“My parents live near a posh area, so when I visit I always drive round the big houses to see what’s outside. I’ve furnished half my flat with things rich people have dumped on the street!” she laughs.

While Zoe would draw the line at a mattress, she’s picked up several armchairs, an antique desk, and two working lamps.

“Once, a yummy mummy even asked how much I wanted to take her nearly new sofa. Is that how you live when you’re rich? I can’t see that happening to my generation!”