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Introverts: Cyprus’ misfits?

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‘I’ve spent much of my life feeling totally out of place, a misfit!’ Alix Norman looks at what it’s like to be an introvert in an extroverted country

Cyprus. Introverted or extroverted? It’s an easy answer, right? This is a nation that likes a good chinwag, stretches its coffee mornings into the afternoon, and has an Olympic-level dedication to social gatherings.

We love meeting up with relatives (Cypriots are the most family-oriented people in Europe!). We have more public holidays than any other country on the continent. And even when we’re not out and about, we’re deeply invested in our connections: 83 per cent of the population actively take to platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tiktok on a daily basis.

In fact, Cyprus is one of the most outgoing countries around, with a large part of the population reporting extroverted tendencies!

Roughly 55 per cent is the number given. But current studies aren’t rigorous, and the figure is suggested to be much higher. But we’re certainly more extroverted than near neighbours Greece (51 per cent extroverted) and Egypt (52 per cent). And on an extroversion par with Turkey.

In short, this is a nation that’s more outward-orientated; most of us derive energy from interacting with other people.

So where does that leave introverts – those who enjoy time alone or in small groups, and who recharge through solitude?

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Well, if you live in northern Europe, it’s less of a problem. Data shows that 51 per cent of the UK; 54 per cent of Germany, and a staggering 63 per cent of Lithuania are introverts. Russia also falls into this category (58 per cent introverted). So too do Italy (57 per cent introverted), Algeria (61 per cent introverted), and Brazil (60 per cent introverted) – which means introversion is clearly not all about the weather!

“It’s something you’re born as,” says Christina Georgiou. “Being an introvert isn’t a trait you develop. It’s who you are at your core. And in Cyprus – where your worth is often defined by how sociable you are, it can be quite challenging to be an introvert!”

She should know. A Doctor of Music, a Member of the European Film Academy, and an award-winning composer who’s written for films such as Chinatown: The Three Shelters and Fish and Chips, 43-year-old Christina has recently released the definitive album for those of her ilk. It’s called, quite fittingly, Introvert, and it will speak to anyone who’s ever felt out of place in an outgoing world!

“Like many other introverts, I’ve spent much of my life feeling totally out of place, a misfit!” Christina explains. “Society does tend to favour extroverts – the people who love being around others, chat away easily, and thrive on interaction.

“In Cyprus especially!” she laughs. “Here, you’re frequently expected to join in on family gatherings that include 20 aunts and uncles, 30 cousins, and sundry friends. It can be very draining for an introvert!”

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news for those who dislike constant societal stimulation.

Leading neuroscientist Friederike Fabritius, known for her work with Google, Deloitte and BMW, suggests that introverts are far more likely to be gifted than their extroverted counterparts. Over two thirds of those who exhibit above-average intelligence or a superior talent for something such as music, art or maths are introverts.

There’s a possible reason for this: a Harvard study found introverts’ brains work differently, are more active, and have thicker grey matter than those of extroverts. They can focus for longer, and tend to be more willing to put in the time to master a skill – Einstein famously said of his genius ‘It’s that I stay with problems longer’.

“I certainly feel that being introverted has been an advantage in my career,” says Christina. “I suspect that introverts tend to observe more, absorb more, process more. The same qualities that make us require time alone also enable us to be more creative: we see things that perhaps extroverts might miss; we take time to think about those things; and we feel the feelings more deeply, our own and others’.

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“Of course the difficulty comes when an introverted creative is required to self-promote,” she shudders. “In some ways, we’re so good at being the quiet one in the background that it can be hard to speak up for ourselves.

“For example, I’ve made a career out of tuning into other people’s projects: taking films or plays and creating music that elevates the narrative, enhances the emotion. A good score should complement the film so well that it becomes almost unnoticeable – part of the overall experience. So really, I’ve spent the last 20 years serving other people’s visions.”

It is she adds, a wonderful feeling; she’s happy to be part of a team contributing to a project.

“But I also have dreams,” she smiles. “And I decided it was time to make a start on those…”

Introvert is the first and only personal album that Christina has released thus far. Unlike her many commissioned works, it comprises eleven previously unreleased songs. All of which were penned, produced, recorded and (with the exception of two) were performed by Christina herself.

Written in a mix of English and Greek, these are the songs for those who prefer a good book to a packed cinema; an intimate dinner to a loud party. From ‘Fly Me to the Ground’ (with its velvety lo-fi feel, and soft vocals) to the breathy escapism of ‘Away’, these are the songs for those who find solace in solitude; an album that offers introverts a reflection of their inner world and a validation of their experiences.

“It was time,” Christina says. “For decades, we’ve been told this is an extroverts’ world – a place where you have to be loud and bold to get ahead.

“But I think perhaps things are changing: the pandemic made a lot of introverts realise that they no longer had to pretend to be outgoing; and the younger generation seem to prefer staying in to going out.

please use this cover of the album for further down“There’s a move towards accepting introverts that was never there before,” she concludes. “We’re quiet; we don’t shout. But we have a lot to offer.

“Maybe the world is waking up to the quiet power of introversion? Even,” she concludes, “in Cyprus!”

 

To listen to the entire album for free, visit christinageorgiou.hearnow.com/introvert or the YouTube channel Introvert

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