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Forget about the smiling. Speaking Greek would be more useful
‘We have the smile of satisfaction, happiness, success; the smile of fun, hospitality and service. There are so many different smiles but they all start from yours. Join the change of hospitality. Show the brighter side of Cyprus!’
This is part of a new campaign by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) to promote professionalism in all aspects of the tourist industry. Not a bad idea as our tourism industry definitely needs a major facelift and this may be a step in the right direction.
However, they seem to overlook what I, as a local, find irritating to say the least.
Recently I was holidaying for a few days at a hotel in the Famagusta area. On my first morning of lazying on the beach I decided to order a frappe. I called one of the ‘beach waiters’ and placed my order. In a rather rude way as if I had just insulted her intentionally she retorted, ‘English please’. I was gobsmacked!
When I complained to the hotel manager about this he told me that it was impossible to recruit locals as they found such jobs demeaning! With unemployment at 10% (and rising) I find this ridiculous but even if locals are unwilling to fill such jobs some basic Greek language training should have been a must for anybody working in the industry.
Some people will say that English is the most common language and since you were in a tourist area it was to be expected. This may seem a reasonable argument (not that I agree with it) but this language problem is not confined to the tourist areas.
Last Sunday I had gone with my son to a well-known restaurant in Nicosia where 99% of its customers are locals. Our waiter did not speak a word of Greek. We would order in Greek and he would reply in English pointing his finger on the menu to make sure of what we ordered. Yesterday I was at the pool of one of the capital’s hotels with some friends, only this time our pool waiter was not very proficient in English either, so we resorted to a combination of Greenglish and sign language.
When this did not work either, one of us had to go to the Pool Bar to place our rather complicated order of a couple of frappes and ice-tea!
I am no racist but when you are in your own country and you have to speak another language to get a drink I find this insulting. Imagine going to a pub in London and you order a pint of lager, only for the Spanish bartender to tell you ‘Spanish please’. Last month I was on a Greek island (Spetses) and I did not have to utter one word of English. All involved in the tourist sector on the island were Greeks from the waiters to the pool assistants to the guides, even the people washing the dishes in the restaurant kitchens!
CTO should at least demand that those working in the leisure industry have a basic knowledge of Greek, and then they can smile all they want.