Culture Impacting Health: Melody Tsai

Author: Melody Tsai

Despite only having been in Cyprus for less than two weeks, the culture here on the island has already made quite an impression – the similarities and differences to American culture have been somewhat surprising, but I have been conscious about keeping an open mind about them. In particular, lifestyle practices related to the third Sustainability Development Goal (SDG), promoting the health and well-being of people of all ages, have stood out to me. Upon exiting the Cyprus airport, one of the first observations I made was about how the bus parking area was filled with people smoking or vaping. Within the next few days, it became clear that smoking and vaping are much more prevalent throughout Cyprus, with very few “no smoking” signs in sight. This is a stark contrast to what I am used to seeing at home and on campus, where smoking is prohibited in nearly all indoor spaces and many outdoor areas. It has been difficult to reconcile this difference because of the known health risks associated with smoking, but it is just the norm here. However, other aspects of the Cypriot lifestyle counterbalance the effects of smoking, per data that shows good health of Cypriots compared to the rest of the European Union and the United States.

Walking and good diet are factors that appear to contribute to higher life expectancy and lower occurrence of disease among the Cypriot population. On the second day in Cyprus, I walked over twenty thousand steps, which is more than the total number of steps I had taken in the two weeks before departure. A couple of days later, the historic field experience we had in central Pafos further exemplified the regularity of walking – while there are many cars around, there are sidewalks everywhere and many people are always out walking. It seems that the area’s walkability serves to promote a healthy lifestyle and preserve the millennia-deep history. Aspects of the typical diet in Cyprus were evident throughout this experience as well – on the walk, we saw many fruit trees grown around homes, such as lemons, papayas, and pomegranates. Then, we ended this trip with dinner at a restaurant specializing in Cypriot souvlaki, which was served in a pita bread with cucumbers, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and lemon. Although these aspects of diet aligned with my expectations of a Mediterranean Diet, other meals I have had on this trip surprised me. For example, fries are one of the most common sides for Cypriot dishes, as they are in the US, likely due to British influence. Despite this, fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, and olive oil prevail, as shown by the health and longevity of Cypriots. While the prevalence of smoking is high here in Cyprus, the integration of physical activity and healthy diet in the typical lifestyle here has positive effects on the health of both Cypriots and tourists.

Culture Impacting Health: Grace Simon

Author: Grace Simon

The ugly American is the offensive behavior of an American traveler abroad. While not all abroad travelers are depicted as ugly and offensive, the cases that tourists have been deemed disrespectful it is difficult to overcome that stigma. Since being abroad, and even when preparing for this trip, I have been mindful of the cultural differences between the U.S. and Cyprus and been attempting to avoid developing the “ugly American” stigma.

One of the biggest cultural differences that I have noticed in the short time I have been in Cyprus is the speed of the day. In the United States there is constantly a push for doing tasks in the most effective and efficient way as possible. In this efficiency there is little downtime to appreciate what is going on in our daily routines. In Cyprus, the community and people are much more relaxed and calmer, the people in the towns are not in a rush and taking time to be mindful of where they are at in life and their surroundings. One of the ways I have seen this is the number of outdoor physical activities is much more prevalent in Cyprus. On our first day here, we walked along the sea and saw multiple stands for watersports that were affordable and even a free outdoor gym, available for all residents located right on the boardwalk.

The main emphasis I would place on these activities is the availability and affordability of these items. The various activities being affordable make it much easier for people to access them and utilize their benefits. Being outside and getting active is not only good for physical health but it consequently improves mental health as well.

More positive health outcomes in Cyprus may be linked to their more available outdoor activities and the lack of stress and anxiety that are present in the culture here.

The attached photo of the outdoor gym shows the accessible possibilities for the members of the community.

Culture Impacting Health: Annie Silleck

Author: Annie Silleck

Since arriving in Cyprus, I have had many opportunities to learn about cultural differences compared to the United States. As an American from the United States, I have definitely experienced culture shock coming to this new, lively environment. In the nursing health and wellness class, I have been introduced to the international Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and I am beginning to notice these efforts in action. The Cypriots directly and indirectly focus on the SDG of Good Health and Well-Being.

Outdoor gym on the boardwalk of Pafos Harbor

The Cypriots embrace the SDG of health and wellness in many aspects around the island. The location on the Mediterranean allows for easy access to water and outdoor activity, as well as ideal weather for outdoor health and wellness activities. The Cypriots in Pafos have established a free, outdoor exercise area along the main boardwalk but the harbor. This was so exciting to see as someone from the United States because we do not have many set-ups like this in the States that I am aware of. This exercise area is easily accessible through public transportation, walking paths, and bike paths. The equipment is open to all and designed to withstand weather (along with a great view of the sea). This is crucial to promoting health and wellness through having a place to exercise cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health. In the United States, while some parks have spaced out gym equipment to do pull-ups and a few other functional workouts, I have yet to see a completely free gym on the beach!

Students enjoy walking around Old Pafos

We have had the opportunity to interact with many local Cypriots and it is fascinating to learn about their lifestyles and mindsets. People here are very active, and the city is built so that individuals are able to walk and interact with others in the community. There are many opportunities to be active including the Mediterranean Sea, outdoor gyms, parks, pools, functional gym equipment, walking paths, bike paths, etc. As a guest and student in Cyprus, I have been able to increase my overall activity levels while being here for the past week. I imagine that in the next two weeks I will continue to increase my activity levels as I get to know the area as I am more comfortable with this new environment. The locals and other tourists are incredibly kind and are always willing to give advice and tips about the area, as well as resources that are available to guests on the island of Cyprus

Culture Impacting Health: Nathan Sheridan

Author: Nathan Sheridan

Arriving in Cyprus, you feel you have been transported back in time. Older cars, cigarette bars, and fewer chemical additives. In a country surrounded by so much culture and influence, you are unsure how they have maintained such a peaceful atmosphere. The island life is noticeably calmer than the busy Columbus streets I am used to. More people are walking than driving, eating salads over McDonald’s, and even the cats seem friendlier than your average Columbus alley cat. People walk the streets with ease, not rushing towards their next meeting but often minding their own business while hard at work.

On our drive to Paphos, one thing that immediately stood out to me was the vast varieties of greenery that grew around the island. I was used to seeing farmland in Ohio, but it was nothing compared to this. Not as industrialized or deteriorated as the abundant corn field I am familiar with. The plant life extends outside of the farmland and into the city, and on each field experience someone is pointing out a fig, lemon, pomegranate, or carob tree; casually growing along the streets and providing fruit for the people of the area. The integration of plant life plays a large role in the health of its citizens. Each meal I have gotten comes along with a sizable portion of vegetables naturally sourced from the island. This dietary balance provides the citizens with a balanced diet, yet in America fruits and vegetables of this quality are too costly for many of the citizens.

The carob tree is an ancient example of Cyprus’s many natural health benefits. The fruit pods that grow from it have been used for centuries as a healthy and sweet food that comes with medicinal benefits. It has been used as a remedy for problems such as diarrhea, diabetes, heartburn and high cholesterol. They often grow alongside olive trees which are another healthy part of the Mediterranean diet. Another benefit of the carob tree is that it is very drought tolerant, meaning it can grow easily in the dry areas of Cyprus. Incorporating the carob fruit pods, and many of the other island’s fruits, into a daily diet is a major reason why Cyprus has such healthy citizens. If plants like these were more common in the American diet we might see a reduction in obesity and diabetes.

Unfortunately, in America, many people are not open to new cultural experiences. This is where the idea of, “the ugly American” comes from. Many people who would come to visit might be more opposed to such a diet, due to the different flavors and lack of artificial additives. In most places in America, you would not be served a fish with its head and fins still attached. An American seeing this on their plate might lose their appetite and may even throw a fit over such small differences. This could be a contributing cause to the lack of healthy food options in America, as the foods are often more processed and have unnecessary additives to increase flavor.

Coming here I was very aware of the differences and was excited to try new things. I think Americans could take some notes on the Mediterranean diet and how it may affect their overall health, as I know I will be looking out for these foods when I return home.

Culture Impacting Health: Hannah Runyan

Author: Hannah Runyan

A “third place” is somewhere other than home or work where you are able to connect with others, unburdened by responsibilities and able to enjoy yourself. Many examples of these places are restaurants, churches, places to explore your hobbies. Most of the time what these third places have in common are a way to connect with people you wouldn’t necessary spend time with, which does wonders for one’s health and wellbeing. During a field trip to the Pafos Archeological Park, I saw the ancient Odeon, a beautiful open air amphitheater pictured below. The Romans used amphitheater’s such as the Odeon for shows/events, bringing together citizens of Pafos. This example of a third place exists in America as well, but were all more recently built and have less of a connection to a historical past.

The same field trip also featured a monastery and a look into the Agia Solomoni catacomb, pictured below. These places were only a few out of hundreds on the island because the Cypriot’s devotion to religion informed their architecture and what they spent their time doing. Today, the built environment is focused on religion still and emphasized many walkable areas. Being outside, walking more often and spending time with people are huge indicators for good health, and is something they are able to do passively through their environment. As an American visiting Cyprus, I’m impressed and envious of the physical manifestations of Cypriot history that span thousands of years, versus the shorter American span of history. When a monastery might be right next door, I could understand how it is easier to feel connected to your ancestors and history.  I have been careful to avoid the ugly American stereotype, knowing how rude and thoughtless many Americans are when going abroad. So far Cyprus has been an amazing and my walks are always breathtaking. There is so much to learn!

Culture Impacting Health: Lauren Jump

Author: Lauren Jump

During just our first week in Cyprus, I have noticed how different Cyprus is from the US, especially in aspects related to the SDG of Good Health & Well-being. In lecture and in my own experience taking to an individual who has lived in Cyprus for 25 years, I learned a little about how health care is different here in Cyprus. The individual, who owned a nail salon near Paphos beach, talked about how many Americans are doctors and there are very minimal people who want to be doctors in Cyprus. Although this may cause a lower number of physicians to be available in Cyprus, I have noticed that many individuals who live in Cyprus live a more active and healthier lifestyle than Americans do. I think the US does promote physical activity and provide resources to be more active; however, I personally felt more motivated to be active outside in nature while in Cyprus due to the warm climate, beautiful scenery, and non-competitive nature of everyone in Cyprus. Most restaurants here also offer mainly Mediterranean food such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oils, and lean proteins, which is considered one of the healthiest diets to follow. I have always enjoyed Mediterranean-style food in America but having local dishes here in Cyprus has contributed to better nutrition during my time here in Cyprus. Native Cypriots have naturally followed a healthy lifestyle for many years, but the US has recently started to focus on health & wellness by promoting organic foods and mindfulness practices. Through our experiences shopping and dining through Old Town Paphos, I have noticed a “no-rush” behavior, while the US lives a very “rushed” lifestyle. Feeling rushed and living a more work-oriented life without time for leisure activities can lead to high levels of stress and takes a negative toll on mental well-being. Being around individuals native to Cyprus on my own exploring Paphos, I noticed a strong sense of community that isn’t seen as much in the US. Having that social support to rely on during challenging times can help to enhance our health and well-being. I included a picture of us walking through beautiful trees in Cyprus. Throughout out time, we have consistently stayed active walking from place to place while enjoying famous landmarks and areas.

Culture Impacting Health: Maeve Hutton

Author: Maeve Hutton

After being immersed into the culture in Cyprus for almost two weeks I have noticed that there are distinct differences between Americans and Cypriots, especially when the topic of health and well being is compared. Since arriving in this country in the middle of the Mediterranean sea I have noticed that the diet of the natives here is extremely different from the
diet of Americans. It has been proven that Americans are some of the worst at eating healthy in their daily life due to the mere convenience of the unhealthier options such as fast food restaurants. The traditional diet of a native of Cyprus that we have been introduced to here since arriving consists of many vegetables, fruits, beans and lentils, as well as fish that are rich
in omega-3 fatty acids. They tend to lean towards the healthier options such as whole grains as well as extra virgin olive oil, which is used as a source of healthy fat for foods.

In addition, although some Americans do prioritize exercise in their daily lives, it is not easily accessible to everyone; the high prices of gyms, workout classes and memberships to certain places makes working out difficult for Americans and in turn does not motivate them to find time in their day to move and exercise even the minimum amount. In comparison though,
Cyprus has many different ways for their citizens to exercise for free in their daily lives; the ocean is the perfect example, there are public beaches that everyone has access to swim in and is great for your cardiovascular health. Cyprus also has many streets and trails as well as beautiful walkways right on the water that are perfect places for running or walking and are
available to anyone. There is even an “outdoor gym” which has a variety of different machines like a stationary bike, elliptical and more that makes working out not only good for your body but also arguably good for your mental health since it is right on the water where you can have an
amazing view while you get your daily exercise in and keeps you healthy.

Overall Cypriots live a much healthier lifestyle in terms of their health and well being. Americans are citizens that are so used to their own cultures that when they are immersed into others they have a difficult time adapting and settling; therefore they tend to rely on what they know.

Culture Impacting Health: Kendell Hughes

Author: Kendell Hughes: 

From my time here in Pafos, Cyprus I have noticed many cultural differences that can have an impact on its citizens well-being. The first major difference that I believe attributes to better health outcomes than the United States is the diet. Here in Cyprus many Cypriots participate in what is known as the Mediterranean diet. This diet is made up of fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, nuts, legumes, and olive oil. This diet contributes to lowering inflammation, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. Not only is this diet delicious and refreshing, but it is a major factor as to why Cypriots are among the healthiest in the EU!

Another cultural difference that I have observed in Pafos specifically is that a major mode of transportation is walking. Whether it is to the store, to and from work, or just a stroll on the promenade, the people of this city of all ages are always walking. Since being here I, myself have walked more in these last two weeks than I have in years it feels like. There are also cars and buses for public transport, but I have noticed many Cypriots walking to and from places. Pafos has also set its citizens up for success with its free outside gym to facilitate and encourage physical activity. Walking contributes to better health in numerous ways, just a few being reduced risk of heart disease, stronger bones, lowers blood pressure and aids in weight loss.

The diet in the U.S. differs from that of Cyprus is that we trend to have an excess of sodium, saturated fats, added sugars and calories overall. I know a large portion of my diet in the U.S. was fast food and Cyprus has significantly less fast-food restaurants than compared to home. I think this is another major cultural difference between these two countries. I was not prepared for and was pleasantly surprised by how much better I would feel and how much better I would sleep after making these two changes in my lifestyle. As for walking, in the United States I did most of my traveling by driving, even short distances, when were I walk everywhere. Overall, I highlighted two of the many cultural differences in these two countries that can impact the health and well-being of its citizens!

Culture Impacting Health: Reema Gupta

Author: Reema Gupta

The culture of Cyprus truly emphasizes community, healthy eating, and physical activity. While walking through Kato Paphos, I saw cafes and independently owned restaurants instead of big chains that actually give back to the community instead of feeding corporations. I saw city locals and tourists gathered together on every corner to have a drink, a nice meal, or just chat about their lives. Most of these restaurants offer fresh fish, kebabs, gyros, or greek salads, instead of burgers, cheese fries, or the rest of the McDonald’s menu. In America, I don’t remember the last time I saw a group of people conversing for the sake of it or even just appreciating the world around them in silence. As we walked by home gardens blossoming with lemon trees, tomatoes, papayas, and all the herbs you can imagine, I thought about what it would be like for people in American cities to have the same experience. I thought about how food deserts and limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be solved by a five by six square of soil and seeds or even some colorful tires.

Of course, there are some aspects of Cypriot culture that took some getting used to. Vapes and other e-cigarettes are sold in every supermarket. When stepping out of the airport the distinct smell of cigarette smoke hit me at once. My grandpa and my uncle were both addicted to smoking and it took a lot from my family to convince them to quit. At first, I was grossed out and angry at the amount of people smoking out in the open. My mind couldn’t understand how people were okay with an activity that is life altering. However, I quickly realized these feelings were the exact definition of being an “ugly American”. When going abroad, it’s easy to criticize the culture around you when it is so different from what you are used to. But, instead of demeaning and shaming someone else’s culture, you need to take a look at your own.

Smoking is still prevalent in America. With the introduction of e-cigarettes, more and more younger people are adding to the total population of smokers in the US. Just because there are designated smoking areas and smoking in public is discouraged, if not prohibited, doesn’t mean that millions of people are addicted to nicotine. Rather than feeling “grossed-out” by the smoking culture in Cyprus, I should have focused on ways that both Cyprus and the US could control smoking. One thing I noticed was that
e-cigarettes were significantly cheaper here than in the US. Higher prices help to decrease smoking rates by making nicotine harder to obtain. As well, there are no bans on public smoking in multiple US states nor in Cyprus. By implementing these two policies, both Cyprus and America could lower smoking rates.

My time in Cyprus so far has opened my eyes to what life is like abroad. When it comes to healthy eating, physical activity, and fostering community, Cyprus has shown me how to improve my life in those 3 categories. I am more motivated than ever to eat healthy, walk 6 miles a day, fix my sleep schedule, and improve my mental and physical health because I have seen the impact it had on me. I have felt significantly less stress the last week and every day feels like a breath of fresh air. I have learned how to avoid the “ugly American” mindset when traveling abroad and to instead focus on ways to help that country better the health and wellbeing of its citizens.

Tomatoes growing on a vine, Kato Pafos 

Home Garden, Kato Pafos

Sykamina Cafe, Kato Pafos

Papayas and other fruits on a tree, Kato Pafos

Culture Impacting Health: Ally Carney

After traveling to Cyprus from the United States and immersing myself in the lifestyle here for the past week, I have noticed many cultural differences amongst the two different populations. In reference to the Good Health and Well-being sustainable development goal, the third SDG refers to a good state of physical, mental, and social well-being and not just the absence of sickness and infirmity. A major difference in physical health and well-being I have taken note of during my time here is how active the Cypriots are compared to Americans. I have noticed many outdoor gyms, sports activities, and bike or walking pathways here in Paphos. According to my observations, most if not all Cypriots engage in this activity, even the older citizens. Dr. Stavros Constantinou of Paphos is a great example of this; The 72 year old local walks several miles, multiple times per day without hesitation. I think this has to do with the accessibility of these activities, both economically and physically. The weather here is much nicer, allowing Cypriotes to engage in these activities most days of the week. An example of social well-being here in Cyprus is how much they value life experiences. I’m turn with this value, I have noticed small businesses on every corner. According to the “ugly American” stereotype, we thrive for economic stability at whatever cost and revolve our whole lives around that. Here in Cyprus, they value a fulfilled lifestyle more than being rich. I think this directly correlates with the healthy lifestyle they live, and relates to why they live so much longer. They are both physically and mentally healthier than Americans.

As for me, I have observed many lifestyle differences here in Cyprus compared to my life back in the states. I eat mostly according to the Mediterranean diet, which is a healthier option in comparison to the fast food I eat every weekend at Ohio State. I have also realized my activity levels have drastically increased while being in Paphos. Back home I would average around 6,000 steps per day, but here I average around 12,00. Reflecting on the past week and a half, I have felt more energized and excited while being more active. My mental health has increased directly because of this. Overall, I have really enjoyed my time here and I can detect the results this healthier lifestyle has given me.

This day we walked over 8 miles, more than I average any day in Columbus.

My friends and I swimming in the Blue lagoon, a great form of aerobic exercise!