Samantha Swain is a tour rep for Golden Sun, a British tour operator, in Cyprus. Last summer she worked in Ayia Napa; she describes to Celia Dodd the atmosphere created by a heady mix of locals, foreign girls and soldiers.
NAPA is an exciting resort to work, but you get quite a few problems because there are a lot of young people and a lot of drinking goes on, obviously. People go there for the night-life; you can drink and dance until seven in the morning.
Given that there are thousands of people of all nationalities in the main square every night, I'm surprised at how little trouble there is. But you get a lot of gangs of boys and groups of girls and obviously you get clashes.
People always like their own to be with their own: English boys prefer English girls to be with English boys, and local boys want local girls to go out with local boys. You get that tension wherever you work, not just in Ayia Napa.
I've experienced it myself. Recently I went up to Ayia Napa with a group of Cypriots who looked very traditional, very dark-skinned with long dark hair; because I'm blond I'm obviously English. When we walked into a bar we were very conscious that all the English guys were staring at us, but we just ignored them.
You can pick out the squaddies because of their haircuts. Ayia Napa is about 25km from one of the bases, so it's the easiest place for them to go out and enjoy themselves. Given the pressures and the discipline they're under in the Army, it's human nature for them to get drunk and seize the opportunity to be with all the very attractive young ladies there, a lot of whom are very willing to oblige.
I would never go out with a squaddie, although a lot of the reps in Ayia Napa do. Having worked abroad for a few years, Englishmen don't really appeal to me.
Squaddies are just the same as any group of English lads together, although a lot of them have chips on their shoulders. And the groups of girls can behave just as badly. Sometimes it's embarrassing to be English. I don't like admitting it, but English girls have a reputation for being easy sexually.
I'm very careful about the way I behave. I tell young female tourists that if they go off in a car or on a bike with somebody they're not committing themselves to anything, but that they shouldn't go with a man they don't know very well.
I'm 27, a bit older than the average age in Ayia Napa. That's one of the reasons I moved on. Mentally, I couldn't justify why the English tourists do certain things any more. When they threw beds off balconies, or dived off balconies into the swimming pool, I used to be able to giggle with them and say, now come on, lads. But now I could get quite short with them; I can't understand why people do such stupid things. I think it's a mixture of the sun - this summer has been exceptionally hot - the cheap, strong drink and the fact that the bars have no closing times.
As a rep you have to know how to handle men because they will interpret your behaviour the wrong way. We are given training on handling certain types of people, and that also comes with experience - you wouldn't put a first-year rep in Ayia Napa.
I can understand girls being taken in by all the attention, particularly if they're new, lonely and homesick; and I have worked with reps who are notorious for going out with clients. But you don't do it. If you're professional you can handle boys without any problems at all.
I've never been asked out by any of my people. When I was working in Ayia Napa last year I had a Cypriot boyfriend who used to get paranoid about me escorting coachloads of men. He couldn't understand why nobody ever made a pass. They don't because I talk down to them, and I call them boys, so I get control of them straight away. It helps that I'm five foot ten - so are the other Golden Sun reps - and we're all very strong characters.
I was very surprised, as well as disgusted, by last week's killing. Everybody is. You'd expect the local boys to be saying that they're not surprised, but they haven't said anything like that. They're just shocked.
If I was still in Ayia Napa and rode a moped, I would be wary now, although before the killing I wouldn't have given it a second thought. I don't feel vulnerable here, partly because we all drive company cars. I tell clients that Cyprus is crime-free. I walk around everywhere - even the back streets - and I've never been frightened. I'm frightened in England, not over here.'
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content