We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Your questions, answered: the expat community

Paige asked

I’d love to know how you’re integrating into the ex-pat community. What’s life like for the tots and Mr. Four? Any real regrets being away from the states?

And lisa seconded that.

First, I should say that my employer makes integrating into the expat community very easy. Many of their employees are Americans, and almost all speak English. And our pre-work orientation introduced me to a lot of the other new folks, including a handful with kids.

Plus, we live in an area of Cairo with lots of expats, near an international school that caters to expat Americans. Many people in this area speak English. So living in our neighborhood and working for my employer has made much of our transition and life here pretty breezy.

And since this is a transitional place (at least for the expats), lots of folks are also new and very friendly. Mr. Four in particular is connecting with other American folks in our neighborhood because he sees folks around town and because he’s a really nice guy. I am not so outgoing but I am connecting with a few folks at work.

We could be trying harder, but that’s not really our style. I would say that it has not been hard at all to find other Americans to hang out with. In fact, I dare say you could live an entire life here and interact, socially, only with other Americans (and perhaps their non-American spouses). That would be a lot less interesting, but certainly easy.

Marc at the Ferenge Addis blog had a great entry about how it can be easy, as an expat, to make acquaitances, but not necessarily deeper friendships. (Marc, please do provide a link if you know the post I mean.) I can vouch for the fact that acquaintanceships are easy to make; I’ll have to get back to you about the rest.

The boys seem to be doing well. The school here that they attend, an English language Montessori-type school, is great and really affordable. We pay $400/month for both of them to attend from 8am to 1pm each day (it’d only be $40 more each for a longer day). They’re making friends there, working on lots of art projects, doing interesting puzzles, singing songs, and learning some Arabic. They are happy to go every day (except for last week on the day we were leaving for the beach: Giggle wanted to stay home and leave right away!), and we’re pleased with how both of them are doing.

Their regular routine involves going to school til 1pm, then home for nap, and then playing at home in the afternoon, and then hanging out with all of us when I get home from work (sometimes as early as 4pm).

Mr. Four’s daily routine centers around getting the boys to and from school, making their lunches, and keeping the household running.

It’s hard to be a trailing spouse, and it’s particularly hard to be a trailing husband. I think this has been Mr. Four’s experience. He’s more adaptable than he gives himself credit for, but he really misses his old life. Especially now that his sports teams are doing so well.

I miss most our yard and ubiquitous public facilities, especially parks. I miss not being able to talk cheaply and regularly to my parents and friends. I wouldn’t call these regrets, though, but part of the deal.

We are a conspicuous family anywhere. But I miss being in the states where people at least get us (if they think about it for two seconds) and aren’t inclined to stare.

Is the real question should you move overseas? Absolutely, positively, definitely yes. This is an incredible experience we’ll carry with us forever. Already my world is so much bigger and my worldview broader. Already I feel richer (and not because of my salary!).

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1 October 2007 - Posted by | expat scene, our life in egypt

5 Comments

  1. Interesting! Here in Dubai, where I would guess that there are a lot more women covered than in Egypt, there is no sense of women/men being isolated from one another. You might think that having women covered would naturally lead to a sense of isolating men from women. I wonder if it is because so much of Dubai’s culture has been overrun by the influx of expats. The ratio of expat to local is 80:20 here – so it would be very difficult for the local culture to dominate over the expat one.

    Comment by Julie R | 3 October 2007

  2. Thanks, this insight is helpful. I know it will be a great experience for my family (and it has been more prominently on my mind ever since Julie R packed up last spring ;), but I worry about navigating the cultural stuff as a conspicuous family. It isn’t easy in the US, but I have some experience with which to recognize the subtleties here. Specifically, when we move to another country, we will have one Asian child, one African child, two white parents and a mother who is perceived as “crippled.” I would throw in that the father is older, but I think that would actually be perceived better in other countries than in the US 😉 ~lmc

    Comment by jiangli | 3 October 2007

  3. My posts that you mention are at

    http://addisblog.typepad.com/luoma_addis_blog/2007/08/socializing-in-.html

    and

    http://addisblog.typepad.com/luoma_addis_blog/2007/08/addis-expat-soc.html

    (Sorry I can’t figure out how to post a link in this comment window.)

    Comment by Marc | 3 October 2007

  4. i’ve been enjoying your blog for a few weeks and thank you for writing so frequently!

    my husband and i were in cairo for nine months last year and we found that we could talk cheaply (free!) with our family and friends in the US using Skype. it was really convenient once we were able to convince our family and friends to also sign up for Skype.

    take care!

    Comment by sarah | 7 October 2007

  5. My sister lived in Colombia and we now recently moved to Cairo and we all swear by our Vonage device -it’s the only thing keeping me from being truly homesick. When you’re in the States next, look into getting one. You talk all you want and it’s a local call and you only pay like 25 or 29 dollars. I strongly recommend it for anyone who is homesick -it makes all the difference in the world when you can call home on a regular basis as many times as you’d like.
    Good luck!

    Comment by Suzanne | 18 October 2008


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