We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!


It’s easy to make snide remarks about Americans who move to other countries and proceed to surround themselves with, well, Americans (not that I ever did such a thing, of course). But I find ourselves in much the same situation this fall.

First, work. My job has moved, and, now, rather than commuting downtown each day by metro, I take a work shuttle out to the desert. I work with a lot of Egyptians, but it’s still a pretty western setting.

Next, Mr. Four’s job. He works with mixed group of Egyptians and Americans, but, like at my job, the atmosphere and setting is very American.

Giggle’s school. Last year he was at a preschool run by an Egyptian-American woman, but with an international feel. This year, he’s at, you guessed it, an American school. It is actually a pretty international place, with kids from all over the world, but his teacher is American, as are most of his classmates.

Our home. We live in the same expat-y suburb, but last year we were the only Americans (I think) in our building, as our employer was renting just one or two flats there. Now, we’re in a building owned by my employer and occupied by, yup, Americans. Well, that’s not exactly true. We have some American-Egyptian families here, but it’s not like being in our old building, where we interacted more frequently with our bowab and Egyptian neighbors.

Our club. Last fall we were missing our yard and frustrated by the lack of public parks and greenspaces here in Egypt. We found the solution in joining a recreational club (it’d be like joining the JCC or YMCA if your town didn’t have any public playgrounds or rec centers), and it’s populated mostly by Americans.

Of course we are still in Egypt–I was reminded of that this morning, when I brought the pup to the vet in a taxi driven by a man who was clearly trying very hard not to be cranky even though he was hot and tired and hungry and thirsty, all a result of his Ramadan fast.

But some things are much easier in Americaland. Lately I find myself wearing some skirts that cover my knees but don’t hit my ankles, skirts I tucked away in storage all of last year. And as a friend pointed out, immigrant communities in every country tend to stick together. Still, it’s not exactly the foreign-immersion experience we expected.

10 September 2008 - Posted by | expat scene, our life in egypt


  1. foreigners don’t mix with real Egyptians in Egypt, they live in kinda selective environment and deal with other foreigners and Elite Egyptians.

    hope you a nice stay in Egypt 🙂

    Comment by bastawisi | 10 September 2008

  2. A friend of mine last night commented to me that Americans here live a life similar to that lived by wealthy Egyptians, similar to what you are saying. Bastawisi, I hear you, but I’m not sure why wealthy Egyptians aren’t “real” Egyptians.

    Last spring, my kids befriended the kids of a neighborhood bowab, and we had those kids over to our house quite a few times to play. They were great kids, very well behaved, much better than mine, inf act. And one time we brought the mom and three of the kids as our guests to our club. I’m sure you would count them as “real Egyptians.”

    Comment by Ms. Four | 11 September 2008

  3. Elite Egyptians most of them are educated in foreigner schools and foreigner universities, they also most of them has foreign ancestors, you know, Turkish, European or even Armenians, beside i believe elite Egyptians are not real Egyptians cuz they are Minority, not the most of the Egyptians.

    Comment by bastawisi | 11 September 2008

  4. We struggle with this, too. But ours is more like Western Expatland because we are grouped with a bunch of westerners, but most of them aren’t American. We just started L at a new school and it is an American school. Even though the population is nearly 100% non-American, it is still much more westernized than the last school. I sometimes feel like we’re not trying hard enough to get the most of our experience here.

    Comment by Juju | 11 September 2008

  5. I can’t speak to “real” vs “unreal”, but I do think that this is a problem everywhere, for all kinds of people. We (as humans) tend to drift to what we know and where we are comfortable. This makes sense from a sociological point of view — who wants to live some place where they don’t feel safe (physically, emotionally, etc).

    Of course, there are very real drawbacks to this — this is how we creat the “other”. No matter who you think the “other” is!

    We talk about this in our school (I work at a high school) on a very simple level. How do we help kids to feel comfortable outside their cliques? (High school is, after all, just a microcosim of the great big world). We work really hard at it, and it’s still really hard. We have a lot of discussions, do a lot of activities, involve students & staff in unique ways. We have to make a lot of effort. And we have to role model. It’s hard to talk to people you don’t know (especially when it’s a cute senior :)!

    But the more you do it, the easier it gets. And walls break down, and you start to lose sense of the “other”. Which is a good thing. We just have to keep stepping outside our comfort zones.

    Comment by The sister | 11 September 2008

  6. […] moment (11/10) Life has been a bit different this fall. I blogged about our new residence in Americaland in September. Last fall, we were so new and we had no idea what to do with ourselves. It was two months before I […]

    Pingback by Egypt moment (11/10) « We Four in Egypt | 10 November 2008

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