Monday, September 6, 2010

The Expat Bubble

I have heard about it, but after my first few weeks here in Cairo I never thought much of it.  At first, the 8 expats at my school were the only Westerners I had seen!  We were the only ones here.  So we kind of circled our neighbourhood, and hung out with each other at the local sheesha place.  Until the other Westerners started to arrive.  Turns out they are smart, and head home for the heat of summer until school starts (the majority of expats work as teachers or in oil here) Now, there are Westerners everywhere!  Wearing everything from booty shorts and tank tops to long pants and head scarfs.
The expat bubble happens when you live with other expats, and socialise with other expats, and go to expat clubs (there is a nice place called Ace down the road that serves booze and pub food, a little live music and a great patio!) and workout at expat gyms. And maybe look down your nose at the culture and its nuances, or not even bother to look at the culture. Or trying the language. Its so easy to do this when you live in a neighbourhood like Maadi, where the expat population is so high.  It is easy to miss, or dis, the culture around you when you are moving only in these circles. 
But how do you move out of these circles?  I can't speak Arabic, so its hard to find Egyptian friends.  Doing something I might do at home alone is sometimes not appropriate here (like go to a movie).  Joining courses and classes is an easy way to meet people, but I would be joining language classes, with other expats.  I have become friends with Egyptian people at work, but the male/female friendships here are very different (as in they don't happen- when I am with my guy friend here, everyone assumes he is my husband), and the work people don't live in Maadi.  I guess the question is, how do you make friends?  Its easy to say, but hard to do!
I am going to fight the expat bubble! I am still fascinated by the culture, and learning every day the way to do things (and not do things!)  and trying the language. I am going to start taking some courses (Egyptian food! Arabic!) and meet other expats, outside my circle, but also work hard to hang out with work friends, and get to know them and their lives. But I have to say, I will still enjoy that nice cold glass of wine at Ace!

1 comment:

  1. Good for you for trying to fight the bubble Rebecca. It sounds like it's good to have the ex-pat friends though and they will be valuable support. Because you are outgoing and aware of the culture around you I am sure that natural opportunities will arise for you.
    When I think of all of the communities who live and work in NZ, I'm sure they stick to their communities too - I have seen them, so you are not alone. I think it's great that you are out there meeting like minded people!
    Yay, love your blog!