Dee is a travel blogger, photographer and freelance writer now living in Cairo. Here is her story:
1. Tell us about yourself…
Hello, I’m Dee – I’m a Polish-American expat living in Cairo, Egypt for the past six years. I moved out here for an internship at a press agency, then I got married to an Egyptian and decided to settle here.
I’m into slow travel, and I love to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations around Egypt and beyond. I’m also a real bookworm who enjoys used bookstores and hunting down rare editions. I dabble in painting and creative writing, and lately I’ve also been trying to learn how to knit. Basically anything creative that gets my mind off work and relaxes me.
2. What do you do for a living? What did you use to do back home?
I’m a travel blogger, photographer and freelance writer.
I got into journalism shortly after I graduated university, and I’ve done some form of writing ever since. I started off at a small-town newspaper back in Arizona, USA, then I moved on to a press agency in my native Warsaw, Poland, before moving to Cairo to work as a magazine editor.
I recently left my job at a business magazine here in Cairo and decided to work for myself. It hasn’t been easy so far, but I don’t regret going freelance. I have more creative control and love being able to do my own thing without having to attend endless meetings or get my boss’ approval.
3. Something you wish you knew before moving abroad? and how not knowing this has affected you?
I wish I’d realized earlier how important it is to have friends and a social life when you’re living in a foreign country. I spent my first few years in Cairo very focused on my work and I didn’t make much effort to get involved in the expat community. It made things harder when I had nobody to vent to or share my frustrations with – and only a fellow expat will understand certain things that you’ll want to get off your chest.
These days, I’ve found friends through Facebook, and I’m also attending a book club, some travel clubs and a writers’ circle.
4. What has been your best outcome regarding your move?
I’ve grown more determined and persistent after living here, especially since I’ve had to switch jobs and make a living through it all.
I’ve also learned patience. Cairo teaches you that, whether you’re sitting in traffic or handling bureaucracy. At a certain point you learn to let go of things beyond your control.
I’ve also realized people are the same everywhere. While Egypt may seem exotic to many travellers, for me it’s just home and my daily life is filled with routine. It’s not as difficult, strange or foreign as people might expect.
Whenever I visit home in the states, I’m often dismayed at the way some people view the Arab world in wide generalisations. I’ve had questions about whether I’m forced to wear a scarf or whether I’m allowed to drive, and there are many other misconceptions about the region.
5. If we visit your current country what is the one thing we have to do or eat?
I’d definitely recommend a walking tour through downtown Cairo to see modern Egyptian life in the city. It’s not an area that’s often visited by tourists, but there’s some beautiful architecture, really hip cafes and wonderful views of the Nile River from the corniche.
When it comes to food, I love koshari! It’s a sort of national dish and a very popular street food, plus it’s vegan, filling and delicious.
6. How are locals where you currently live? Is it easy to make friends?
Egyptians are very hospitable and welcoming to foreigners, and they’ll go out of their way to help you or assist in any way possible.
I think it’s easy to make friends, but it’s more difficult to find close friends that you really click with – whether they’re Egyptian or expat.
7. Would you move back? and why?
I don’t think I’d move back to the states. I could never afford a home there without getting into debt or working long hours. I also think it’s much harder there to find work in my field (journalism), whereas in Egypt good English-speaking writers are always in demand.
8. What’s your best advice for people considering moving abroad?
Just do it! I’m not saying that you shouldn’t plan, but things don’t often go the way we hope and living in a foreign country will often require that you just improvise or move along to plan b.
And make an effort to make friends – don’t wait for this to just happen naturally. Get out there and socialize, join groups or search for other expats on Facebook and ask them out for coffee. Most will be happy to get together with another expat.