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Expats in Egypt

Whether it is the fact that Egypt is currently in the throes of a revolution that has led many to vote for cultural problems as the main challenge for expats is open to debate. However, despite the fact that Egypt has for some time now been a very popular tourist destination for people from all over the world it does have something of a “mixed” record to say the least on human rights and treatment of the population.

Over the last few weeks there is no doubt that freedom of speech has come something of a rarity in Egypt and religious leaders who recently took to the streets to protest about the treatment of various religions in Egypt were attacked by a number of parties. There have even been claims that the Egyptian authorities deliberately set about those carrying out peaceful protests which resulted in the death of a significant number of people. It is these cultural differences within the country which are starting to impact upon the thoughts and minds of people outside of the country looking to move there to start a new life.

If there is as much infighting as the worldwide press would have you believe then surely the introduction of more foreigners to the region, with their own cultures and their own beliefs, could spell more trouble. Historically in many ways the Egyptian authorities have been willing to turn a blind eye to a number of Western cultures and Western activities which were perhaps at odds with the local culture. This seems purely and simply to have been a means of attracting overseas interest, overseas visitors and overseas investment for Egypt to shore up the economy – but more help is needed after recent events. Indeed a number of Gulf States have come forward with financial assistance to the tune of US$1 billion and the country is also in talks with the International Monetary Fund about a bailout package.

In the longer term it may well be that the introduction of more democratic processes into the Egyptian culture may well see more compromise and appreciation of other beliefs and cultures. However, the transfer from what was in many ways a dictatorship towards a more fully fledged democratic system will take many years to complete, if it is ever completed, and there will be much conflict and many challenges to overcome. If the democratic movement within Egypt is successful this could literally change the future of people living there. However, if there is something of a vacuum in between the transfer from dictatorship to democracy this will impact upon the image of the country, overseas investment and the number of people looking to make a new life in Egypt.

Loneliness (27.78%)

The issue of loneliness is something which is never far from the surface with regards to the expat community and challenges wherever you move. However, the culture of the Egyptian population is very different to that of the Western world and in many ways this can exacerbate problems such as loneliness which can then impact upon other areas of your everyday life. When you also take into account the ongoing violence in the region can you imagine how anyone left alone would feel as the looters, rioters, demonstrators and the authorities clash literally on your doorstep?

If we take a step back and look at the picture with regards to loneliness and a more “peaceful Egypt” there is no doubt that loneliness is still a very big issue for many people. As we have mentioned on numerous occasions, it is vital that all parties looking to move to a new country to begin a new life are pulling in the same direction and “want the same thing”. If one party is under pressure from others to make the move then at some point their reservations and their concerns will come fighting back to the surface. In the pressure cooker arena of a move overseas, where your social network may be very sparse initially to say the least, a simple problem can quickly be multiplied to become a major issue.

In reality there is nobody in the world who has never at some point or another felt lonely but what can you do about it? In order to combat this very dilapidating “condition” you need to get yourself out and about, mix with the local population, appreciate the local culture and ensure that you are not kept within the four walls of your home 24 hours a day seven days a week. A lack of fresh air, lack of exercise and a lack of time away from your home will impact upon your mental and your physical health. We do not appreciate sometimes how important it is to speak to others, build new friendships and basically communicate with a variety of different people. This is really the only way to combat loneliness in the longer term.

Cost of living (22.23%)

 

The cost of living in Egypt is obviously a major concern to anybody looking to move to the country and there is no doubt that the ongoing violence within the country is impacting upon everyday life. While the rate of consumer inflation in Egypt fell to a four-year low in October it is worth pointing out that the cost of living year-on-year to October 2011 still increased by 7.1% even though this was a reduction from 8.2% in September. When you take into account the fact that the current figure is the lowest for four years we can only imagine the problems and issues being faced by those living in Egypt. These are but a few reasons to start doing your financial homework as soon as possible, so you can benefit from the alternatives that expat banking offers, such as an offshore bank account or appealing interest rates.

In the UK we feel that an inflation rate of 5% is “extortionate” even if this is set to fall in the short to medium term to around the 2% or 3% target of the Bank of England. If UK inflation was anywhere near 7.1% everybody would be up in arms and more and more families would be struggling to survive. It would appear that the recent reduction in the rate of consumer inflation in Egypt came due to the reduction in the price of rice in the country which fell by 22% due to a very good harvest. There is no doubt that the current political leaders, or military commanders as some would call then, have a very difficult situation on their hands. The ongoing violence in the country will affect the economy, the ever increasing cost of living will stretch budgets further and further and more and more people will be pushed towards poverty.

As a consequence, if you’re looking to move to Egypt then not only do you need to take into account the cost of living at the moment but the fact that it is increasing at a rate which many in the Western world would find unacceptable. While few would potentially look to move to the region with the ongoing conflict between the public and the military leaders, even if you do consider moving to Egypt when everything is calm again you will need to have financial strength in depth. Despite the fact that billions upon billions of dollars have been promised to the Egyptian authorities to build up a more democratic environment and support the economy, this support may take years to come through and have an impact. In the meantime, the difference between the poor and the rich in Egypt continues to grow ever wider and is having a major impact upon those at the lower end of the income scale.

It will be interesting to see what the forthcoming “democratic government” decide to do with regards to the cost of living in Egypt and indeed whether a free-market economy could emerge. It is well-known that the authorities still have a relatively tight grip on some goods which are subsidised but surely a free-market would allow the “fat” to be trimmed from the cost of living in Egypt?

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