6 Mistakes That Expats Make

People move abroad for many reasons. The most common ones are finding a better lifestyle, work, or family. Most expats I met in Egypt fit into one or two of those categories’ reasons for moving to Egypt. Personally, I moved to Egypt not only because it’s my husband’s home country but because I also found support from his family and we were looking for a different lifestyle.

First, I must disclose that I feel very uncomfortable using the word expat. If you hear this word what is the first image that pops up? Probably a western traveler and now the most common digital nomad and again, from a western country. You probably do not think of someone seeking refuge in another country from war back home or other racial groups. What I haven’t figured out is the difference between an immigrant and an expat. What I do know is that when I moved to the United States, against my will because I was just a child and moving to the land of dreams was not my dream but my mother’s, I was not called an expat, I was anything but it, I was an immigrant, an alien as they like to call it.

The first time I heard the word expat was actually when I moved to Egypt. How bizarre and foreign that felt to me. Although, I felt uncomfortable with that label it seemed like I had to take advantage if I wanted to get the best treatment in Egypt. So I did and surely began merging into the expat world. I thought all expats had the same experience as me, in order words not so easy life. I came to find out, contrary to my bad experience, most expats in Egypt were living it up with good jobs, helpers, nannies, living in nice areas, and so forth. Again, I felt out of place from most expats in Egypt and the Egyptians. I suffered and was very resentful but because I’ve always been an immigrant in my life and never fit in my own country, I soon recognized the feeling and my brain went into a mechanism mode, trying to adapt.

Being an immigrant and foreigner all my life, there are some tricks that I’ve developed mostly unconsciously to survive and adapt quickly to the culture. I now know that my misidentify is a blessing and not a curse because it drove me towards openness, acceptance, and resilience.

Without further ado, let’s get into the common mistakes that many expats make when traveling in Egypt.

Not learning the language

Learning the language is so crucial and I don’t mean being fluent, as I am not even closer to fluent. I mean, learning the basic words or sayings like, “How are you?”, “What’s your name?” When I first came to Egypt, I was only here for 3 weeks and I tried to learn as much as I could which instilled in learning how to say the number 5 and say yes or no. So whatever prize the salesman was trying to offer, I always lowered it to 5 pounds by saying “la” which is “no” in Arabic. The salesman was probably entertained by my efforts and to think about it was pretty funny. I also saved a ton of money when I came because I would buy everything for 5 pounds.

Not making Egyptian friends

This could be for various personal reasons and one of them being intimidation, language, and cultural barriers. Most Egyptian are respectful of other’s cultures and beliefs and are more than happy to be friends with expats. Having an Egyptian friend is so essential as they are the gateway to understanding the culture and key traditional values. They also will let you know how to better live in Egypt.


I’m really flabbergasted by the amount that expats pay for an item that most Egyptians wouldn’t even pay a fraction of the prize. A rule of thumb is if you are paying for example to rent a car that costs a month the same price as an Egyptian’s lifetime saving then you are paying too much. That is why it comes in handy to have Egyptian acquaintances. Ah ha!

Questioning the culture

That’s a mistake I made quite often, especially in the beginning. What I realize is that Egypt is very different and they have a culture that is older than most civilizations in the world, therefore, their traditions and values are deeply rooted. Egyptian culture is grounded in that when the British colonized Egypt they were not able to influence their culture upon the Egyptians. Instead of questioning it, embrace it. This way of thinking quickly shifted my mindset and I begin to see the good aspects of the culture and even began to apply some to my life.

Having the same lifestyle

If you know me personally then you already know that I had a hard time adjusting to life in Egypt. Who’s to blame me, though? I was thrown into the Egyptian lifestyle without having to soak my feet in the water first. However, because of this culture overload that I received at once, I was able to submerge into the culture. The same had happened to me when I moved to the United States as a child. I remember feeling like I was stuck in a matrix, “me against the world”, everything seemed so strange when it was common for everyone. For a while, I would just observe the way people talked and behaved until one day, I didn’t feel like an outcast anymore.

Not knowing what to pack

This is the most frequently asked question before moving to Egypt. What should I bring? Especially if you have children who require a lot. I’m here to tell you that Egypt has everything and more. However, with that said there are some things in Egypt that are more expensive here than in other countries. For example, gadgets are cheaper in western countries, and so are branded shoes, bags, makeup, and baby necessities such as strollers. If you have a baby it’s essential that you bring with you a good baby carrier as you will not find good ones here. If you don’t care about any of these things then you can bring absolutely nothing and you will be a-ok here.

I made all 6 mistakes in the first couple of years. It would have been helpful if I had resources where I could be more informed. Knowledge is power and the lack of it makes you feel weak and vulnerable, especially in a big city such as Cairo. Have you moved to any country? Did you make any of these mistakes? Tell us about your experience with moving abroad.

6 responses to “6 Mistakes That Expats Make”

  1. Oh yes, they don’t seem to use strollers at all in Egypt! Babies are either carried, or, as soon as they are able to stand on two feet, they are on their own )) And there aren’t too many places for a stroll in Cairo anyway. Only in clubs, or in gated suburban communities


    1. A baby carrier comes in handy but also a little stroller when in need of a break.


  2. Very helpful article! Well shared 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you…I’m glad you found it helpful!


  3. Andrea, I really enjoyed reading this blog post about your experiences as an immigrant and how you not only adjusted to life in Egypt but you embraced it and all it’s beauty and tradition. You and I communicated semi-regularly several years ago through our blogs and I recall that you were dealing with the many challenges of learning a new life there while at the same time your family was growing. I’m delighted to get the sense from this blog post that you are very comfortable there. I’m so happy for you! — Janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Janet thank you for this lovely comment. Yes, we’ve been in touch with each other for quite a while. A lot has happened since then. I certainly have gotten used to the life in egypt 🇪🇬 and have embraced it for what it is. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.


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