Expat vs Immigrants

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I once had someone ask my thoughts on the difference between expats and immigrants. When I was searching in the internet for blogs of people who had moved to Egypt so that I could get a glimpse of their experiences to prepare me my move, I came across the word “expat” a lot. Once in a blue moon no matter how many years you have lived in an English spoken country, you will learn common words that you have no idea how you have missed it before. Expat was one of those words that I have never heard or learned throughout the 16 years of living in the US.

Growing up in USA I was always revered to as an immigrant or a green card holder. Every time I would hear that word “immigrant” or “green card holder”, I would grouch my teeth, as it always made me feel inferior or marginalized. I faced a lot of discrimination and verbal bullying for simply being an immigrant. So when she asked me what my thoughts on expat vs immigrants were, I immediately went back to that bad feeling I had with the word “immigrant”.

She had told me something interesting which got me thinking. “Expats are always revered to white people and immigrant are for the people of color”. Although to some extend she is right, she had never lived in America and didn’t know that even white people that are not born there are revered to as immigrants. Off course, class status, country and your purpose to moving to the United States can have an affect on how people precede towards your migration. A Saudi Arabian, Angolan, Chinese, German student who is privileged enough to study in the United States is revered to as international student. This student is not here to stay and take away the jobs of hard working Americans, in fact, these students are very good for the American economy because they come here, their government or rich parents pay for the schools and they often spend a lot of money.

Now a white Romanian who has migrated to the United States in the hopes of catching the “American dream” will face a lot of obstacles and discrimination as  a Latino would, holding the same purpose for migration.

However, when moving to Egypt, I faced something very different. Expats are those who have a special passport from either “USA, Canada, UK, German, European Union and some others”. Are also the diplomats, international lawyers, petroleum employees and international companies that hold employees from overseas.

Every other immigrant are either refugees from Middle East, East Asia, Sub-Saharian Africans and what we like to consider as “others” for the very minority groups.

With this I felt very uncomfortable as well, when all the sudden I was given privileges and priorities for simply being an American passport holder. Throughout my life in United States, I had to fight harder, had to over come many obstacles because I didn’t have the same privileges as someone who simply was born in the US. You can imagine how strange it is to all the sudden have the roles switched on me.

I like to tell people that I am a Cape Verdean American Muslim revert, living in Egypt who’s lives very much like an Egyptian woman. In other words, I am a little bit of both, not quite American and not entirely Egyptian. You can expect this to be very difficult for me, as I don’t hold the same privileges that any other Americans or expats would, living in fancy places and putting their children in expensive international schools nor do I share some of the same values or perspective in life as many Egyptian woman do.

So, there you have it, these are some of my thoughts on “expats vs. immigrants”. What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you feel the same or different? What are your experiences and feelings with theses two words? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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How to Cope With Homesickness

home-is-where-the-heart-is-e1379124220521Moving to a whole new country, sounds very exciting and adventurous but it has real challenges that have physical and mental effects. Homesickness is most definitely an inevitable phase of moving to a new country, it is a step for adapting to a new culture and environment.

I remember while working in an international school having a friend who had just moved to Egypt and she was very sad and had a difficult time coping with it all. I would always try to reassure her that it was just a phase and it will get better. My first advise to someone who is at this pivotal moment of feeling sad and alone I would say;

  • Loneliness is very normal when moving to a whole new country, it is not a way towards depression even though the feeling is very real. It will get better with time and hopefully my next advises will help you get out of this phase faster.
  • Fell proud of yourself, know that you are a strong person for getting out of your convert and moving to a whole new world. Not anyone can do it and you did!
  • Try to keep in touch with your family back home. One thing I did that triggered the loneliness is that I cut communication with my whole family because I didn’t want them to know how sad I was, so that they would not worry about me. However, not having communication with the people that I loved made me feel even more alone and sad.
  • Make a new routine. Somehow and I am pretty sure there are a lot of scientific research out there that states that routine is part of a health state of mind. Having something you do everyday will ensure familiarity and security in your life. Weather it’s going out for walks or finding a hobby. do something that makes you feel good everyday.
  • Be familiar with your surroundings. Moving to a new country will make you feel like a little ant in a massive land but knowing where to buy your groceries, where to take public transport and shop, etc, will make feel less small in an unknown country.
  • Try to learn the language. Part of the loneliness is caused by not being able to communicate with people. If you know some of the language than you are at least able to express to some extent your feelings. Just take a toddler for example and their tantrums, it’s all do the fact that they don’t know yet how to communicate their feelings.
  • Make friends! Having a friend is so important in life. It doesn’t matter if that person doesn’t speak your language fluently having someone that shares the same perspective in life will help a lot through your journey.

This is all that my fried pregnant brain can come up with but I really hope that this will help someone, somehow.

If you are someone who has moved to a new country, please, please, please share where you have moved to and what were some things you did to cope with loneliness.

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10 Things I learned Through My “Minimalist” Journey

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It seems like Minimalism is a current trend. What is this minimalism thing anyway? For me, its more of a lifestyle reconstruction rather than a materialistic order. It’s a way of simplifying your life choices which can include many and anything depending on the individual. It’s an endless reflection on your life occurrences, mistakes and goals. In the beginning of this journey, I thought to live a minimalist life meant to buy less and control your budget to the core. Although, I think this type of lifestyle is customized to fit the individual, I realized that it is not just a black and white cut out answer. With that said, I would like to share what I have learned through this journey;

  1. De-clutter- I truly though to achieve simplicity is to use a pair of shoes to the point where not even scotch tape can safe it anymore. On the contrary, is to get rid of everything (donating, trashing or gifting) that has and will not be used anymore. It is also letting go of very old things that can not be recycled such as my pair of converse. It doesn’t mean I am not allowed to to buy anything either, by decluttering my home and closet, I allow space for new things which leads me to number;
  2. Quality vs Quantity- I used to buy things and still do sometimes that are aesthetically appealing but sometimes the quality is not that great. Or I buy something which I need immediately but end up buying the cheaper version instead. I am realizing now that being a minimalist doesn’t necessarily mean that I spend less on material things. It can also mean buying something that will last me a life time which I will have to invest the money knowing that later will compensate.
  3. Quantity- This is not just an American problem, Egyptian love to buy oversized things too. Now, instead of buying kilos of vegetables all at once to later throw most of it in the trash. I buy just a small quantity which I know will last me a week. Not only do I keep my fruits and veggies fresh, I don’t have to throw it away either. Making LISTS is also crucial at achieving a simplistic life. Writing a list of things that I need to buy not only keeps me centered, focused but it allows me budget better and saves me time.
  4. Time- On my journey to achieve this life style, I have done ridiculous things such as not buying a can opener because I think I will not used that often. However, every time I need to open a can, I have to use a sharp knife and a hammer which not only is a pain in my behind but wastes a lot of time that I do not have. Which makes me think, is time not precious enough, it doesn’t have worth? Heck ya! Time is more precious and valuable than money in my book. That is why, I am on a hunt to buy things that have multipurpose and will safe me time, like a can opener that I have yet to buy.
  5. Routine- This is so so and I stress so crucial in life! My kids need it for their own sanity and it helps them to have a little bit of control and security in their lives. This also keeps me on track of the endless things I need to do. Since it allows me to save time, I can use it reflect on my short and long term goals.
  6. Will power-One of my weaknesses is, giving up when things get hard or I think I am not able to achieve it. This flaw never allowed me to know my capabilities and capacities. I know this will be one of the hardest things to change in my life but I am determined to fight this inner demon of mine by focusing on one thing at a time, rather than 10 millions things all at once.
  7. Health- A healthy life leads to a healthy mind. Buying less junk food and investing the time to make homemade snacks have really changed my state of mind. My diet it is no where from perfect but there are things that I have been eliminating that had made a huge difference in my mood and concentration span. I am buying less junk and more veggies and vegetables. Part of my breakfast routine is to always make fresh juice with chia seeds and blend it all in. Hibiscus juice has also entered in my daily healthy habits. I buy the dry flower leaves and boil it in water. Let it sit to cool and place in on jar in the refrigerator. I have found that hibiscus juice has cleaned my urinary track and controlled my sugar level. Also, it important to eliminate things that cause stress, friend’s that are not worth your time and even a job that is not worth the money due to high chronic level of stress (as long as there is a back up plan).
  8. Patients- Letting life be! Not everything has to be planned, controlled and manipulated. There are and there will always be things in life that are unexpected, unpleasant and goals might need to put on hold but it doesn’t mean failure and does not have to lead to unhappiness.
  9. Self- I think I can speak to all the mothers when I say we often don’t make time for ourselves. But if I don’t work in my worth, what will I have to offer to others? Having time for self reflection will have a good effect on how I am as a mother, friend, wife ect. In this culture it is very hard for most woman to take their time for themselves but it is something I will defiantly squeeze in more for my self growth.
  10. Peace- For some people peace means quiet and tranquility. As for me peace is to accept the challenges and obstacles that life throws at me and being able to be at peace with these occurrences. It means not running away from life’s challenges and difficulties but rather tackle it with grace and optimism.

Moreover “minimalism” is an endless journey and ever evolving. Life, goals, dreams, they all change consequently leading towards a different meaning of minimalism. But most importantly being a minimalist is down to the individual, it doesn’t have just one meaning, you as the person definite it.