Leaving Egypt to study abroad or work creates a change in us, which is often hidden out of fear. As human beings we are in need to belong to the crowd, but what if what once was your comfort zone, your sanctuary, has become an oblivious place you fail to understand which only gets more confusing overtime?
This culture clash will remain with you even after years of living abroad. As Egyptians, there are certain traditions we will never let go of even if we claim to be “open minded”, or if we’re convinced we can adapt to certain environments easily.
It is only natural that when you live abroad you find difficulties in adjusting with that new culture, and new ways of life you’re not completely used to. Everyone likes to share their experiences and knowledge of how life is different and challenging in Europe.
However, what we fail to share with others out of fear of coming off as weak, or inflexible, is that when you return to Egypt you become a stranger in your own country.
We become what you call “ third culture kids”, we take a bit of both worlds. Those strong convictions we had whilst living here, well they completely changed, and we become afraid to admit it to those around us.
Coming from a country with core beliefs, which are altered later on by the climate in which we are embedded, creates a certain uneasiness with the people around you. It is then reflected in the way you act, the way you speak and mainly the way in which you approach situations. For Egyptians, it will be considered as unethical, and will not follow their logic. They’ll call you “agnaby” and we Egyptians know how much we hate being called that.
Therefore, coming back home requires more effort than we thought, we don’t know which stories to share, because some of them will not fit with our society’s norms, leading to a need to readjust and have an emphasized carefulness regarding what we say, how we say it and to whom we say it.
We change a part of who we’ve become, to fit in a world that is both familiar and strange at the same time. What needs to be understood is that in the process of doing so, we actually begin to understand the true meaning of being flexible, and having an open mind.
Let’s be clear, being open minded is one thing, which is often misunderstood by our peers, however keeping an open mind is an entirely different matter and both are often confused. Keeping an open mind means that in the process of discussing and learning about new subjects, one should be able to remain neutral while holding on to their own beliefs, which is often hardly applicable within a society that can be narrow minded.
For instance, being exposed to different cultures offers a different perspective concerning a simple subject such as fashion. Now I am not saying Egyptians are not open to certain ways of fashion, however let’s take it to the extreme. A simple subject such as Hijab can be appropriate: a woman in Egypt wearing a Hijab is downright normal, it fits our society, with Islam being the major religion in our country.
However, what fails to make sense is the fact that a girl can wear shorts in Sahel but not in Cairo. I should note that I am only offering a perspective here, that being said when such a matter is discussed; a person who has been exposed to both worlds is then required to change their opinion accordingly. This is what I mean when I previously stated that one changes a part of who they are, or the way they view certain things in order to fit within our society.
If only we were able to change some aspects of how we view things, especially on a larger scale and not on such an irrelevant subject such as fashion. If we truly were able to keep an open mind and listen calmly to different opinions and actually take them into account, I believe that this is when this country will truly see the change we, Egyptians, have been thriving on for these past couple of years.
Edited by Karim Hafazalla