I have been to many places across the world, from Nigeria and Ireland to Brazil and Romania. Whilst leading a diplomatic lifestyle, me and my family were always engaged in our duty in representing Egypt.
There are many misconceptions and clichés out there on how glamorous and spoiled a diplomat’s life is. Although this is true on certain occasions; there is a lot more to it than fancy galas and first class airplane trips. Diplomats usually travel with their families, and when they don’t it is because they are sent on a ‘hardship post’, like for example Iraq, where living conditions are too dangerous.
When you are at a young age, moving around and adapting to new places, all depending on your father/mother, is difficult in many ways. The feeling of belonging is part of our human nature, and so being constantly on the move becomes problematic because you grow up in-between different worlds. You not only face possible destinations that are unsafe and lack good health conditions, but you also face a lot of sadness and instability every time you leave a country.
Altogether though, you get to look at the world through a whole new lens. In many ways, everything becomes more human. Where your home is, where your friends are, where your school is, and where your belongings are; they are not just in one place. They are all perpetually on the move, and thus, hold more value to us.
The term Third Culture Kid has been adapted nowadays to refer to people who have been brought up in different cultural environments than that of their parents. There are some basic ways of defining this new concept, but what is essential is that the child in question develops a personality that is composed of values, morals, beliefs and sentiments taken from all sorts of different places and people. Which has a lot of positive outcomes, such as flexibility. What is phenomenal though, is how you come to love and understand more your own country through such a childhood.
Diplomats don’t just live abroad, forgetting their country and traditions. On the contrary, they hold on to them and above all represent them.
My family brought me up at home as a Muslim Egyptian, basing my childhood upbringing on how their own families traditionally brought them up. This became a huge part of me and how I see life, and without rendering the outside world any less important. From the Brazilian way of loving life, to the Irish neighbourhood family-feel, to the Romanian seriousness towards education, to the French classiness, I have learned and gained a lot from every place I’ve been.
By all this however, people tend to say to me “you cannot possibly consider yourself to be really Egyptian!”, or that being brought up only at home as an “Egyptian” isn’t enough, which I tend to shrug off. I may have not physically lived in Egypt enough, but for me it is where I come from, and where I want to go.
Growing up as a TCK has allowed me to see both developed and developing countries, and analyse the dynamics of a growing civic culture. It has given me insights on how populations on the ground react to such and such political changes and clashes, and even more interestingly insights on the opinions of the youth within all of these different cultures. It has also taught me linguistic, historical and cross-cultural skills.
All of this has fuelled my hopes for a better understanding of my own country, it’s unsettling political unrest and how we all should tackle current situations. Within and outside of Egypt, I have always felt a strong pride in the nation I represent. Many people in Egypt need to know this about the lifestyle we lead, because no matter the situation we never forget where we come from.
With ups and downs, and without managing to locate my physical home on a single point on a map, I have encountered a diverse amount of inspiring people and places. All in all though, I have always believed that Egypt is where I want to be, and I hope that with all I’ve learned, I will help see it grow.