I always wanted to live abroad for a while. Not a nice European country, where life is safe but boring sometimes. I wanted to live in a completely different country, with a different culture and language. Far enough from home to force me to a situation where the only person I could rely upon was myself. I was living in the hope that I could find my borders and experience what people mean with the phenomenon that is called ‘culture shock’.
And then came the perfect chance for me: in the fourth year of my bachelor, every student has to do an internship, followed up by conducting research. Where all of my study fellows were planning to stay in Holland, I started planning to move to Cairo.
In this blog, I will explain something about my first experiences in Cairo. How I got a job and an apartment, and a first experience with the culture. I also will explain something about the differences in real estate compared to Holland, since that is the main field of my studies.
The first problem I faced was that I had to find a company before I could travel to Egypt. My university was requesting an official admission before they would give me permission to go.
First I contacted my network in Holland to see if anybody with contacts in Cairo could help me. Using this strategy, I found 9 companies. Nobody could help me. After that, I send my CV to more than 20 companies. No response at all. Then I decided to start calling the companies. After some disappointing phone calls, one company told me they might be able to offer me a place to work. They couldn’t guarantee anything but told me that they needed people. For me, this was enough. I booked a ticket and a couple of weeks later I arrived in Egypt.
I remember me sitting in the plane and talking with people about our destinations. I told them that I was going to live in Cairo. They asked me what I would do and where I would stay. The only answer I could give them was: ‘‘I don’t know’’. The situation felt really exciting and adventurous.
However, the exciting part was quickly over. When I arrived in Cairo, I went to the company that told me they might help me.
Finding a flat was also really easy. The first week in Cairo, I stayed in a hostel. During that time, I checked out different parts of the city and decided that I wanted to live in Maadi. Maadi is a nice area in the city where a lot of foreigners live. The buildings are broadly spread and especially the Apartments for rent in Cairo Egypt and Villas for rent in Cairo Egypt . The streets of Maadi are full of trees, providing shade and clean air. I subscribed to a couple of Facebook groups where people exchange rooms and within no time I founded a nice furnished residence.
During my first weeks in Cairo, I started to explore the city and the culture. An interesting thing about Cairo is the public transport. As a Dutchie, I am used to trains and buses that depart and arrive at fixed times, that you can find back in timetables on your smartphone. Transport in Cairo is a little bit different. In the center areas, there are some metro lines. This is the fastest way to travel through the city. If you live too far from the metro station, you have two options: taxi or micro-bus. Taxi speaks for itself. Micro-bus was a new phenomenon for me. Microbuses are Volkswagen T3 buses that are converted to something that is able to transport 15 humans. In the city, there is no way that you will find any signs for a bus or any timetables. When I asked people for a map to know where the buses go, they laughed at me, telling me: ‘’Ask the driver and you will know’’.
Living in Maadi is very nice. The accessibility of the metro is good, and there are always supermarkets available on a short distance. There are lots of places with bars, clubs, and restaurants, where you will find all types of food. You can meet interesting people and make easy friends. Also, there is a protectorate very nearby. In the protectorate, you escape the crowdedness of the city and go on a bike, climb mountains or relax. Nature is beautiful and you have a big chance in spotting some desert foxes or other interesting animals.
The population in Maadi is mixed: you will find expats living beside the expats and the embassies. The people on the street that I have met are very friendly. The area feels safe, the streets are clean and are not so crowded when you compare it to other parts of the city.
For me as a student with low requirements, it is easy to find an apartment for rent. However, when you are used to higher living standards, you will find that the best way to find available residencies is by contacting a real estate agent. Real estate Agents know the neighborhood very well and know which apartments are available for rent or sale.
I noticed that compared to Holland, the real estate companies are much more competitive with each other. For example: when somebody in Holland wants to rent a house or an apartment, he goes to one brokerage office and waits until the agent has found a tenant. In Egypt, all the agents in a neighborhood try to find a tenant for the same house. The agent who gets the tenant first gets the money.
Looking back on my first month in Egypt, I have had a great time. Meeting all those new people and exploring every day has been tiring sometimes, but in general, it has been a really nice experience so far. I am looking forward to the next months and I’m excited to find out if the culture shock will get me or not.
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