It may not immediately take top spot on the last-minute priority list of “things that must be sorted out before leaving”. Especially if the whole family is moving with you to Egypt. Initially, the move is more likely to be seen in terms of an adventure. Because few countries have quite the power to excite the imagination like mysterious Egypt. The very name conjures up exquisite images of pharaohs, pyramids and the ancient glories of Tutankhamen and Nefertiti, not to mention timeless desert landscapes and River Nile sunsets, or busy bustling Cairo markets and the holiday hot-spots of Red Sea resorts such as Sharm-el-Sheik. Yes, in Egypt, the ancient and modern live comfortably side by side, which is surely a major part of the country’s attraction for both tourist and expatriate alike.
However, once the initial excitement wears off, more pragmatic thoughts usually begin to surface. Worries might be a better description. Worries about language, culture, schools and money. To name just a few – but there are more, of course. For now, money suddenly hits the top of the priority list with salary, cost of living, current accounts and the overdraft all taking centre stage. A cursory online search reveals personal banking is of a high calibre. In fact, many of the multinational banking names which are so much a part of everyday life at home are well represented. It comes as a bit of a surprise that HSBC current accounts in Egypt are much like current accounts in the United Kingdom, or the United States of America. Surprising, yes, but a huge relief, too.
Now that online banking services have been explored and the levels of interest rates offered by savings accounts and the like have been satisfactorily investigated, time to look at other aspects of daily life which might prove a little daunting at first glance. Language is one, for sure, but there’s good news on that front. English, you discover, is widely spoken not only within the banks but also in the wider community. And the Egyptian people are known for their friendly and warm attitude towards visitors to their country. They are also highly appreciative of any faltering attempts to converse with them in Egyptian Arabic, the language of the country. So all the phrase books you’ve bought and read and absorbed will pay huge dividends in terms of striking up friendships and building up a network of business and other contacts.
Getting around Cairo, for example, and other major cities in Egypt for that matter, looks a bit of a daunting prospect, according to your online research. So if you happily jump in and out of taxis on a fairly regular basis when you first arrive, that’s fine. It’s an inexpensive and easy way to travel – once you get used to the frenetic pace of city traffic! However, as you grow in confidence, as you quickly will, the Cairo Metro, which carries millions of commuters into and out of the city on a daily basis, is a far cheaper alternative.
Children’s education is always cause for a certain amount of concern whether you live in the UK or Egypt. Luckily, Cairo has a number of good international British or American-run schools offering the same high standards of education you’d expect back home. Another worry bites the dust.
Yes, moving to Egypt with the family in tow, is a difficult prospect. Often, however, thinking and worrying about the move is much worse than the reality.