As my first post for the ‘Arab Ex-pat’, I thought it might be good to give an explanation of my understanding of the Expatriate experience.
Firstly, I was never aware of the moment that I became expatriated. Since I was very young I have moved between Arab and European countries and most people I knew were the same. The idea of staying in one place was very strange to me.
I was about 14 and living in Saudi Arabia when I came across the word ‘diaspora’ in an English novel, and to me the syllables sounded quite beautiful, romantic even. Then I looked up their meaning and found the true meaning and understood that they described me and many others.
As a child in Saudi, I felt quite rooted as there were many others like me, Egyptians, Palestinians, Syrians, Pakistanis, and Americans, all away from home. My family went back to Egypt regularly and I spoke to my cousins daily on the phone, so never felt that I was too far away.
I was 16 when we moved to England and that was when it struck me that I was strange to my surroundings, people spoke differently and laughed at the way I pronounced things, they had different habits and had mostly all lived in the same place since birth. They thought Egyptians still spoke Egyptian and that we danced the sand-dance and had never heard of the Delta city of al-Mansoura, where I’m from.
I started to long to meet other people from Egypt or the Middle East, regardless of what they were like and completely rejected the idea of mixing with the English, learning about the local area or adopting any of the local habits. As a result, I think I became lonelier and more confused than I ever needed to be.
Since I started university and spent a year living away in Syria, I’ve grown to accept England, to love it and count it as my home. There are certain comforts here that I’ve grown accustomed to and would miss if we went back to al-Mansoura. I also came to understand the beautiful diversity of experiences that we ex-pats enjoy, the things we only undergo only by living in a place and how we can come to understand different people and places much better than those who stay in one place. In one sense we have a culture of our own and can reach out to other ex-pats no matter where they’ve been. We are not unlucky to have opened our horizons but truly blessed.