It’s no secret that marriage in Egypt is unlike marriage in the West. In this post I’m sharing some things that are part of marriage in this country that you might not think of till you experience them. There are many more, but these 4 facts have been the most surprising to me!
You’re tested before marriage for…..diabetes.
I am assuming that it’s because the majority of people that marry here are virgins -not just women, but men too. STDs aren’t a public health concern in Egypt. There are no billboards about AIDs, and no commercials warning you that condoms won’t protect you against Herpes. When my husband and I went for our medical exams I wondered What exactly are we being tested for? We had blood drawn and screened and were thrilled to find out that yay- we didn’t have…..elevated sugar? Why whether or not you have diabetes should impede you in getting married I don’t know, but the test is a requirement for obtaining authorization by the government to be wed. So if you don’t want any problems, don’t eat cake or drink juice before your pre-nuptial medical exam, I guess? I can’t say if elevated sugar will really prevent you from getting married. We didn’t ask as many times, trying to get a straight and accurate answer is not worth the effort here. Having observed the way people gain weight after marriage here and worldwide, (myself included), I think it would serve us all better to be tested for diabetes a year after the wedding, instead!
Domestic violence is not a “cause” of concern.
Since I’ve been living in Egypt, I’ve never seen the police in my neighborhood conducting any kind of investigation. We have paid security guards throughout the neighborhood that watch everything that’s going on, however. When there was a fire in the building across the street from me, the guards were the ones that alerted the residents and helped to evacuate the building. The fire department took quite awhile to get here. I imagine that is was in part due to heavy traffic, but this incident was just a reminder that here, order in communities relies heavily on the residents.
How is this relevant to domestic violence? Well, if your spouse abuses you, there is no understanding that emergency services exist to intervene. I may have mentioned this in a previous post but after being here for this long I still don’t even know what the police or emergency number is. The majority of men here would be too ashamed to call the police if their wife were to attack them. Having observed guys in Egypt, I highly doubt they’d just let it happen, either. I think many women would be ashamed to call the police as well and could be afraid of being blamed for making their husbands angry. I’ve witnessed a case in which the wife’s family appeared at a couple’s home to intervene because she’d complained to them of ongoing abuse. This didn’t influence the husband’s behavior, and the neighbors although aware, looked the other way as the abuse continued. That really bothered me. Though many people in Egypt will tell you domestic violence is wrong, it seems it’s an issue often swept under the rug. It can go unaddressed or ignored, and it’s not managed as a community affair.
Homemaking in Egypt has a more profound meaning
If you’re a woman that’s described herself as a “homebody” you might love it here. In Egypt, homemaking takes on a different meaning. While there are many career minded women, there are still many women that get married and barely leave their houses. Their whole lives are literally dedicated to serving their families inside of their homes. I went to an job interview when I first came here and the manager asked me why I was living in Egypt. I told him I’d recently been married here and he asked me, “And you plan to work? How can you work when marriage is already a full time job?” I thought he was crazy when he asked me this and may have even laughed a little. Women get married and work every day as though nothing’s happened, right? After being in Egypt for going on two years, I now understand that for many women, their role in their home defines their entire existence. I found it strange as a woman from the west and it took some getting used to for me, but now I enjoy it. And that brings me to my last point…
Residency Obtained Through Marriage Doesn’t Automatically Make You Eligible for a Work Permit
I can’t speak for the rest of the world but I know that when you immigrate to the USA, if you’re granted residency through your spouse you’re also granted a work permit. That doesn’t apply in Egypt. When I went through the process of applying for a work permit here I was asked for a Certificate of Experience, which I don’t have. (Sorry, Egypt that doesn’t exist where I’m from). The HR Manger was incredulous when I tried to explain to this him and he insisted that I should never have left my last employer without obtaining this certificate. I told him there is no such certificate provided by employers in the US, when we leave our jobs, we just leave. No paperwork required. When he looked at me blankly I realized I’d run into a familiar dilemma of foreigners in Egypt and asked him, “Do you even understand what I’m saying right now?” He had a good sense of humor and started laughing. No, he couldn’t understand my words or the concept. When I tried to explain how employment works in my country the language and cultural barrier was prevented us from moving forward. I now know that a Certificate of Experience is standard in Egypt and proves you’ve left your employer on good terms.
But I no longer worry about this. The HR Manager also told me in confidence and good humor on another day that the company’s owner had no real intention of pulling permits for the expats that were working there. He’d been collecting documents and running to the immigration office…all for show. Bizarre, right? This is normal in Egypt but most companies are up front about it. They will not pull a work permit for you and have no problem with you working illegally. Some companies may charge you about 3 months of your salary to pull it for you, which is a complete rip-off. If you find a company in Egypt that pulls your permit for you, it might actually be a decent place to work, which is not easy to come by. Back to this particular company I worked at, when I had to argue with the company owner for my last paycheck, I knew I was at serious risk for working without getting paid. He’d neglected to pay a couple of employees before me ,and they were Egyptians working legally here with their enforceable rights. I argued with him about their checks, too, but he was full of bad intentions and told me they didn’t deserve to get paid and not to interfere. After I collected my last payment, I never went back or answered any more of their calls. Then the Egyptian pound went into a plunge to devaluation, and with it being worth only 50% of what it had been previously against the dollar, I realized it was not worth it to try to establish a career in Egypt.
Hence, my remote work life started, which allows me to stay comfortably at home everyday, avoid traffic and a nightmare commute you have to see to believe, and collect my payments in USD. I really thank God for that, and recommend any expat planning to live here do the same.
Do you have any thoughts on being an expat married in Egypt? Or questions? Feel free to comment or write, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this post.