Expats and the Middle East – Status Check

The AP distributed an article today chronicling the ills and woes of every country from Egypt to Iran.  It isn’t pretty.  A quote from Diaa Rashwan, a political researcher in Cairo, opens the article and pretty much sums it up: “Everywhere you look on the map of the Middle East, you see trouble and no real solutions.”  What does that mean for expats in the Middle East, or for people contemplating an assignment there?  Nothing much, really.  Or rather, business as usual.

Life and commerce go on in the Middle East as they always have (with the exception of Iraq at present).  In the morning, businesses open and sell their wares and ply their trades.  In the evening clubs and restaurants open and prosper or fail according to their quality and marketing.  The populace is not huddled in shelters, waiting for chaos.  I mean, have you seen Cairo in rush hour?  Why wait for chaos?

Are people affected by the political and cultural tensions?  Of course.  But the expats, like the locals, just do their jobs and collect their pay.  The differences between being in the Middle East or staying home in Pontiac or Poughkeepsie are principally: 1) security, or rather the awareness of the need to be cautious and alert; 2) memories/flavor, meaning that the time spent abroad is delicious in hindsight and “interesting” to endure, perhaps moreso because of the surrounding tensions, 3) a keen appreciation of home, family and loved ones far away; and 4) money, with bonuses and incentives to get you overseas, and subsidized housing.  Those are all positive things, at least to an extent sufficient to make foreign assignments worthwhile.

Is there anyone to say me nay?  I welcome your comments and experiences on life as an expat in the Middle East.

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