If you hate bureaucracy and inefficient processes, don’t try to get Internet in Egypt.
When I was teaching in Cairo, I lived in a nice apartment, which was set up with Wi-Fi when I arrived. Unfortunately, the Internet connection was spotty and slow, so I decided to switch to a better Internet provider that was cheaper and faster.
In the US (where I’m from), this isn’t a big deal. You just call the Internet company or go online to sign-up. Someone then comes out to your house to set it up. Or you pick up the equipment and set it up yourself.
Here’s what I had to do in Egypt:
- Go to the office of my current Internet provider and request to cancel my service. This requires having all the proper documentation — proof you live at the address, account numbers, etc. This took multiple trips. (It took multiple trips for me to gather all of the necessary documentation.)
- Wait 30 days for a cancellation number. Before the account is officially closed, the Internet provider requests a cancellation number from the government. Your Internet will be disconnected immediately, but you can’t sign up with a new provider quite yet.
- Once you have the cancellation number, you will go to the office of your new service provider and sign up for the plan you want. If you’re lucky, you will have all the necessary documentation (proof you live at the address you want service for, IDs, the correct cancellation number, etc.). I wonder if there’s an Egyptian scam where people sign other people up for Internet…
- Wait 30 days for a confirmation number. Yes, assuming you did everything right up until this point, you will have to wait another 30 days for the company to request a government confirmation number and finally activate your internet.
- Set up a time for your new provider to come by and set up your Internet. This part was relatively efficient, and assuming the connection works, you’ll just be happy that your two plus month ordeal is over.
Egypt is hardly the only country with a large bureaucracy. I’ve worked for the US government and I can tell you first hand there are people whose job it is to tell you “no.” For a classic example of bureaucracy in action, try going to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The Key to Surviving a Change in Internet Providers
There’s a term you should become familiar with if you ever live in Egypt: Inshallah
It’s an Arabic phrase that means “God willing.”
At its best, the phrase evokes a sense of humility and acknowledges that people have limited control over events and circumstances.
At its worst, students use the term in reference to their homework that may or may not get done.
While I lived in Cairo, I realized that I couldn’t change the culture, or even change the way people sign up for Internet. The only thing I could control was my reaction to what I experienced.
If you travel for any extended period of time, you will encounter a ton of frustrating situations that you have no control over. Your train will break down, you will have some uncomfortable digestion issues with no western toilet in site, and you will have to deal with people who upset you.
Travel will help you master your reaction to your environment
As fun and exhilarating as traveling is, there are an infinite number of things that will make you upset and uncomfortable. There is only one thing you control: your reaction.
Learn to embrace unpleasant experiences as an opportunity for deliberate practice. You will practice mind control on your own mind.
The best part is that your new reaction management skills will help you when you’re back home in the “real world.” Is the printer at work giving you the “PC Load Letter” error message? At least you’re not sitting on a broken down Italian train.
It is important to note that your hard won skill is not just about managing your reactions to negative events or circumstances. It also helps you appreciate the things that go right and to react appropriately.
I remember coming back to the US where the Internet worked, customer service was awesome, and everything was super convenient. I was extremely happy. Things just worked like I expected them to.
The more extreme feelings of joy will wear off as you settle into your old routines. However, as you travel more, you will find yourself drawing upon your experiences more and more whenever something goes wrong or right.
Inshallah is a fantastic expectation and reaction-management tool. If you learn to use the term as a way to maintain your sanity and enjoy yourself, you will go far.
- You have limited control over your environment.
- You have full control over your mind.
- Travel will help you master your reaction to your environment.
- Reaction-management skills will help you in the real world.
How has travel helped you master your reaction to your environment?
If you’re looking for a place to stay take a look at our Hostels in Egypt.