29 April 2021
Category : Interview
FIIAPP expatriates: Pedro Cartagena
Pedro Cartagena tells us in this interview about his experience in Egypt as the coordinator of the Twnning for the strengthening the Egyptian Patent Office, a project finenced by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP
How was your arrival in Egypt? Is there anything you remember in particular?
I arrived in Egypt on 5 January 2020, with great enthusiasm despite missing Three Kings Day, my favourite celebration of the Christmas holidays.
What about settling in? What were the hardest and easiest things for you?
Actually it was really easy. Within a month I was settled in and part of the chaos of Cairo. I’ve always been attracted by Arab countries. We aren’t so different, culturally speaking, apart from the distances of course.
The most difficult thing for me was that because of COVID, the project was suspended in April and I had to return to Spain, leaving my apartment and all my things in boxes. It was a difficult few weeks, organising everything, with airports closed and flights cancelled.
I don’t think that it’s that difficult for a Spaniard to adapt to Arab culture, perhaps because we have many years of history and a sea in common.
Is this your first experience of living outside Spain? Is it different from the previous ones? How long have you been there and how much time do you have left?
This isn’t my first experience abroad. I lived in the Netherlands for almost 10 years. As you can imagine, the experience was completely different. After all, the Netherlands, even with its differences, is Europe, the West. This is infinitely more exotic and with many possibilities to discover and experience things very different from what we’re used to.
As I mentioned before, I arrived in Cairo for the first time on 5 January 2020. On 26 April I returned to Spain and on 22 September I returned to Cairo as the project was restarted, so in total I’ve been here for about 10 months.
In principle, I’ll be here until 31 May 2022.
What’s your work and your daily routine like? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
My day-to-day work is not so different from the routine I had in Spain – hours spent in front of a computer, like most people nowadays. Also, I’m in the Egyptian Patents Office and I come from the Spanish Patents and Trademarks Office, so the subject matter is very similar.
The main difference is having to work with four different mindsets. Although the project is led by Spain, we also work with Denmark and Germany, each with our own foibles. If you add
those of Egypt, you sometimes find yourself faced with rather complex situations. But, in any case, I have to admit that everyone does their part to solve them.
How are relations with FIIAPP? And with your colleagues in Egypt?
My relations with FIIAPP are excellent, and I’m not just saying that to look good, they really are. I think I’ve been very lucky with the two coordinators that I’ve had. I say two because the first changed projects after a few months. Both he and his replacement have helped me and continue to help me a lot and I have to thank them as it’s my first experience in the RTA network and sometimes I’m a bit lost with the Twinning bureaucracy.
I get along very well with my colleagues here. Right from the start they’ve been very welcoming. In general, Egyptians are very hospitable, cheerful and they love it if you get involved with their country and its food, so as you can see, the Spanish character fits quite well here.
How would you rate your experience of working abroad for FIIAPP?
I value it really positively – not only on a professional level, but on a personal level too.
On a professional level I have no complaints, I feel valued and supported by both FIIAPP and the Egyptian Patents Office and on a personal level it’s a unique experience that’s giving me some experiences I’ll never forget.
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