Heaven forbid that you should ever have to deal with bureaucracy in Egypt. If you ever find yourself in that situation, you have obviously committed some grave sin against God and not repented, as I seemed to have done last week on my trip there. So, from observation and experience I offer the following tips. They’ll maybe, probably, if you’re lucky, allow you to be in a position of PERHAPS getting someone to think about considering whether or not your paperwork might eventually one day be thought of as something to be placed in the slush pile of forms that make a small mountain in the corner of a forgotten office, drowning what was once a rather empty ‘in’ tray.
When sharing with others please give the leaflet the following headings:
Title: Ways to act when dealing with a government office in Egypt
Subtitle: Forget it, you’re screwed, give up, they don’t even know what paperclips are and pronounce ‘printing’ ‘bar-intttttttt’
1) The moment you step in, tell someone random, in a loud voice, ‘I’ve been here all day’. Make sure you nod as if affirming it, even if they ignore you.
2) As soon as you get to speak to someone working there, no matter what they say, cut them off midway and say, ‘but the other guy told me to come to you!’
3) If you’re ever asked to calm down, turn around and say, ‘So foreigners are better than us?’ There needn’t be any foreigners around, but Egyptians are extremely patriotic, they’ll instantly feel ashamed and not even notice if you are, in fact, a foreigner.
4) Whatever happens, do not reach for or remove your shoe. This means you are about to throw it at someone.
5) If in doubt walk, around to several desks within ear shot of each other and quietly repeat a question that you already know the answer to. They’ll give you the same answer and this will make them feel knowledgeable and efficient. From then on when you’re talking to the person you need to speak to, point back at any of the people you spoke to before, and they will nod confirmation to whatever you’re saying, as they are too self righteous to dare think that you would be doing anything other than asking for confirmation of what they’ve said.
5A) When talking to or referring to anyone call them, ‘Captain / Basha / Ya Seedee, Ya ‘am’ all of which pretty much seem to mean ‘dude’.
6) Do not mention the word ‘donkey’ whatever you do. Even if there is a donkey in the room taking a dump on your documents, and you feel you have the right to say, ‘could someone please move this donkey?’ – DON’T – every official in the place will flare up as if you’ve called them a donkey. Seen it happen, true story.
7) Running in to scream, ‘I’ll bribe the next person who’ll help me’ will work – but the others not being bribed will make it harder for your new found hire to get anything done.
8 ) The correct form of bribe is to place the money in question at the front of the documents that you need done, and then tilt them 20 degrees downwards, preferably at eye level, so the person catches sight of it quickly as you attempt to place it all on the table. If done correctly your documents will not even hit the table but suddenly disappear – the ‘bribee’ will instantly shout at someone around them for no good reason other than to make a scene, and an excuse for messing the order of what he was dealing with. Stand to one side and do not be alarmed. The shouting at this point is compulsory and a reflex, and if no one is around, the bribee may even yell at inanimate objects like doors.
9) With regards to bribees, I have yet to bribe a woman but have found that the likely acceptance of a bribe by any man is directly proportional to his waistline. Scientific equation: the bigger the belly, the smaller the bribe.
10) After a successful transaction, make sure you bury the official who helped you in ridiculous superlatives. Things that lift them to near deity status are best, such as, ‘may light shine on you always and you be warded off from every harm’, or ‘may your mother have her righteous place amongst the righteous in the valley of those who do right’, or if you fancy going for the big guns, ‘may you see your children grow, and their children, and children’s children, like leaves on trees for ever more and be showered from heaven eternally.’
And finally if you find that your government official, in Egypt, WON’T take a bribe, please check your airplane ticket to see where you are or ask a friend to confirm whether or not you are sleeping, as you are definitely not in Egypt.
Good luck. If any Egyptians care to add, please feel free.
Photo Credits: Ben Heine - http://www.benheine.com/flickr/4561195225.jpg
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