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Ahmad Kareem 23 Apr 2014

Problems Only Lebanese Abroad Will Understand

As much as people in Lebanon are always dying to leave, there’s a huge amount of people in the Lebanese diaspora who wish they could come back. My friend from the US swears she’d chop off her left arm and donate it to science for the opportunity to eat an authentic bowl of Lebanese hummus. There’s just some things that can’t be replicated, and delicious Lebanese hummus is one of them. Here’s eight problems anyone living abroad will understand.

1. The Lebanese Accent
(Image via Habeen.com)

Forget the infamous linguistic trifecta of English, French, and Arabic, most people just can’t understand the Lebanese accent. You’ll be made fun of and incessantly asked to repeat yourself. Eventually, you’ll give up and rely on the formal Arabic you last used in the third grade. One awkward side-effect is that you’ll sound a lot like those dubbed Mexican soaps your Teta was so fond of.

2. Not Everything’s Deliverable
(Image via Mideastposts.com)

Beirut’s service sector has firmly taken on the challenge of making any product or service deliverable. Whether by foot, scooter, or car, if you want it, chances are you can get it delivered to you in the comfort of your own home. However, once you’re abroad you’ll soon realize how stupid you sound asking your dry cleaner if he delivers. One natural reflex you’ll have to lose is the automatic recitation of your address right after your order. No one in their right mind will deliver a five dollar crepe in the middle of the night (or a three dollar argileh), cue you missing Tonino’s.

3. Closing Times Exist
(Image via Beiruting.com)

Speaking of the middle of the night, don’t be surprised to find out that restaurants and stores generally don’t stay open very late. Most decent cities have a curfew and even the greasy diners don’t generally stay open till dawn. You’ll pine for the days of 3 AM Famous Chicken’s from ZwZ or Snack Faysal manouches with the sunrise. Oh and if you end up in the Gulf, beware of prayer times and abandon all ideas of productivity during them.

4. A Night Out Is Very Different
(Image via Marcopolis.net)

Anyone who’s lived outside Lebanon will thank their lucky stars the Lebanese clubbing model wasn’t exported. Forget booking a table days in advance just to go with friend. Abroad, you can in fact just decide to go clubbing in casual street clothes, as opposed to your wedding tux/dress for a Beiruti night out. Secretly, you’ll kinda miss the allure of going all out for a night at BO, even if you’d rather pretend you didn’t just give up half your paycheck.

5. No Good Lebanese Food
(Image via Blogspot.com)

This is probably as universal a truth as the fact that Abo Naji makes the best coffee in Beirut. You just can’t seem to find a place outside Lebanon with half-way decent Lebanese food. Not to say they won’t try, as just about every capital city around the world boasts an “authentic” Lebanese experience, but to no avail. It’s a damn shame we can’t seem to spread one of the greatest accomplishments in cuisine ever, but then again maybe it is worth booking a trip back home just to have that one bite of Teta’s tabbouleh.

6. That One Fares Karam Song
(Image via Thearabnights.com)

Yes, I didn’t think it was true either but the Arab Don Juan himself got it right when he spoke of the curse of the Ghirbeh and how hard it is to leave one’s motherland. This one goes without saying, but anyone abroad will miss their extended family back in the 961. The most trivial activities – like a football game or a quiet evening argileh – will remind you of the endless nights you spent gathered among your cousins playing cards all night and chatting, and no number of Benjamin’s will make up for that.

7. Everyone Isn’t a Friend Waiting To Be Made
(Image via Thisisbeirut.com)

If we do one thing well, besides our mezze, it’s making people feel welcome, but don’t expect that habit to cross borders. Gone are the days where you’ll make a best friend by being squeezed next to him in a rusty old service and forget about inviting your neighbors over for coffee and maamoul. Don’t let that get you down though, you’re bound to bump into a Lebanese person, we’re all over the place.

8. Lebanon’s Street Rep
(Image via Todayszaman.com)

Depending on where on the globe you land, you’ll either be labelled as a gangster, militiaman, drug runner or a Lothario. Not that any of those are necessarily bad things, but it just goes to show how far and wide our reputation has come to precede us. Worse than that is the general idea that Beirut is in a warzone and that the country is unsafe to live. It falls on your shoulders to convince them otherwise and get them over here so we can show them what Beirut is truly all about. Just pray extra hard no one blows anything up while they’re here.