How to Spot A Lebanese Abroad
When I was living abroad, I sought out Lebanese people actively. In my mind, only fellow Lebanese could truly understand me, my habits, rituals, thoughts and demeanor. Something about a shared language and identical values creates an immediate sense of belonging and, occasionally, relief. Everyone else, no matter how respectable, was "foreign" to me.
How does one spot a Lebanese abroad? It's actually fairly easy, as their behaviorism and idiosyncrasies are so nuanced, so particular, they stand out like sore thumbs:
1. Appearance. Lebanese guys and girls leave their homes in the morning as if going to greet a royal monarch or on their way to a $1,000-a-seat gala dinner. No joke. They bathe heavily in perfumes and colognes; coif their hairdos--gel for the boys, straightening or curling iron for the girls; and coordinate every article of their attire. Girls cake on the makeup and thick eyeliner, step into their stilettos, and strut around with designer handbags in tote. Boys don Mont Blanc wallets stuffed with wads of cash, even if they're only singles. It's all about appearances, after all.
2. Volume. Lebanese are loud creatures. They bark into their phones, in their singsong Arabic, perhaps unaware that the built-in amplifier will accurately transmit even a hushed whisper. They create a ruckus in public areas of congregation and even in more private environments, like restaurants. It's as if they want the entire world to acknowledge their existence, because you know, being discreet is unthinkable. "Silence is golden" is not in their handy reference book of words to live by.
3. Arrogance. This one irked me the most and often drove me away from my countrymen. The Lebanese deeply believe that no one is more intelligent, informed, or well-versed than they are. They smirk in disdain at lesser mortals, mocking them for waiting in line or making full stops at stop signs. They're always peering over their peers' shoulders in class, comparing their marks and inflating their chests in the event that they outscore them, even if by a mere point. And did I mention they're compulsive cheaters? God forbid they actually put in the time to prepare scrupulously.
4. Toy-toting. Lebanese folk abroad always have the most up-to-date gadgets, including cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other tech devices. Cars, you ask? They could be sinking in student loans and flat rent, but they insist on driving the hottest four wheels out there. They lease, of course, but they will never fess up to it. Shame!
5. Don Juans. It's as if they've escaped from the stifling, conservative (at least outwardly so) atmosphere of Lebanon and have to make up for years of inordinate virtue. Lebanese boys love to pounce on foreign girls, thinking them all short-term conquests and unsuitable for a real commitment. I knew one boy who dated a girl eight years his senior, moved in to her studio, and wooed her for months on end. She thought she'd found her soul mate, but we Lebanese onlookers knew better. As she neared the end of her PhD program, he bolted before things would have to turn grimly serious.
Stumbling across other Lebanese in the "ghirbeh" (outside the motherland) has its charms and quaintness, but within minutes you're smothered with a combination of the above annoyances. In a matter of no time, you begin avoiding them like the plague. Eventually you start pretending you have no idea what Lebanon is when they point at you in a crowd and ask if you're from Lebanon, too.
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