Every region in the world has its unique features, culture, lifestyle, and people. They are what creates the diversity we have in our world today. The inhabitants of one small country in the Middle East, though, possess traits that are so unique, so recognizable, that you’ll be able to pick them out from a crowd if you know what to look for.
So if you’re ever on the hunt for the common Lebanese, look out for these signs that tell you that what you’re looking at is, indeed, Libneneh.
Looks are very important for the Lebanese and great value is placed on first impressions. Generally, Lebanese people will make extra effort to ensure they look fabulous when they go out, especially if they’re meeting new people or heading to a new place for the first time.
Yalla or Yallah; the Lebanese word that can mean anything and everything. Linguistically speaking, yallah derived from “Ya Allah” and was originally used as a call for divine protection when intending to head somewhere. With time, it went on to become yalla and to mean “let’s go” but also “okay” and “I’m on it” and “speed it up.”
If you’ve spent any time at all in the company of a Lebanese person, you probably have noticed that they use the word so much, and in so many different situations. It’s a crucial word in the Lebanese dictionary.
Lebanon’s history is a mess. Over the centuries, the country has been occupied/mandated many times by different foreign rulers. This means that different cultures have been introduced to the Lebanese over time and, in turn, multiple languages became common in the country.
Moreover, in Lebanon’s educational system, Arabic and either French or English are the main languages of instruction in schools; some curriculums have them all three as a must. The subjects taught in Arabic have been limited to the literature of the language itself, in addition to civics, geography, and history. All other subjects are taught in French or English.
And while many other countries are bilingual in their education, we Lebanese take it to a different level: We don’t only use 2-3 languages in one conversation, jumping from one to another back and forth but we tend to smoothly formulate one sentence with three different languages as if a natural thing to do:
“Okay, merci kteer, habibi, I get it. Bas shou hal mess, ya khayyeh! Aan jad c’est d’la folie. Ehkit mom? You have to, yallah, now!” Yep, even languages coexist in our lifestyle.
Hada yorfaa el disjoncteur! (Somebody switch the circuit breaker!)
Because we’re so used to power cuts and often find ourselves having to rely on a mix of ninjutsu and echolocation to reach and switch the circuit breaker, we have memorized every nook and cranny in our houses by feel.
Spending extended periods in the dark during power cuts has also resulted in us having more effective night vision… Or so some of us like to believe.
When you’re going on a trip as a passenger in a Lebanese car, you don’t simply ask “how long till we get there” without getting the classic wsolna (we’re there) response.
Typically preceded by yalla, this response is generally used to dodge the question of how much more distance is left for a car ride (to hide either being unsure of how much is actually left or the fact that there is still a long way to go).
Going mountain climbing with a Lebanese expat? Be ready to hear them talk endlessly about how glorious their country’s mountains are, and how easy it is to go swimming at the beach in the morning, and skiing in the afternoon thanks to Lebanon’s unique climate and terrain.
Once we are out of our country, we just go amnesiac on all that we complained about or that we ever complained. We even start missing those. The electricity cut turns into tales of candle-night romance, the street floods turn into tales of jokes and bravery, and the usual overstepping of the extended family members turns into how great the Lebanese care about each other back home.
Don’t get shocked if your Lebanese friend, who used to paint Lebanon in all the colors of glory, switches quickly to complaining once back home. Reality can hit hard, reminding him or her why they left in the first place.
And if it happens that you’ve tagged along to finally visit this glorious country you so heard them talk about, try to bear with their daily and even hourly complaints. It’s a thing we do in Lebanon…. even when having fun and enjoying our time.
A true trademark of the Lebanese lifestyle, the argileh is an essential part of a great number of Lebanese people’s daily life, and a prominent piece of Lebanese pop culture today.
Of course, not everyone in Lebanon smokes hookah and, of course, it’s not a healthy or advisable habit, but the recreational activity has been an inseparable part of Lebanese culture for a long time, and the hookah is very common to find in Lebanese houses and shops.
In Lebanese social settings, humor and jokes are a crucial part of a conversation. Lebanese people like to joke about everything, all the time, sometimes even in situations inappropriate for jokes. They’re quick to fill the air with joy and lighten the mood wherever they go.