One of the hardest decisions any Lebanese could make is to emigrate to a new country to call it home. However, as we know of our Lebanese fellows in the diaspora around the globe, they do settle well, live even better, work assiduously, and thrive in their careers, adapting admirably to the ways and culture of their new home. At that, when they decide to visit their homeland, some details make them hit the ceiling, starting way before booking their flight and all through to the time of their departure from Lebanon. Let's take a look!
#1. Aymata Jeyeh? ~ When are you coming?
Hold there! This is not the understandably normal "Long time, habibi! We miss you!" This starts as soon as you stepped in your new country's home after arriving from visiting Lebanon.
And that is not restricted to your parents and siblings but also includes your relatives and friends (probably your neighbor as well?) who won’t miss another day to ask you when you’re coming back again.
This kind of conversation usually happens through a phone call where EVERYONE in Lebanon believes that since you’re away, they should be as loud and clear as possible. You might be homesick by then, but.... not that much homesick yet!
#2. Ticket Booking
Tell us about that. If the family phone calls and nagging have successfully managed to trigger your nostalgia, the airline's companies will automatically detect that and chances are that you will be spending a lifetime looking for the cheapest ticket, but unfortunately with no luck!
#3. Badde talab mennak bala te2leh ~ I want to ask you a favor if no burden.
If you’re living and working abroad then welcome to the club, dude! As a matter of fact, once you've booked your ticket to Lebanon, everyone would suddenly want to offer Dubai or Montreal or Paris, or whatever country you’re in, IN A PACKAGE to some family members and friends.
And you oblige! How can you not? So, you go on a shopping spree amidst your own personal preparations, try to fit these not too few extras in your luggage, consider removing some of your belongings then go for a piece of extra luggage or just surrender to the unavoidable weight excess fees.
Mankoun ta2alna 3leik is what you hear of endearing at handing over the package(s) upon arrival. Sure, it does mean 'they hope they haven't burdened you' but they do nonetheless expect you oblige them with a "Not at all, abadan! Come on, wallaw!"
And you will have to utter your Wallaw again when you realize that you are also expected to take all these items in person to the people, even if you barely know them or never met them.
#4. The Duty Free Nightmare
If, by any rare chance, your family missed asking for the city-packages above, get ready to receive a text-message upon reaching the airport. Whether your sister, your bro, your mom or even your best friend, one or all of them send you a 5-minute voice message on WhatsApp, asking you for things from the Airport Duty-Free. Yes, because in Lebanon, we’re living - just like that, overnight- in a jungle; there are no perfumes, fragrances, cosmetics, watches, or make-up.
#5. That Airport Moment
The moment you land in Beirut - that very particular moment when everyone claps to the pilot-, your heart begins beating too fast. You have no clue how many friends and family members will be there, waiting to receive you. You wonder how many have joined this time the welcoming crowd.
Truth is, they’re always many, too many! Like... why do they have to come all together? Why are there even people who bring you flower's bouquets and balloons to the airport? Have you, by any chance, grown extra arms to carry all of that as well?
#6. The Nightmare of Unpacking
Whether you come home safe and sound at 12:00 P.M or 12:00 A.M, your family wants you to immediately unpack, regardless. No one has the patience to wait until you eat, shower or sleep to see what you’re bringing them with you.
#7. Time for Investigation
The same questions that you are asked on almost a daily basis through phone and video calls, but this time face to face. How is the weather there? Have you saved some money? When are you planning on getting married? Are you eating well? Who cooks for you there? Are you the boss now? Why not?
#8. Meeting Lebanon in a 5-day Vacation
EVERYBODY wants to see you when you come, even if you’re on a very short break. Parents, extended family, friends, and even acquaintances and their neighbors want to meet you. Another nightmare is not being able to oblige and fit all these visits and outings and invitations in one visit. Be prepared to hear a bitter something like: “Eh, khallik mashghoul” meaning "Right, sure, keep yourself busy."
#9. Everyone Thinks You’re Rich
Even if you don't work in money laundering or money printing, everyone will think that, since you are coming from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Canada, or any other country, you’re a walking open treasure.
Everybody wants to borrow money from you or bring you into an investment of a kind. And if by any chance and any accident you tell a Taxi driver that you work abroad, your trip will cost you 20.000 LBP instead of 10.000 LBP, with no clear reasons or convincing arguments, other than: "What do you think? Life is tough here." And you'll get to hear all the predicaments and misery he and all his surrounding are living, whether true or not.
#10. The 2-phase Power Plug Dilemma
You most probably come from a country where the 3-phase power plug is used. In Lebanon, we’re still using the 2-phase one, so bring an extension with you, or otherwise, you won’t be able to charge your phone and use your personal laptop. Can you imagine the misery of spending your vacation without them, cut off from your world overseas?
#11. Badde talab mennak, bala te2leh ~ I want a favor from you, without burden.
No, we are not duplicating content #3. It’s however, the same nightmare but different in directions. Your friends’ mothers – including yours of course – do probably think that you own the aircraft or that you possibly have too much money to pay for all the extra weight. It’s even worse than #3 actually because, this time, you will have to take with you to their relatives in your adopted city overseas some Lebanese food and fluids. From olive oil, zaatar, and pomegranate molasses to a 100 kinds of jam and even dry mloukhieh.
#12. The Packing
Let’s hope that despite all of the above, you have still enjoyed your vacation at this point.
Oops, wait! There’s one last nightmare: THE PACKING. It’s commonly agreed that this moment is the worst among all, especially if you’re the shy type who like to turn down neither your mother nor your friend’s mothers. Sometimes, you end up going back with no clothes and shoes to put everyone else’s items, but yours.