5 life lessons Lebanon has taught me.

There is a very good chance I will be heading back to Miami for some much needed R&R this summer..  and as I look back at the past year and a half I can’t help but think of all of the life lessons that Lebanon has taught me.

Even though she has a tendency to over-complicate things and can be incredibly difficult at times (let’s be real here!), it turns out that Lebanon has been one of the best teachers I have ever had.

Some of the more profound lessons she has taught me include:

1.  Patience is indeed a virtue – Anyone who lives here knows that hardly anything gets done on time.  Be it as non-significant as someone coming to fix your washing machine because the spin cycle makes as much noise as a jack hammer (or wait, maybe that is significant), or as important as getting the necessary paperwork to prove to immigration that you aren’t CIA..everything and anything takes time here.  (And oftentimes, an inordinate amount of it!)

That being said, Lebanon has taught me that my impatience, and my constant need to control every aspect of every situation will leave me frustrated, unhappy, and hating life.  She taught me that everyone marches to the rhythm of their own drum (or in this case, their own tabla) and to try to get anyone to speed up, or change rhythm would be an exercise in the utmost futility.

2.  If you’re not tolerant by nature, teach yourself to be – Not sure if I’ve ever openly admitted to this, but I think I experienced a mini-depression when I first came to Lebanon.  You see, I made the mistake of trying to impose my Westernized way of life on Lebanon..and boy,,she was NOT having it! (Those days were characterized by sharp and frequent “What the hell was I thinking?” moments)  But……..I had hyped up Lebanon so much to my friends and family back home (“But guys.. it’s the Paris of the Middle East!“) that I couldn’t possibly allow myself to go home defeated just because I couldn’t tame her.  So I stuck it out.  Determined to give Lebanon my best shot.

In return, she taught me that everyone has their own way of doing things..and even if I don’t understand, relate, accept or respect them..I have no right to impose my way of life or way of doing things on other people.  As soon as I learnt to let go, and “uncondition” myself (so to speak) from my Westernized “way of life,” I began to understand, appreciate, and love Lebanon for who and what she is…and with time..the sharp “what the hell was I thinking” occurrences became less and less frequent.😉

3.  Never (publicly) doubt yourself – Lebanon is not for the faint of heart.  The moment she senses any weakness in you..she will chew you up and spit you out like a tasteless piece of gum.  Humility gets you nowhere with her..  She prefers the qualities of self-confidence, self-assuredness, assertiveness, and arrogance.  Even if deep inside, you know that you are unqualified, or don’t have the means/capabilities to accomplish a task/challenge..you must always say the contrary, and deal with the consequences afterwards.

In simpler terms, when in Lebanon, you must: Fake it until you make it.  I had a real problem with this when I first moved here..I’m the type that would rather be honest..then stuck in a situation I don’t know how to deal with/get out of.. but that type of thinking is just unacceptable in Lebanon.  She will leave you without a job,..broke..busted..and disgusted…

Lebanon forces you to not only bring your A game..but your A++++ game all-day, everyday..(coz if you don’t, someone else will..and probably for LESS!)…  Lebanon forces you to over-promise a lot of the time, but..in the end..it is Lebanon who has helped me realize things about myself that I had no idea I was capable of.

4.  Live in the moment – Something about living in the States (or maybe it’s just me) forces you to start planning for retirement at the age of 20.  I would be lying to you if I told you that I wasn’t considering making an investment in life insurance at 22.  God I was such a planner and control freak!!!  I was living so far into the future that the present moment was passing me by..and I couldn’t have cared less.  I had worked out a plan A, B, C, and D for every which way my life could possibly go and every challenge or obstacle I might encounter along the way..

That all changed when I moved to Lebanon.  You see, Lebanese people have dealt with uncertainty their entire lives..for they never know what tomorrow holds.. (war, civil war, no government..you name it!)  So, to keep themselves from going completely off the wall, they have conditioned themselves to live for the moment..  (As someone living in Lebanon, I had no choice but to adopt this approach too!)

And while this way of life may have spawned some undesirable consequences (living beyond your means, obsession with plastic surgery and material items..etc)..all in all, I admire the Lebanese people for how gracefully they handle what I consider to be one of the most debilitating things of all:  not knowing.  “Living in the moment” is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from Lebanon.

5.  Appreciate everything in your life – I come from a different world.  A world where everything is easy, and where people expect a trophy (and oftentimes get it) just for showing up.  Yet for some reason or another, people from my world take our world for granted and our conveniences as a given.  I used to be one of those people.

In teaching me about herself, Lebanon taught me to TRULY value, appreciate, and cherish where I come from and the things I took for granted..Like: peace of mind and safety, 24-hour electricity, running water (that heats up without a switch or gas tank), clean air, urban planning, recycling, high speed internet and telecommunications that don’t cost an arm and a leg, good salaries (proportionate with the amount of work/time required), cheap gyms, relatively easy access to education, opportunity, and a line of credit.. amongst many other things.

Thank you Lebanon..you have taught me so many wonderful life lessons that I will never forget.

35 Comments

Filed under life in Lebanon

35 responses to “5 life lessons Lebanon has taught me.

  1. Oh Danielle, worth the wait girl worth the wait😀 And the one point that really stood out above the others was number 5. It’s sad that you have to learn to appreciate electricity 24 hours a day or having a fast internet connecti0n, meanwhile other countries have this as a human right.
    In spite of that, I just hope Lebanon has treated you well this past year. It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope you come back soon from your R&R!

  2. Christine

    Dani,
    I am always touched when u write something about Lebanon…
    Reminds me to appreciate my country more (and again!).
    Lebanon makes it super easy to get frustrated… that i momentarily forget how many great lessons it keeps teaching me.
    Thanks chica!

  3. tony

    with all this intelligence on the lebanese way, you are CIA for sure!

    Fly safe,

  4. Funny thing, an American comes to Lebanon, she tries to let go of her ‘western ways’ and maybe even conform (this is more of a general comment, not about Dani specifically). A Lebanese goes to the US, and the US conforms to the Lebanese ways (ask the folks in Dearborn, MI).

    I hate the “Fake it until you make it” mantra. The consulting company I was working for in the US followed that way of doing business and it bothered me. It worked though, somewhat. But in some cases I was forced to go beyond and above the call of duty in order to learn the stuff I was ‘supposed’ to already be an ‘expert’ in and do the job in a way that would not make me look like a fool. It helped me learn a lot, but I was always set up for failure. You can’t maintain that kind of way of doing things for long thought, it’s not sustainable. And Lebanon will suffer from this if things don’t change, and the sad part is that there are competent people who could do the job and well, who don’t get the opportunity. It’s ok to push yourself, and try to outdo what you think you’re capable of doing. But it’s a slippery slope when you fall into faking and coming up with excuses for your failures and continuing ins the spiral. DON’T DO IT DANI! It’s a gateway drug😉

    But all in all, it’s nice to see that your experience here has contributed to something positive. If nothing else, self improvement and self realization are BIG gains. Your mom will be proud of you🙂

    • Rouba

      Your point about the US adapting to the Lebanese ways is so true. Everywhere we go we tend to spread the Lebanese love!

  5. Ivy

    Now that’s what I call heartfelt! We tend to forget we’re a developing country- that’s the magic/poison about this wonderland.
    Whether Lebanon is a he or a she- it doesn’t matter right? Your still gonna love it just the same.

    Bisoux

  6. Lorena

    Lovely post and the points you made were very true!

  7. rikkles

    You keep surprising me with your insight, especially the introspective ones.
    I do, however, if you’ll let me, have a comment on issue numero tres:
    You do nail the first part: fake it
    But I think you overreached on the second part: until you make it
    See, most lebanese are awesome at self-marketing and fake it till the fat lady sings. But most of most never even bother learning enough to make it. As long as the faking makes enough dough, they’re quite happy to ride its wave.
    The thing is, you actually merged W and E in a perfect way: Fake it (E) to be in the game early, fake it (E) to push yourself to put your money where your mouth is, and then learn(W) to go All… The…. Waaaaaaaay!!!

    • And you keep surprising me with your insightful comments! I have to agree with you on this one.many people don’t see the worth in putting their money where their mouth is, especially after they’ve received the money! But I was determined to change all of that.. Fake it until you make it,.but you better be determined to pull through..or else your reputation will be at stake. And as we all know, reputation is everything in this country! ;D Really enjoy your comments dude.

  8. Hello Danielle, I just want to salute you for putting up with Lebanon and showing that much tolerance, and ending up loving your experience in it. Lebanon has some great things but unless you belong to the connected and/or rich class life in it is not easy even for those who are born and raised in it.

    • Hi Rany! Thanks for your comment. I think I have a very good idea of what you’re talking about. I’m not connected NOR rich and had to learn all that I did learn the hard way. As I said, Lebanon is not for the faint of heart. She truly expects a lot of you and can be very stingy with what she gives in return!

  9. Flavia Santini

    beautiful post!
    having lived in two european countries after being raised in brazil, for me the single most important thing is really to watch and learn. walk their pace, make a true effort to learn and speak their language well, respect their costumes and traditions and simply go along. while in the first few days of living abroad you might wonder about the things you’re missing, there’s literally a whole new world of possibilities just waiting to be found. and how precious is that?
    i might be minority here, but i’ve been living “abroad” (in a country i now consider to be my true homeland) for 5 years, and i’ve gained so much in maturity and culture and life lessons that i hardly ever think of the things i’m “missing”. because i’m not.
    you definitely learn and gain a lot just by keeping your mind open.

    xx

  10. htj

    Danielle,

    You have had some great posts in the past, but this one takes the cake. It is by far your best one yet.

    Thank you for sharing.

  11. Christine

    Great post as usual🙂 It’s interesting to see our ways of life from a foreigner’s perspective. I think more people should think like you. Instead of complaining about the constant electricity cuts, the super slow ontornet, the corrupt politicians and lack of government, the unhealthily high levels of pollution, etc. we should try and transform each of these situations into a learning experience.
    Looking forward to reading your next post

  12. My favorite statement, naturally:

    “She taught me that everyone marches to the rhythm of their own drum (or in this case, their own tabla) and to try to get anyone to speed up, or change rhythm would be an exercise in the utmost futility.”

    Good post, and enjoy your trip, cheers!

  13. liz

    Interestingly enough, I wrote a short story (with almost the same exact insights) that is being turned into a novel. AND I’m between Miami & NY and always Beirut. So, girl, we have much in common.

  14. Good luck Dani, if you do leave…. but you will be back! That’s another thing with Lebanon. I am sure our paths will keep crossing xxxxxx🙂

  15. Rhonda Hashim Badran

    I have throughly enjoyed reading your blog. I am an American Lebanese living in Lebanon with my husband and 4 of my children for the past 2 years. Your blog has really hit home with me. I concure with all of your summation. Thank you for letting me know I am not the only one. Wish we could have met. Good luck to you and I look forward to you returning to Lebanon one day.

  16. annie

    Are you leaving Lebanon soon?I sense fears over the current situation

  17. guyguo

    DEAR WRITER, still dont know your name! and i dont have time to read all the posts and dig it up!
    as i have recently informed you that by Coincidence last time i spotted your post but the point is, you can write !
    hope to hear from you more often and… hey, who knows with opera retiring and all that you can be next
    good luck

    Guy El Saii

  18. GASS

    Lebanon is a HeShe with fake boobs – solved – loll

    Perhaps, I need to appreciate and ‘Learn’ from my country as much as you did. Problem is I suffered more, get frustrated for decades and ended it up quitting!
    Your country is like your Mom & Dad, even with all the painful memories you had still need to show your appreciation and love. You can’t live forever in frustration; it drains your health and brain.

    I am due to leave too, after only 6 months is my home land. Planned a sabbatical to reconnect- but found it long an exhausting to endure without an appropriate job. Not even casual ones! Here, you are who you know!

    That said, patience is a virtue, but ALWAYS has limits! Tolerance all way, will push people to disrespect you especially if you’re a guy- I find people more polite toward woman in this country ?- Never doubt yourself, be overconfident, BUT continuous masquerading doesn’t help necessary to make it THE RIGHT WAY! Overconfidence is a sign of weakness ?

    At last, have to agree with 4-5. Life can be short, be prepared, but don’t over plan. Do your homework and never over worry, you’ll end up with nasty wrinkles by 40 and you’ll never be able to afford a botox treatment like Lebanese do loll

    Damn we’ll miss you! : )

  19. Caroline

    Great post Dani. I have always enjoyed reading a Westerners point of view of Lebanon especially since I find that my way of thinking is closer to yours than that of a Lebanese. Your post couldn’t have come at a more perfect timing for me, since I find myself questioning my reasons for being here. Thank you for helping me see things more clearly, especially with lessons 1 and 2.

    I do agree with some of the comments about lesson 3. From my personal experience, I have been more respected and appreciated for being honest and humble. Those characteristics however should never be mistaken for weakness or lack of self confidence. It is often the contrary.

    Another thing… You’re leaving but coming back right????

  20. Simon

    Fake it until you make it…”
    That is truly a Lebanese thing!

    I really enjoyed and loved reading this post.
    it’s these post, full of emotions and your personal experiences about your stay Lebanon as foreigner, that keep me coming back to your blog, anticipating a great read.

    luv your work🙂

  21. Are you trying to make me cry? Haha. I miss Lebanon so much. I am glad you saw the best in what could be the worst thing about this country.🙂

  22. Mona

    It’s all very nice how you guys are explaining why we should refer to Lebanon as a he or a she, but there is an actual linguistic and mythological explanation.
    Lebanon is a ‘he’ because in Aramaic it means ‘the heart of God’, and because it was also named after an actual person/hero/demigod.
    LEBANON IS A HE AND THAT’S THAT, forget the ‘mother land’ cliches.
    Cheers,
    M.

  23. jo mahmah

    nicely stated

  24. AlainLb

    “Even though she has a tendency to over-complicate things and can be incredibly difficult at times (let’s be real here!), it turns out that Lebanon has been one of the best teachers I have ever had.”

    Hey! Lebanon is a HE!

  25. dk

    SO TRUE!! I was in Lebanon for only two months… and learned each and every one of those lessons myself!! I’m back in the states now – reverted to my CONTROL FREAK status. Thanks for reminding me to pull my head out my ass!

  26. Racha

    You honestly read my mind. I moved to Lebanon about 7 months ago from Canada. I’d lived there my WHOLE life, and everything you just mentioned describes exactly what I am feeling!

    Your blog is actually pretty cool, it kind of inspires me to take in my new life positively.🙂 Thanks!! You’re definitely right Lebanon is tough, but she does teach a lot about ourselves, we just have to learn to adapt and not change who we are and where we came from. Our “western” mentalities have many great aspects and people here could learn a few things from us. (Like how to drive) lol

  27. Barbara Mahati Schäfer

    Enjoyed your blog so much.
    My daughter is in Beirut at present and I believe she experiences about the same as you…So nice to see, that you met so many nice people.

  28. Rita

    First time on your blog… and enjoyed it very much… I’m a Lebo living in Sydney… I love to travel to Beirut in summer… and I’ve been considering moving there… My family moved to Sydney when I was a kid, and then we moved back to Leb for a few years, and I studied my university degree there… Then I moved back to Sydney, and it’s been 9 years in Sydney since! I miss life there.. despite the craziness and chaos…

    It’s hard to be torn between 2 places, but reading your pages makes it sound all too amusing

    Thank you for this blog, I’m glad you didn’t shut it down… It feels good to know someone has been in the same boat!

    Cheers

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