I make tacos at the 2famous Headquarters once a week to the delight and rapture of many a skinny Norwegian man. This week I invited various friends I’ve picked up along the way including one pompous new arrival to the city of Beirut. He’s been here about a week but had no reservations when it came to telling us we didn’t really know Lebanon. I found it a bit insulting but even more hilarious and thus reflected on how perhaps I too was once a bit cold to other expats when I first moved here. In 2010 I lived in Beirut for 7 months and finally moved back here in August 2011. Bearing all the expats I know and have met along the way in mind, I made an overview of the stages through which one goes living in this country. Here is a general summary of the Beiruti Expat.
1. Total Newb 1-4 months :
They’re either a student, journalist, or completely lost couch surfer. In the beginning of living in this city they instantly realize how fast the social scene can be infiltrated and feel like they know this shit before they really do. For most it’s a time to stick to your expat circles and have sex with a few beautiful Lebanese here and there. They lament that the circles in this city are incestuous and they have no desire to hang out with the already large expat crowd.
As a journalist they think they’ve already seen it all, since he/she lived in Kenya for the last 4 months and only had contact with the natives. As a student, they’re probably sticking to Hamra, studying Arabic and overboozing on Almaza. The lost couch surfers have just found their way and are frantically looking for places to live in your neighborhood. Do you know anywhere?
2. 5-10 months:
They’re getting a bit settled and have already sparked a romantic relationship (or many) with inhabitants of the city. Their tourist visa has expired a couple times so they’ve come in and out either taking trips around the region or simply back home (before the war in Syria the majority of expats had trapsed across the nearby border.)
Because their life has calmed down (partying not included) they are more comfortable with other expats in the city and no longer negatively judge them. In fact towards the end of this time period the 5-10-monther welcomes the influx of new people that usually flock in the summer. As a foreigner the expat has more of a desire to explore the country and has probably checked out some cool mountains, rivers, and beaches from north to south. They might have the bus system down or are at least are willing to try it out but never feel safe on the road. Although they use the bus, they don’t know too many of their Lebanese friends who do. Driving with said Lebanese friends, although faster, never makes the expat feel safer.
–Many of the expats get involved in the political discussion that is Lebanon and the Middle East and have certainly brushed up on their history. In the time of 1-10 months they make it clear to all around that they are critically thinking individuals who have shunned the one-sided western mentality.
3. 1-3 years:
At this point the expat really lives here; He or she has stories from ‘the FIRST xxx party’ three years ago in the hills of Hermel or whatever. Their family definitely thinks this man or woman is totally wacky for staying in such a volatile Middle Eastern city, and no matter how many years they’ve called Beirut their home, the fam still freaks out and asks if it’s safe to be here. Disillusioned, the expat thinks danger is not when people are rioting outside their apartment, not when army trucks post up at every corner of the city, and especially not when Israel threatens to attack, but only when they find out one of their friends has just gotten kicked out and banned from Lebanon for secretly working on a tourist visa.
With a deeper understanding of the day to day and more contact with a larger community, they find their duty to enlighten to those ‘back home’ about the reality of the Middle East. For Americans especially, engaging in the “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” discussion is excruciating and mind-boggling because of the amount of brainwashing going on in the country as a whole.
4. 3 years to infinity:
A real pro, they’ve got the life figured out and extra boxes of candles sitting in the cupboard even if the electricity goes out for 5 days instead of 2. Maybe at this point they are married to a Lebanese person or in the process and are working on the nationality or just residency permit. Despite never having made an effort to speak the language, they are surprisingly good at communicating. And when speaking English, they throw in the “y3ani” or “bes” as if it is part of the English vocabulary. Even if politics is their profession, they’ve adopted a more laid-back Lebanese approach where debating and engaging in passionate discussion about ‘the state of the Arabs’ isn’t really ideal social conversation.
They’ve subconsciously come to understand the tribal laws of the land and how the dynamics of different neighborhoods work. They have numbers for cleaning ladies in every neighborhood and a phonebook’s worth of taxi numbers to get to specific parts of the city and country for the best price. Their foreign upbringing paired with extended time in the regioin makes them, undoubtedly, the most efficient people in the country.
Every expat has made their way to the internationally famous restaurant “Le Chef” which has been featured in every single guidebook and review of Beirut. Charbel, the owner, is known to shout Welcome! to all passersby and diners. It’s one of the first intros you get to this city.
Do you agree? What kinds of qualities and traits can you think of? Tell us in the comments below!
-But Berlin DJ predictably denied into Lebanon for Israeli stamp
You know what, I’m glad the Middle Eastern Gulf region is taking into account all kinds of sexy when it comes to deporting men.
Because the most recent deportee is a 55-year old German man, Rolf Buccholz, internationally known for holding the Guinness World Record in having the most body piercings.
Buchholz flew to Dubai to party it up at Circque le Soir, a club that promises to bring out all the freaks and fantasy fetish stuff, as a paid appearance. But at the Dubai Airport he was denied entry into the Emirate on the account of possibly being a High Priest of the Dark Arts and a practitioner of Black Magic. Yes, that is why he was denied entry, because he looked as sexy as a Black Magic Priest. And yes, I would probably be wooed by him.
That’s why I’m q... more
Norwegians are the masters of understatement. When something is gargantuan, they’ll say ‘It’s a bit big’ and when something’s breathtakingly beautiful, they’ll say ‘It’s nice.’ If a friend made a $10 million profit on a business deal, they’d claim he made ‘a bit of money.’
I still don’t understand whether it’s humor or specific cultural brain wiring (for example: how different cultures understand time). But there is one thing that reassures me in all of this, a ray of hope that cuts through the vague cloudiness which always has me scratching my head asking “Is he/she joking…?” — and that is when a Norwegian talks about the Lofoten Islands.
Because they don’t understate anything about it. Any Norwegian will tell you how magical Lofoten is — how emotional it is to stand next to giant mountains that dive straight into the sea, or how disoriented one b... more
-I was the only dancer and they noticed
It All Started With Lena Dunham
In March my sister, Margaux, sent me a Youtube video with a perfectly succinct message: “This is Lena Dunham’s boyfriend. She directed the video.” Dunham’s boyfriend is the guitarist of Fun and started the band Bleachers as a solo project. Loved Lena’s video, died for her boyfriend’s song, “I Wanna Get Better!”
Admittedly Margaux knew how to pique my interest with the reference, but that day I became a Bleachers fan too. The thick riffs did what they wanted to my body, the lyrics “I didn’t know I was lonely till I saw your face” literally made (makes) me cry; I played the song on repeat and told my boyfriend to dance at a distance in case I exploded into a rainbow — it was that wonderful.
Slowly more singles like &ldq... more
Take a look at the festival fashion at Hove!
As a recent immigrant to Oslo I can’t help but notice the strong Norwegian sense of style. Everyone walks around as if just getting off a Banana Republic-meets-Free People photo shoot, rocking box-fresh threads and highly styled looks. Being one of the world’s richest countries influences how people dress and they definitely dress like they are rich and care how they look.
Between us there is a sharp visual contrast; I, with my decades old tees (that were made decades ago and cost $1), dilapidated shoes, my aversion to makeup concealer, and dark curly hair versus the Norwegian current-season outfit, long flowing golden locks, lots of face concealer, and really clean looking shoes.
But as I prepared to camp in the woods at Hove for six nights I imagined a sort of fashion overlap. My laid-back grungy style just might mix perfectly with the relaxed atmosphere of camping, I thought. I just might look like I fit in here especially among the teens since my part... more
What Is Brown Cheese?
“I just thought the Norwegians packaged peanut butter in a different way, you know, instead of spooning it out of a jar they served it in a block that you slice with a cheese cutter. It still tasted like peanut butter and I ate it on bread with jelly but I didn’t find out it wasn’t even peanut butter until much later.”
Babs, an American expat in Norway chuckled as she told me about her first encounters with Norwegian brunost (brown cheese). She and her Norwegian husband met in Lebanon decades ago where, at the time, he would ship in a huge box of brown cheese to satisfy his homestyle hunger.
Americans compare it to peanut butter; Brits compare it to Marmite; Many others compare it to dulce de leche. But it is none of them.
Norwegian brown cheese is not essentially cheese — it’s made with goat milk, whey, and cream — and boiled for so long that the sugar in the mixture cara... more