A recent college grad, I planted my feet on the cracked dusty pavement of Beirut and found myself in need of shelter. When I got that, I started applying for a job as a copywriter at GoNabit, a Middle East based daily deals site much like Groupon. Every week I expected an answer and every week they never answered me. They loved my copy test but kept blowing me off and I was quickly running out of money… Who would have known I’d end up with a job for one of the coolest companies around, LivingSocial.
The CEO stood me up on my phone interview (management was in Dubai) which made me believe I’d never hear from them again. When I did finally get the phone interview I was practically sleeping and woke up to chat about myself. I knew I nailed it. They asked me what I thought my salary should be and when I told them they incredulously asked “…Do you mean dollars?”
I sat in a cafe with a fellow American and we discussed my negotiation plan. Keep in mind this was my first real job and it was in Lebanon so I was totally out of the loop regarding salaries. I told her I thought I should get… $4000 a month. She choked on her cappuccino and said, “Dude, senior architects in this city don’t even make $4000 are you crazy?”
….I told you I had no idea.
They offered me the position but were very concerned about how much money I demanded, and could only give me a MUCH smaller salary (more in line with Lebanese rates but still good.) Without a second thought or breath of negotiation, I said I’d take it! Two weeks after I started at GoNabit we were acquired by LivingSocial — and that is how I landed a job at LivingSocial in the Middle East.
I already had the coolest job of all my American friends, but five months in I was promoted to Senior Copywriter and was thus responsible for editing deals that were published all throughout the Middle East: Lebanon, Egypt, Dubai which totaled to like 15 markets including Escapes. Our office was decorated with graffiti and everyone was smart, sassy, and cool. I worked there for 11 months.
During that whole time I was hangin’ around with Jorgen and Matias, and it was only I who had a ‘traditional’ job and reliable salary. Until two months ago, when pretty unexpectedly, LivingSocial pulled out of the Middle East, laying off 90 employees throughout Lebanon, Dubai, and Egypt.
When this happened I was shocked, but not sad or upset. They gave us compensation from which I think I can live off (cheaply) for a bit of time. So I would say I learned a few things from my stint in the businessworld and they are:
1. If you want something you better be damned persistent about it.
Regardless of how cool a company is or how sweet and lovely and supportive your boss is, a company is a company and they’re not going to make sure you’ve got the best deal for you. So if you want a raise, make a statement that you deserve that raise. And if you want that interview, email them every goddamn day that they don’t call you. I even experienced it on the other side. When I needed to do ten tasks for ten different people, it was the person who kept bothering me about it who got theirs first. Business is business.
2. Take breaks and keep your health in check.
I was supposed to be at the office for 9 hours a day. Although I did my best to cut that time down as much as possible, I could still clock in a good 7 hours. When I was there I’d get up, do jumping jacks, play around, walk outside and whatever. But I had coworkers who would sit glued to their chairs staring at the comp for the entire time. This cannot be healthy and it’s absolutely never necessary.
3. Don’t eat the cake and cookies people shove in your face.
Seriously, the skinniest hottest girl in the office will walk around to everyone’s desk and demand you eat the cupcakes she got while she keeps her mouth shut and doesn’t eat a morsel. Working with people in an office makes you fat. Stay strong and eat some cookies, but not all the cookies.
4. Befriend your coworkers because those are the people who are willing and able to have fun when you all get laid off.
As soon as I lost my job I was a ball of boundless energy. I was free! I had absolutely no schedule and tons of repressed freedom to exploit. Everyone else was either working or freelancing or not in the mood. So meeting up and day roadtripping or getting wasted on a weekday is the coolest with those like you (plus you can talk shit about your old job, which NO ONE else wants to hear.)
As you can see I’ve learned a few things. But one of the most powerful things I’ve learned throughout this whole year is that for me, it is really important to follow my dreams, regardless of how batshit crazy they are (you know, moving to the Middle East without any security or job or even money). They say you’re supposed to take risks and follow your heart. I did it and while being 23, laid off, and in a foreign country might seem sucky to you, it’s the door to an even awesomer journey for me.
-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