When the topic of friendship comes up, I often end up telling people that I never made Lebanese friends in Canada because I couldn’t stand them. They were far too into their own lives and their own culture—like they were living in a mini-Beirut and they refused to get out of it. Whatever annoying traits they had while living in their own country was amplified tenfold outside of it, and they clung to what they believed was “their way” with an iron grip of hard-headedness.
I know. Harsh. Really damn harsh.
In fact, I’ve thought this way up until about…oh a week ago? Then, during a discussion in my Language and Identity class, I suddenly wondered why I thought Lebanese people abroad were so difficult for someone like me to befriend.
So a rewind is in order. I may be Lebanese and possess the right to be very critical of my people, but I can’t do it on a whim. Where did my afore-mentioned judgment come from?
Sadly, it seems that what I recite as seemingly personal experience is really very little of my own. It’s mostly secondhand discussion from people whose opinions matter to me. I would be the last person to call them exaggerators or liars, and I’m sure the way they see the Lebanese abroad is just as valid as the next person’s opinion…but it isn’t my experience.
All I personally saw in Canada were groups of Lebanese hanging out together, and specific areas where Lebanese communities resided. (It’s no secret that they like to stick together, and prefer the company of each other over others). However, I feel that saying Lebanese are stubborn and not easy to befriend when you aren’t like-minded is unsubstantiated at best.
(Come to think of it, I did have Lebanese high school classmates—all boys—and I definitely didn’t like them much. Still, what high school boy is a pleasant companion when you have nothing in common with him? I don’t believe that clouded my judgment either).
So, what’s the real reason behind my lack of buddies from my home country?
The answer, it turns out, is freakishly simple: It just didn’t happen to be the nationality of those I did happen to make friends with. No active avoidance. No particularly bad experiences. I just “clicked” with certain people and, coincidentally, they never happened to be Lebanese. (Or even Arab for that matter).
Rather anti-climactic and lacking in drama, eh?
For what it’s worth, I have a small but solid group of friends here in Beirut and all are Lebanese and we get along great. It only seems that I need to reconsider things more often as the years wear on, and make sure that my conceptions are my own. At my age, you think I’d have that down pat, but I guess it still needs work…