Friends, Canada and the Lebanese

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…

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2 thoughts on “Friends, Canada and the Lebanese

  1. This is insightful entry as always, I encourage you to read Fuad Khuri’s anthropological field studies. In relation to the Other, our communities or nations may seem whole, unified, a homogenous matter of ways of speaking and being and you’re correct in an Other environment these features become amplified, for many reasons. Yet there is always non-conformity and idiosyncrasy, that is evident even in the way we enunciate letters in words. Humans are not clones, yet connected in their experiences and at times that gives us comfort especially when we are far from whatever constitutes home. Life is characterized by randomness and synchronism, in one context there is no one to “click with” because the idio- isn’t syncing with anyone and, in another context, the forces are such that our energy attracts a set of people whom we share a connection with, that is deeper than the experience of nationality, or sect or whatever.

    • What you said makes a ton of sense, and is pretty fascinating. Helps put a light on the way people are viewed. People from the same society can be so similar, and yet it’s just as true that the smallest things make them vastly different. It just depends on where you’re observing them from. Well said! I’ll keep Fuad Khuri’s work in mind for further research. Thanks for the comment!!

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