viernes, 6 de enero de 2012

Cultural awareness

"Lebanese are so rude". "Lebanese are so aggressive". "Lebanese are so inconsiderate". These are only some of the statements that I hear often from both foreigners and Lebanese.

I don't know at what point I started actually believing in this. As you might remember, I was quite enchanted with the good qualities of the Lebanese for a while (especially their hospitality). But lately, I have found myself being very rude, aggressive and incosiderate in Lebanon. And to me, it was very interesting to see how differently I behave when I am abroad.

In Lebanon, I have started to be aggressive with people in the car and in the street. I have started saying unkind things to strangers when they cross me. I have started going through red lights, parking the car everywhere and rushing to get ahead of the line...

I have written before about how the environment affect me and how I have become more aggressive in Beirut.  But there is a choice I haven't been making about my own behavior that became very apparent to me in 2 recent interactions.

I was recently visiting a friend's apartment who is out of town to feed his cats.  I parked my car right at the entrance of the building, when the building's concierge came out and told me to move. There was something about the way he said it that occurred as very rude. In a second, I was livid, and ready to kick the guy's butt. The funny thing is that I didn't even understand what he said (he was speaking in Arabic). It was the way he moved his head, the way he looked at me, I don't know. I just found him very rude. So I told him something not very nice and drove off.

In another recent instance, I was driving up a crowded street and there was a soldier on a scooter driving towards me. I was in the right direction, he was driving against traffic. He told me to move. I interpreted his non-smiling face and hand gestures as "Get out of the way". I was livid in a second, and told him again a not very nice thing and drove off.

What do these 2 interactions teach me? Besides the fact of who is right, who is wrong, what the intention of the 2 guys was, what they intended to communicate... I realize how little time and patience I have left for people now. How quickly I just assume people are attacking me. How little I am willing to question my own shortcomings.

So, coming back to the statement "there is a choice I haven't been making about my own behaviour". I have realized that in Beirut I have given up my choice on how to behave, and I have started mimicking others and believing what we say about each other. I have given up the choice to believe that this place is good and that people are kind. I have forgotten that the only thing that has changed is my attitude towards the place (I can guarantee you that the Lebanese did not act differently the day I arrived to Beirut).

So, talking about New Year's resolutions... In 2012, I will treat people out of what I am committed to in life (love and respect) and not out of an impulse and a reaction on how I think they are behaving. I will behave as I want to behave, not as how I think my circumstances push me to. I will embrace my inner jerk and choose to bring something sweeter to the mix. And I will give people the benefit of the doubt.

This is not just an empty promise, but what I see as the great exercise of personal freedom in life. I am sure I'll fall at some point and bark back at someone in the car. But it's worth the try!

I will tell you how it goes...

1 comentario:

  1. Well to be fair, I think we are getting ruder and ruder with time and growing out of patience. I am Lebanese and lived here all my life, and only lately I have been finding Lebanese to be even ruder and inconsiderate and impolite (blogged about it a couple of times). Now I am not sure if we are getting ruder (including me) or it's me who just became too impatient.. but for sure, it is at the end of the day our attitude towards things that will change the course of things. I respect the resolution you made, and I encourage you, because I had sort of decided to do this myself as well :)

    Buena suerte!