Why the Lebanese (me) Can’t Really Survive in America

I haven’t updated this blog in ages and now I’m doing so from a different front. The American one. I’ve been here for a bit more than a month, hopping from Boston to Newark, to DC and then back to Newark to start my MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers University.

I have made many realizations throughout my stay here, but the one that concerns us now is the reasons Lebanese people can’t really survive in America. Now sure, you might be someone who didn’t like Lebanon much to begin with and living here suits you just fine, but I LOVE Lebanon and living here does not bring out the best in me.

Reasons why I can’t really survive in America:

1) FOOD!! There are no words to describe how much I miss Lebanese food, the thought of it consumes me! Back home, if you don’t really know how to cook and you’re hungry, you take some Labneh, put some olive oil over it and eat it with Lebanese bread with some cucumbers and tomatoes. Here, there is no Labneh, no Lebanese bread and the veggies taste funny 😦

2) People on the street aren’t as helpful as they are in Lebanon. Back home, if you’re lost, some people would make it their life’s goal to help you find the place you’re looking for. They might drive you there, walk with you or give you so much directions that you feel like you know the place like the back of your hand before even getting there.

3) In Lebanon, when we say “thank you”, people don’t reply by saying: “yea” or “hmmm”! Is that what your mamma taught you?

4) In Lebanon, we have 2 coins that we commonly use, one is golden, the other silver. One has 500 LL clearly written on it, the other 250 LL. You cannot be confused, if you don’t know how to read, you can still tell them apart cause they’re different colors. Here, there are four coins, 3 of them are the same color, none of them have their numerical value written on them. And you can’tΒ differentiateΒ them by size, cause the nickel is bigger than the dime. So you’re stuck in front of the cashier, paying for your Twix bar and pepsi, which cost 3.48, panicking and thinking: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?!?!?!

5) I miss the good old days when two things were common truths: we love shawarma, we hate Israel. Now, I meet a lot of people who support the state of Israel, others who dislike Arabs, and worst of all, people who don’t know what shawarma is!

6) Public transportation. Typical day in Beirut: leave the house, stand on the sidewalk, wait for a cab, shout out my destination, get it, pay 2 000 LL, arrive to destination, get out of cab. In America: wake up in the morning, go to the metro system’s site, put in my location and destination, write down the bus numbers, metro stations’ names, the color of the metro’s lines, the stops, the street names. Leave the house, walk to the nearest bus station, wait 15 minutes, hop on the bus, realize you’re on the wrong one, get yelled at by the bus driver, hop off, cross the street, get on the right one etc… arrive to your destination exhausted, ready to go back home and rest.


8 ) Why doesn’t the dekkenneh on the corner of the street deliver groceries to my apartment in the middle of the night?!

9) Why don’t they serve bezer w termos with beer here?!

10) Finally, why don’t people understand me when I put in some Arabic and French words in the conversation?!?!


About dimamatta

There is not much to tell... but everything to discover. *says I with a total lack of seriousness* I am a 22 year old English Literature BA holder, teaching English in Lebanon, at the Louaizeh Evangelical School. I mainly spend my time reading, writing, watching and acting in plays. View all posts by dimamatta

9 responses to “Why the Lebanese (me) Can’t Really Survive in America

  • Ahmed Abu-Shnein

    That’s completely true.. All what non-native Americans feel, especially the new comers.

  • najwa inglizi

    Dimzzi, you write so beautifully and clearly that you hit the point right on the head! It’s exactly how I felt when I was in England. But finally you get to learn where the shops that sell Lebanese/Eastern stuff are, (usually in the most unlikely place) just before it’s time to come back home! And just as you learn to maneuver through the transportation system, you wouldn’t need to go anywhere, really, because you’re done, and it’s time to fly home.
    Meanwhile, you continue to search for beauty, the light and the affinity of humanity and you would end up with a few raisins in the cake you have had to bake. Oven-fridge; fridge-oven, till it’s done.

    • dimamatta

      Thank you Dr Inglizi! πŸ™‚ I’m so glad you enjoyed reading my post! I really hope I can find all these things and figure them out sooner, in case I don’t, it’s a lesson learned anyway. But yes, oven-fridge, fridge-oven sounds about right. Can I have some craziness/whipped cream too?! πŸ™‚

  • najwa inglizi


  • Nabil habiby

    beautiful post πŸ˜€
    All the Lebanese people should read this πŸ˜‰
    enjoy being a non-native…be that eccentric creative Arab girl, let them laugh and laugh along with them. Whatever happens, when you get back here, Lebanon will be the same πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    • dimamatta

      Nabil! πŸ™‚ Thanks! I’m definitely enjoying it already, although it takes some effort not to turn my back and walk away when people say “Lebanon? Where is that?” πŸ˜› But it’s all good, the teachers keep expecting me to “bring Lebanese soul” to my reading or writing, and I’m like “what does that even mean?!” πŸ˜›
      Bottom line, I can’t wait to go back for Christmas break πŸ™‚

  • Isis

    Dima I really enjoyed reading all your posts..and this one is my favorite πŸ™‚

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