Becoming Lebanese: A Step-by-Step Guide

This post was first published on May 12th 2006 on my personal blog. It has since been re-posted on other blogs, forwarded as an email and plagiarized by the unimaginative.

Ladies and gentlemen, following this exclusive online guide is a sure-fire way to be mistaken for a Leb.


The driver’s seat must be in an uncomfortable and impractical reclined position at all times. No more than one hand shall be on the wheel at any time. The other hand should be on the window frame. Alternatively it may be located on the gear-shift or your girlfriend’s leg. Profuse use of horn is encouraged. Religious symbols are to be attached to dashboard at will. Shiny rims and tinted windows, accompanied by thinly veiled threats to fellow motorists on your back window are commonplace.


Shirts are never to be tucked in. A minimum of three buttons must be undone to reveal chest hair and optional gold medallion. Brand names, preferably fake, are to be exposed on every visible area of clothing. Jeans and shiny loafers are required to complete the look, along with a generous helping of Brylcreem.


Ownership of mobile phones released more than two months ago are a big no-no. Be sure to keep your phone visible at all times. Keep it in your hand and place it on the table during diner or coffee. Fiddle around with the menu at all times, to seem like you are always being pursued by serial text-messagers.


The point of dining is not to eat. It is to see and be seen. Make no mistake. Talk loudly, be rude to staff. Never, ever, under any circumstances, thank your waiter. Throw evil looks at neighbouring tables, whether you know them or not. Laugh audibly, just so everyone knows you’re having more fun than them. Crack out a cheap cigar, even if you’re 18, to project a clichéd 80s image of wealth.


You must pull up at the door in a shiny new car. Whether it’s yours is inconsequential. Call bouncer ‘habibe’ a couple of times, and crack lame joke whilst tapping him on shoulder. Demonstrate rudeness to staff (see Dining). Act like you own the place. Order recklessly, and cry later. Throw evil looks at neighbouring tables (see Dining again). Shake fist in the air as substitute for actual dancing. Push that guy who dared look at your girlfriend. Drunk drive to the nearest Zaatar w Zeit, get in a fight with someone over a parking space. Order food.


Again, the purpose of the cinema is not a love of film. It is to waste two hours of time, and annoy a great deal of people simultaneously. Have loudly whispered conversations on your phone during parts of the film integral to the plot. Throw popcorn at neighbouring seats. Laugh in all the wrong places. Make inappropriate comments during tense scenes. Applaud good guys who punch a baddie.


Arabic is not the official language of Lebanon, forget what you’ve been told. You will need to master the bastard language that is frenglishabic. Use at least three languages in every conversation, introducing the ones you master the least only for greetings and partings (hola, ciao, …)




Chose one of a plethora of local, petty leaders. Adore them. Place their pictures on your car, balcony and other visible areas that may come under your ownership. Follow them blindly, regardless of how racist, irrational and frightening they are.


University is not a place to learn. It is a vast social club, where one must adorn one’s entire wardrobe on a daily basis to attract potential mates. Class attendance is inversely proportional to the amount of sunshine on any particular day. Be just as flashy on campus as you would be in a club. Try to get your degree before failing every course four times.

Spend money you don’t have, to buy things you don’t need, to impress people you don’t like.

Ahla, bienvenue to our world habibe/habibte.

11 Responses to “Becoming Lebanese: A Step-by-Step Guide”

  1. Zeina Ghazal
    November 26, 2009 at 10:01 pm #

    Wow, A reputation to be proud of- smalla.
    I wasnt even able to read the whole thing, it’s that terrible.

  2. Nasri Atallah
    November 26, 2009 at 10:08 pm #

    Hi Zeina, well it’s meant as a playful caricature. Alot of this stuff can be said about most people around the Med. I think you should read the whole thing. Pretty please.

  3. Feirand Kurdi
    November 28, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    Well, I have to say that I am impressed with your personal story as a whole and this article; which is pretty accurate in the sense you are trying to project especially your comment to Zeina about it applying to most people around the Mediterranean (I’m from Jordan and the driving part is oh so true!).

    Will definitely be looking forward to more from you in the near future.

  4. Nasri Atallah
    November 28, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

    Feirand, thanks for the kind words. There’s plenty of pet peeves to cover during my move to Beirut, so I’m sure you’ll stay entertained!
    I’ll be visiting Amman soon, I’ll be sure to draw up a comparison.

  5. Mahmoud EL KHOJA
    November 29, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    Hey Nasri

    Just discovered your blog. Pretty good shit.

    Since I’m in an extremely diversified business school right now (INSEAD) I’d like to take you note and spread around for “educational purposes” if you don’t mind.

    Keep up the good work

  6. Nasri Atallah
    November 29, 2009 at 5:04 pm #

    Hi Mahmoud
    Thanks for the kind words. Sure go ahead, say hi to all the Lebbos at INSEAD. Just make sure you pop a link to my blog with the educational pack :)

  7. Paul Fares
    December 14, 2009 at 6:05 pm #

    Hehe promising blog, keep it up!

  8. Nasri Atallah
    December 14, 2009 at 7:27 pm #

    Thanks Paul :)

  9. Fadi Badran
    December 30, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    Very True Nasri.

    But Many ppl consider all above a way of living !

    and we just cant imagine how diverse is our sociaty ! …ufff its dense

  10. Suzy
    April 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    As relevant today as it was in the 70s. Thanks for the chuckles… reposting!

  11. Nasri Atallah
    April 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Always glad to induce some chuckling. :)

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