5 Random Acts of Kindness Done by Lebanese Strangers

Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol – Byblos, Lebanon ’12

1. The Tfadal Invite

The phrase “tfadal/leh” is one that Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol probably experienced when visiting Byblos this summer. During his concert, he told a story about how, when souvenir shopping in the Byblos souk, a dining shopkeeper asked him to join for dinner. It was a sweet story and the audience took pride in the we-are-so-hospitable-and-awesome moment. Upon reflection, this man probably said “tfadal” to Gary and it was translated as “join me.” This is not an untrue translation; however, foreigners don’t realize that this has become more of a common courtesy and less of a genuinely kind gesture. What the Lebanese don’t realize is that even this simple common courtesy is rare in other countries.

2. The Parallel Parking Assistant
This refers to strangers taking a good 10 minutes out of their day to help you parallel park in a tight spot. In Lebanon, a tight spot is any space that can fit your vehicle: legally, illegally, paved, unpaved, or unblocked by a broomstick in a cement block. Given that this RAK may happen frequently if you’re a female – meaning you’re in need of assistance because members of your gender are not to be trusted behind the wheel OR you’re in need of a knight in shining armor to help, gawking at you while insisting “you’re almost there, just a little bit more” – it is still nice to have an extra set of eyes to see the sidewalk that decided to relocate under your car when you weren’t looking. It was dark and it moved, I swear.

3. The M2addam Offer

When given a compliment, a common response is “Merci, m2addam” meaning “thanks, I present it to thee.” If taken literally, this means the person is saying you can HAVE whatever it is you just complimented. Now, I have never actually seen anyone take something that was m2addam but I would love to just to watch the reaction. “Hello America”, an Adel Imam movie from ’98, pokes fun at this: Imam’s character interacts with Americans who take him up on his offer leaving him stunned at their no-shame-I-just-scored-a-Rolex attitude.

4. The Wedding Motorcade Extra

Weddings in Lebanon are a grand affair. When the bride and groom drive off, a motorcade forms with a string of relative-packed cars honking their horns as the hazard lights blink indicating to all others in the ongoing traffic that the two people in the flower adorned rental just got hitched. Sometimes, a poor soul will get caught in between the motorcade. When this happens, people do one of two things:
1) make way and just wait for them to drive by like an ambulance parade
OR go with the fun option
2) join in, start honking like a maniac and just let everyone assume that they’re the annoying cousin that was invited because he helped get the discount at the reception venue.

5. The Habibi Turettes

“Habibi” is the Arabic equivalent to corazon, mi amore, cherie, my love, etc. The difference is that this endearment is applied to everyone. The guy making your shawarma sandwich will call you the same thing that your girlfriend/boyfriend calls you and it’s completely normal because this is Lebanon and we love you.

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