I have written before about the challenges that we face living in a different culture. Some aspects of this culture we actually prefer, while other things take a little bit more time to get accustomed to. One of the things that has taken me some time to get used to is the “straightforward, no holds barred, tell it like it is-to your face” kind of talk. It’s not rude. It’s not unkind. It’s just the way people do it here in this culture.
Let me give you some examples… We had only been living overseas four weeks when I found out I was pregnant so you can image the hormonal tears I cried when my neighbor told me I was getting fat.
Girl! Yes, she did.
Or, if you show up to Arabic class without any makeup on, you teacher will definitely call you out or ask if you’re sick.
Fast forward a few years and I now understand that people aren’t being rude or trying to hurt my feelings, it’s just an aspect of the culture that was different than what I was used to.
There is also a positive side. People in this culture are quick to give compliments.
If you’re having a good hair day, your girlfriend will let you know. If your children are being well mannered and polite, you will be praised for it. If you’ve lost a little weight, a neighbor will point it out. If you look younger than you really are…you’re going to hear a lot of “Masha Allah” which basically means “It is the will of God.”
Having logged about 2 1/2 years in this part of the world prepared me for when my friend came over to visit recently and literally greeted me with, “Oh, should I go home and let you rest? You look really tired.”
Hmmmm… not sure what to say to that one. I laughed it off- but I could tell she was legitimately concerned for me.
I’m sure I was tired to some extent. After all, is a mom with lots of little ones ever not tired? But, more than likely, the problem was that I was wearing zero makeup.
I assured her I was fine and we ended up having a wonderful visit.
The next week my new friend came for another visit. This time I made sure to put on some lip gloss and mascara in an effort to look a little more… awake.
The doorbell rang and I sashayed myself to the door, pleased to present my new face. Upon opening the door I learned that my girlfriend had taken matters into her own hands.
She walked in with a HUGE bag and pulled out…
- A full pot of arabic coffee.
- A bowl of dates.
Coffee for the obvious reason. And dates because they are believed to be a great source of vitamins, minerals and energy in this part of the world- a superfood if you will.
I didn’t take it personal. I actually have learned that this is their way of showing love and being a good friend. We had a great time together- we talked about life, laughed together and sipped coffee while our boys played.
And while the visit was wonderful I was super thankful that I had taken the extra time to apply a little mascara or I may have had to drink the entire pot of coffee by myself.