What Lebanese visitors can teach us Egyptians!

“I can’t stay in anything less than a 5-star deluxe hotel in Egypt,” a Lebanese acquaintance told me when I recommended that she stay at a 4-star hotel in Cairo, knowing that she earns an adequate salary. Lebanese citizens spare no expense or effort to maximize their pleasure and ensure that they truly enjoy themselves. The scent of cigars and cigarillos wafting through Sharm El Sheikh’s fabulous resorts was evidence enough that many Lebanese citizens have come back to this city, deserted by tourists over the past several years.

Culture often plays a key role in determining how people enjoy their lives and spend their money! A German friend of mine who used to head a large corporation in the United States was astonished to learn that his American neighbor has a TV set in every room of his large house (including the garage); my German friend has a single TV that serves a family of three and, occasionally, visitors from abroad. Clearly, people’s income is not the primary factor that affects their purchasing behaviors.

Enjoying the present moment as opposed to being worried about the future is what differentiates the Lebanese people from Egyptians. The former tend to maximize their present enjoyment to the extent of overstretching themselves financially to truly enjoy their holidays. Egyptians, conversely, often spoil the essence of having fun by being overly concerned with what the future holds for them. I have always felt that the Lebanese prolong their pleasure time in an effort to enjoy their life to the utmost, aware that each minute that passes is irretrievable. In contrast, we Egyptians tend to overburden ourselves, imagining hypothetical worst-case scenarios and trying to guard against future challenges.

Another dissimilarity between the two people is the value attributed to the concepts of quality and quantity in life. The Lebanese want to live a good life in quality surroundings, while Egyptians are mainly concerned with extending their lifespan – regardless of its quality. The Lebanese often look for the best quality of food and are not willing to make the tiniest compromise in this regard. For them, food is a means to satisfy the soul; when traveling overseas, they even carry certain foods that may be unavailable at their destinations – as if being deprived of these foods would shorten their lives. Egyptians think of food in terms of sustenance required by their bodies.

Egyptians, who are known for their sense of humor, often try to frame entertainment gatherings within societal norms; they make sure not to cross any implicit social boundaries, fearing that this could be used as a pretext to criticize them, and they only share their expressive photos with their inner circle of friends. Lebanese social boundaries, on the other hand, appear to be determined by individuals! Societal norms are developed based on how an individual wants to behave; in other words, ‘norms’ have no boundaries and the Lebanese have no qualms about publicizing their private lives.

Having associated with many Lebanese businesspeople and politicians, I feel that they are very passionate about what they do, which leads to living happy, fulfilled lives. Somehow, they choose their fate; they have a willingness to explore the entire universe in search of their passions and they accept what life gives them in return for their personal investment in it. Meanwhile, most Egyptians perceive life as a series of milestones that they must cross before they can enjoy better times; they move from one difficult challenge to another in search of true enjoyment, which they intend to realize in the final stage of their lives – if they manage to reach it.

I am obviously generalizing, describing the larger parts of each society; there are plenty of exceptions. People are usually proud of their culture and have good justifications for their attitudes and behaviors.  Nevertheless, in my view (and I don’t think that either nation will approve of my proposition), merging the characteristics of the Lebanese and Egyptian societies would yield moderate citizens that are better able to balance true enjoyment and future security. Observing Lebanese tourists as they explore and enjoy the city of Sharm El Sheikh should prompt us Egyptians to emulate the positive qualities of other nations.

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