Monday, May 7, 2007

French elections in Lebanon

Quite a large part of the Lebanese community is fervently French, perhaps even more so than the French themselves. The years of colonization has made a lasting impression on the Lebanese: they sent their kids to the French schools, they speak French at home and bien sur they follow the French Idols, or Star Ac for short.

Sometimes, when walking around in east Beirut you can almost fool yourself of being in Paris. The street signs are a copy/paste of the French system, the shops advertise their products in French and people greet you with a friendly bonjour instead of the Arabic marhaba.

After buying the Lebanese newspaper, all written in French, you can have your morning coffee at a nice bistro and at night you can go to your favorite French restaurant for a typical French menu, adjusted for the French elections this time. That’s right: the Lebanese were highly involved in the French elections. Many Lebanese have a French passport which entitles them to vote and they did so en masse.

See, e.g., the below advertisement of a restaurant that organized a special Election Night with a fitting menu. All courses are somehow related to the elections and the place had a big TV to follow Antenne 2’s election program yesterday night. I don’t know if the place was packed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were.

There is the cuteness factor of the French influence on daily Lebanese life and the positive effects it has on the cuisine: having a pain au lait, munching some camembert and sipping French wines…yum! However, there is also the downside of this influence. It is always a bit sad to hear a Lebanese declare in perfect French that they are not Arabs, but Phoenicians.

Sure, it is somewhat understandable that some Lebanese, mostly Christians, feel they were conquered by the Arabs long, long time ago. Still, to complain about this in the language of another conqueror is well…strange. At least, let them complain about it in Phoenician!

But yeah, some Lebanese are quite picky in choosing their foreign masters. Just like it always cracks me up to hear Hezbollah complain about foreign influence while they have no problem accepting millions of dollars in cash and weapons from Iran. And that’s just sad: to realize that the Lebanese are so internationally orientated they forget about the interests of their own country sometimes.


Gerard said...

Though I use to say "bonjour" in the morning, instead of "sabah al kheir" and "merci" instead of "shukran", my French is not very well. So I was lucky to fall in love with a woman of East Beirut who went to an English secondary school...

Anonymous said...

and the winner is:

Le S du vainqueur.

Ya habibi,

I hou wel van verschillende talen


Anonymous said...

My exfriend is Lebanese and doensnt speak Dutch.
During daytime he could behave... and spoke perfectly English to me... However during the (what it should be) nice hours in nighttime, he started speaking Frence... all way through...

I still dont know where he was speaking about... Maybe about how beautifull the Eifel Tour is in Paris or about love or work ... I really dont know??

Indeed, strange to hear them speak French. I expected English and Arabic.