*Also published as an Editorial (5 December 2010) on Look Out Libya**
I was on an expat forum the other day and saw some posts where some expats where venting their frustrations about living in Libya and it was then I realized it has been a while since I have written about living in Libya.
Have I become so used to the place that I already do not feel the need to complain? Have I become numb to the issues that can make this country difficult to live in for expats? Or is it a case that I am enjoying things out here that I don’t feel like I should complain?
I had a think about it and I realized it’s a combination of the factors I just mentioned.
I am fully aware that Libya has its issues which can make living here as an expat rather difficult.
Issues such as language: English is not widely spoken in Libya which turns the simplest tasks into a massive endeavor. A funny example of this is when my housemates and I were preparing a barbeque and two them went out to buy coal. At the first store he went to, the owner didn’t speak English, so my housemate tried everything to explain what he needed and even attempted to make fire noises and hand gestures. The storekeeper looked at him and said a word in Arabic, which my housemate assumed was the word for coal and then the storekeeper said “Mafish” (I don’t have). So my housemate goes to all the other stores, repeating what he thought was coal in Arabic.
When he got home with no coal, my Brazilian/Lebanese housemate asked him why he didn’t get coal, to which the other housemate relayed the story I just did. Lebanese housemate asks him what word he used for coal and he said “Sifir” at which point Lebanese housemate bursts out laughing. It turns out the two other housemates had gone round all the shops in the area asking for zero… like the number. Suddenly the strange looks directed at them in the stores made sense.
This is a funny story, but it can be very frustrating being unable to articulate the most simple requests and ideas to people. It was frustrating to me as well, but after a while I started getting used to this and forced myself to pick up some words and phrases to make my life easier.
Another thing which can be frustrating and actually quite scary at times is the driving. I’ve seen things on the road here which I’ve never, ever, seen in my life before. Libyans really do not understand the concept traffic rules. My first impression of Libya was that I was going to die on the drive home from the airport. It is insane and not surprising that Libya has the second highest accident rate in the Arab world according to a WHO report. The disregard for road rules and safety can be infuriating at times especially when you see a car filled with children (none of which are in a car seat or wearing seatbelt) flying past you at 140 Km/h. I have seen bad, reckless and dangerous driving on my travels, but nothing compares to what I have seen here.
I’ve actually decided not to drive here as I tend to have a short temper in car, so driving here would definitely not help my stress levels.
These are just two of the issues expats face when moving to Libya and I could go on and on and on and I probably will in another post in the future. However, there is no point in moping around and complaining to the walls about it. Sometimes you, just have to get on with it. Yes, venting does help, but sitting around complaining about how bad a place is, is not going to make any better.
Oh and while I’m already complaining, I dislike the French. What’s the point of that nation… (Sorry Florian!)