My first editorial for the Look Out Libya website went up last week and has unfortunately caused a bit of a stir even though it was written without the intention to offend. So I want to take the opportunity on this blog to just set the record straight.
Let me briefly summarize what the editorial was about (read the whole article here). The article was about the difficulties and annoyances of living in Libya, but focused on two issues: communication and the driving.
I aired a bit frustration at not always being able to communicate with people due to lack of a common language. This is frustrating for anyone in a country which doesn’t speak the same language as you and means that something small can turn into something big, because you simply can’t get your ideas, thought and requests across the language divide.
However I never implied that everyone in Libya should speak English nor did I demand that. I simply raised the issue that living in a country where you don’t have a common language to communicate in, it can be rather difficult at times.
What I failed to say and I think should be said, is that, as expats, we have to make the effort to learn at least a smattering of the local language can help. I’ve noticed this in most places I’ve travelled in that if you make the effort at least learning the basics, like the “hello” and “thank you”, helps people warm to you and in the end go the extra yard to help you out. I know that it’s not easy to learn a new language, but these few words can really go a long way.
I for one have made the effort and can read a bit of Arabic and know how to ask for things in shops, and as I said, it has warmed a lot of Libyans to me, who have subsequently gone out of their way to help me.
So I really didn’t like the accusation and the assumption that I am one of those expats that expect to be waited on and demand that everyone speak English to me.
There I got that out of the way.
It’s funny how people will immediately point out what they think you said and criticize you for it, while completely ignoring an important issue. In the editorial I raised the issue of the driving in Libya and the complete disregard to safety and rules. None of the people who commented on my apparent elitist view of the language issue went on to comment on the driving. Why?
The driving in Libya is atrocious. I’ve written the editorial and a subsequent blog post about it. Now, I’m not one of those scaremongers who just say stuff without doing research. I looked it up. The WHO gathered statistics showing that Libya has the 3rd highest fatality rate due to road accidents in the world (once again click here for report). I ask again, why did those who criticized my editorial not comment on this issue as well?
I’ve said many times, Libya has its positives and negatives. I personally don’t only concentrate on the negatives as I tend to highlight the positives as well, so I tend get on the defensive when people accuse of me of saying things which I didn’t and even more defensive when people criticize something trivial and choose to ignore to comment on something serious such as the attitude to road safety in this country.