The power of Lebanese “tomorrow”

Disclaimer: this is a sarcastic post. Always keep in mind that I love the country I live in and its people, no matter how crazy some of them are!

Lebanese flatly refuse to call themselves Arabs, saying that they are the descendants of the Phoenicians, and they do have a point here. Some though even consider themselves French, reflecting this confidence in the French pronunciation of the majority of Arabic words. However, there’s one constant habit that brings together the representatives of all Arab countries, whether in the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula or in Africa. It is the habit of leaving everything for tomorrow. And “tomorrow” for Arabs is a totally indefinite concept.

So let’s talk about tomorrow. What is the meaning behind this word? According to the dictionary, “tomorrow” is an adverb that indicates the next day after today. Therefore, “tomorrow” should maximum happen within 24 hours plus the hours which are left from today. At least I always thought so! Working in Moscow as a Personal Assistant of Vice President in a large international company, I always complied with itineraries, calendars and schedules, defining “tomorrow” exactly as described in the dictionary. Otherwise, all the important meetings, conferences and events would have been disrupted while me – fired.

But no, this is not about Lebanon! The Lebanese “tomorrow”, in Arabic “bukra”, has a deep philosophical meaning. Almost from the first day of my staying here I was promised to receive a call or an e-mail tomorrow, to have a meeting tomorrow. And it’s been 6 months I am in Lebanon…

This lack of committment especially worries me due to my constant job search. People in Lebanon seek for a job through connections instead of recruit companies and websites. My husband has a couple of customers and friends, who work in organizations which interest me from job perspective. I was quite sure I would find a job! I was given a lot of promises, that “tomorrow they would call me for the interview” or that ” my CV impressed a director so much that he would be ready to offer me a job tomorrow”. Days, weeks and months passed by and…nothing. I would perfectly understand if someone told me that my CV or experience were not useful, but all I could hear was “everything’s great, but let’s do it tomorrow”.

The same situation was with autogarage, which is owned by my husband. Having started repairs there, he invited all sorts of workers: to put a tile, to level the floor and to build up the second floor. Together, they promised to finish in maximum one week. Is it worth noting that it has already lasted much longer?

Photo by  Tudor Hulubei

I would divide Lebanese promises about “tomorrow” or “bukra” into 3 categories:

1) Neutral responsible “Yalla bukra” (ok tomorrow; let’s do it tomorrow) – a very light unpretentious response that gives positive expectations; the word “yalla” is quite encouraging by itself.

2) Highly responsible “Akeed bukra” (for sure tomorrow; exactly tomorrow) – the strong affirming promise. This kind gives high expectations, sometimes makes a person dreamy. You have to be a very arrogant and impulsive one to utter this promise.

3) Totally irresponsible “InshAllah bukra” (hopefully tomorrow; tomorrow if God is willing) – this is a hopeless case! Here the promise is shifted from the human being to God. You just cannot be offended, as it’s a totally spiritual category, right?!

And this could be really funny, if it wasn’t sad. Sad, because the country’s business and economy are very unstable and weak. I might suspect that one of numerous reasons is the laziness and disorganization  of Lebanese people, leaving everything for the mythical “tomorrow”.

P.S.: There is a positive part of the Lebanese philosophy! My relations with the diet completely reflect the style of Lebanese “InshAllah bukra”!


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