Hemispherical Thoughts

I find it difficult clicking with, if not communicating with, people who have not lived outside Jordan for a period of time. People who have not had the experience of living in the Western hemisphere. Actually, any hemisphere will do. I don’t know why that is, but I feel anyone who missed out on such an experience is never on the same wavelength. I mean, you can watch all the American TV shows, listen to rock music and feign an accent; but that’s not what I’m talking about. Nor am I talking about a trip to Disney Land or a 2-week vacation in Paris.

Arabs who have lived abroad, specifically when younger, have a different way of thinking that is a bit refreshing. I also get the sense that they’re more grounded in terms of religious, political, nationality and cultural awareness in a way that our homegrown variety is not. I’m not totally convinced that it is the presence of foreign soil that transforms them as such, so much as it is the absence of home soil. It’s the difference between talking to a person who studies only mathematics his entire life, or a person who studied a variety of subjects their entire life. The difference between the children stuck in the allegorical cave watching the shadows dance on the wall, and the one kid who came out of the cave, grazed the hills, saw fire and crossed oceans.

I don’t know.

It’s just a fleeting thought.


  • Totally agree, even those who live in another Arab country, but by themselves, are different… looking at things from outside in makes them prettier, sometimes…

  • It’s a valid thought… you’re absolutely right, Naseem. Those are my exact thoughts…I think you and I have discussed this before…

    One dimension that I find important to point out is that overall, our parents have left with some solid traditions and values that they have held on and passed down to their children… We’re a mix of two cultures…taking the good and leaving out the bad … But, things back home are changing ….people are changing … they have adopted the ‘bad’ from western culture probably in an attempt to be ‘different’ and ‘open minded’ … letting go of their core values…

    Having a decent conversation with the majority of those I came across in my visits back home is almost impossible. My experience led me to believe how empty they are…and what’s very annoying is that these very people have the wrong idea about those who grew up abroad… there is a lot to be said about this topic …but dinner is ready now! :d

  • Being away from home plays a major role in a person’s maturity and in broadening their perspective of life. It’s a privilege to be exposed to diverse cultures.

    I had my first true encounter with people from the West while I was still in Jordan. At that time I was shocked by how different the way they think is, as if their brains have a different configuration, I’m not saying it’s better or worse, what is striking is that it is so different, something that you can’t appreciate from tv.

    A point that is not exactly related, when I’m away from home I remember only the good things about being home, how cozy and lovely it is, but when I go home on vacation it does not take long to remember all the inconveniences and hassles of life in Jordan, whenever you have to deal with people or dive on the roads, starting even before you get there if you have to fly with Royal Jordanian. As soon as I’m home I start longing to the convenient life in the States, and forgetting that it has its many disadvantages too. I guess humans are nostalgic by nature!

  • Not neccesarily Naseem , Some people Live abroad and come back with totally absurd ways of thinking … but in general i can see what you’re talking about … its the quality eduacation most of the cases … because Arabs who really integrate into western societies are a rarity …

  • Akkkkkh, unfortunately, you’re right. I say unfortunately, because it’s a shame that so many people our age in Jordan are very bright and clever, but still have a problem in being a bit more tolerant and accepting of new concepts, or concepts that are relatively unknown to them. But this is how it works just about everywhere. Traveling, or living abroad, definitely opens up new horizons and offers you new and fresh experiences. I read an article in Fast Company that more and more Multinational corporations are hiring Westerners that have lived in third world countries for at least a year. Because living in abroad truly sharpens your sense of adapting to new situations, and adaptation is a sign of sound creativity and being able to work under different and hard circumstances.

    I think that the reason for what you’re talking about, is that Western education (especially in early years, such as preschool and elementary levels) is definitely more enriching than our education in Jordan.

  • “But, things back home are changing ….people are changing … they have adopted the ‘bad’ from western culture probably in an attempt to be ‘different’ and ‘open minded’ … letting go of their core values…”

    Sorry Iman, but I have to disagree, people have not adopted the ‘bad’, the problem is that they have lost sight of all principles.

    I’ll give you an example, drinking alcohol is forbidden in Islam, yet some muslims in Jordan do drink, ask these same people to eat pork and their immediate reply is “it is harram”.

    For me that just dosen’t click.

    Living in the west has confused most of us specially due to the econmic and cultural conflicts that emerge. We as social beings want to relate to some group or other, we just don’t know which ones.

    We no longer have the principles that guide us through life, we just wander hoping for the best and waiting for a miracle to change things.

  • though i tend to find it a bit elitist as a topic since not everyone is exactly able to do so, and some come out quite fine for treading their own path in their own home country.
    Never mind that its an utter fallacy to generalize all expats under the moderates label, if anything they fall under the “don’t want to be an Arab” or “have a real twisted definition and attachment to what it means to be an Arab”.

    anyways in general i think ur allegory is flipped, for the ones raised abroad (essentially growing up in the absence of their mother land) have that really pink and blue vision of what its like to be an arab.
    while the ones who grow up in the arab world, who had to rough elbows with other arabs day in and day out have seen the real forms and ideas …
    either am starting to think hypocrisy is in the gene pool

  • I’m with you, dude. This is one of the reasons why I moved my family abroad. I want them to experience many cultures…not just American culture. The door swings both ways on this one.

  • And if you add this post and the one about Bab Al Hara together, you can see why there is no way I will marry my daughters to any Arab who hasn’t lived abroad. I know some sisters who won’t marry their half Arab half American daughters to anyone who isn’t also half/half. There is a huge difference.

  • I can not agree more Nas, however, unfortunatly you find many Arabs who settle in Western countries either to study or to work locked up in their shell most of the time! Many of the Jordanians that I know in London know only fellow Jordanians whom they were with at school or university back home! I can never understand why would you mingle with the same people all the time… These people come and go and never learn a thing about Western culture nor get exposed to different cultures or people and they go back home with the same (if not worse) mentality that they had before coming to foreign countries! I met an Egyptian woman who has been living in London for 20 years and has raised her kids here.. believe it or not she doesn’t speak a word of English!!!! She never mingles with anyone who is non-Arab!!! I thought that this was shocking!

  • Hallelujah

    Well as someone who is born and raised in a western country and spent no more than one year and 2 months living in the middle east (irbid, jordan) I would say it’s actually more of experiencing life as part of an ethnic and religious minority than it is “the absense of home soil”, I consider my small American town home.

  • Live and think outside of the box. If your box happens to be Jordan, try something new. Karak and Ajlun are not the centers of the universe. Come back to your box if your heart desires, but go shem al hawa and experience this great world and all it holds.

    And if you have kids, like I do, who are half Arab and half Western, don’t marry them to the village boy or girl who does believe that Karak and Ajlun are the centers of the universe. That’d spell trouble with a capital “M.”

  • I can’t help but feeling agony for hearing such words. I’m that type of people who loves and proud of being Arabian and Muslim, and it breaks my heart when I see that instead of talking about Western communities negativism we are talking about our generations sickness and how limited-thinkers we are (which I think it’s not). The metaphor you used is inconsistant with what you are pointing to, in this case Western communities do need to learn other subjects (live in Arabia). I’m not comfortable talking about this…


Your Two Piasters: