Leaving the comfort and luxury of the Gulf to move back to Lebanon can be a tough transition. Many Lebanese working in the Gulf countries constantly weigh the cost of leaving security and stability to move back to their home country.
As a continuation of our blog series, “Wise Words from the Returnees,” we interviewed Rana, a civil engineer who worked with the multinational company AECOM for 8 years in Qatar, and who recently moved back to Lebanon (again). We love her words of advice, and we hope they leave you feeling encouraged.
Did you have to come back or did you choose to come back? Why?
Interestingly, this is my second time to come back to Lebanon from overseas, and both times it was absolutely by choice, just different reasons!
I left Lebanon twice, first from 2006-2010 (following the Israeli war) and then from 2014-2017 (following the Syrian crisis and construction sector being extremely hit).. the first time I returned was purely being fed up with the desert and for my well-being and family, second time was because I’m taking a break and changing career through a Masters, with the aim hopefully to find work here when I finish it!
My plan was always to stay and work in Lebanon and it was the major political upheavals that made me leave to the Gulf, both times. This time, I came back after working for 4 years in Qatar and the main reason this time was a decision to change careers, I enrolled in an Executive Masters in London (part time, few visits to London only) so I decided to use Lebanon as my base and the intention is to find a job here once I graduate. I would like to work in the Development domain which means targeting developing countries, so to me it is obvious- why will I have to look elsewhere rather than help my own country in urgent need for development?
How do you make the most of living in Lebanon?
Having worked for 8 years in Qatar and its desert climate and nature, I developed this urge for being in nature which is abundant in Lebanon, for enjoying the cultural scene that is vibrant in Beirut as well as the authentic villages and their heritage and warm habitants. My Doha experience made me appreciate these assets so much more and this is how I try to make most out of living here!
What is one of the biggest challenges of living in Lebanon after living abroad?
Driving, driving, and driving!
To me, this is not just about the mere chaotic driving challenge, but sadly, it reflects a whole negative side of Lebanon: the lack of organization, rules, and the absence of proper civic behavior and respect towards each other- unfortunately this is something not just limited to the streets!
How do you deal with these challenges?
Rather than dwelling on the negativity of these challenges, I just do my best to avoid being in such scenarios and avoiding confrontation, but at the end of the day, you just learn how to live with them. While driving, music is my best fix!
How have you implemented what you learned abroad into your life here?
What I mostly learned from living overseas and the people I have worked with, who were from different nationalities (the advantage of working in the Gulf!), was the importance of good civic behavior and abiding by the law/rules. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, this is the main challenge I am struggling with daily here but I still try to apply these values myself here, thinking that if we all start from ourselves, one day things might change on this front.
What are some of the sacrifices you have to make living in Lebanon?
Few things of course that I think are common to all people who have returned like me: major salary cut and losing the luxury of basic services- 24 hour electricity, water, good infrastructure and such.
What’s one of your favorite things about living in Lebanon again?
Being around family.
Beirut…I’m in love with this evergreen and super resilient city.
And of course, the beautiful nature spots that we have all over Lebanon, I’m a big fan of exploring the most hidden gems and every road trip around our mountains leaves me more and more amazed by how much beauty we have!
What would your advice be for other returnees?
Even though my overseas experience was mostly driven by incidents of political instability here, I now encourage everyone to leave the comfort zone and live a few years abroad for the enriching experience- on both the professional and personal levels. My advice is to do that and then return once you have achieved a certain level of financial stability that will allow you to survive the low salaries and the expensive cost of living here!
There is understandably plenty of negative things that make so many people unwilling to return back but the key thing, if you decide to come back, is to exactly acknowledge this fact, embrace it and get over it as soon as you can. Focusing on the positive things rather than becoming stuck on our issues is how I get through the day, create yourself a bubble to live in (in a good way)- quality friends, interesting activities, and lots of getaways from the city- there is a lot to love and do in here!
If we keep giving our expertise and skills that cost us years of education and hard work to the rest of the world and never to our own country, how can we ever hope for anything good to happen here? Be brave!
TOG Team ft. Rana