Wise Words from the Returnees || Part 1

Every young Lebanese has considered leaving the country. Many have left. And some have returned. We wanted to hear their stories, learn more about why they left and why they came back.

Through this series of blog posts, we want to share their stories, including the challenges and the joys, and then leave you with some of their advice. 

In part one of this series, you’ll get to hear from our very own Angela who chose to come back to help launch and run The Olive Grove. And we’ll get to hear from her husband, Falah, as well. 

Angela and Falah met in Lebanon about 7 years ago, dated long distance for a few years as Angela studied in London, and then they lived in Dubai for the past several years. This past year, they made the big move and came back to Lebanon. 

Every young Lebanese has considered leaving the country. Many have left. And some have returned. We wanted to hear their stories, learn more about why they left and why they came back.

Through this series of blog posts, we want to share their stories, including the challenges and the joys, and then leave you with some of their advice. 

In part one of this series, you’ll get to hear from our very own Angela who chose to come back to help launch and run The Olive Grove. And we’ll get to hear from her husband, Falah, as well. 

Angela and Falah met in Lebanon about 7 years ago, dated long distance for a few years as Angela studied in London, and then they lived in Dubai for the past several years. This past year, they made the big move and came back to Lebanon. 

Did you have to come back to Lebanon or did you choose to come back? Why?
Angela: Coming back to Lebanon was always a thought running through my head but I never thought it would actually happen. My job in Dubai was not giving me the satisfaction I deserved after spending more than12 hours a day working. The pay might have been good, but honestly, hardly enough to really compensate for all those hours spent staring at a screen.
It just so happened that my best friend (Anna) asked to come and help her launch a business in Lebanon, and it just happened to be the right time. 
So I would say that maybe, yes, I had to leave Dubai (to keep my sanity) but I chose to go to Lebanon and not anywhere else in the world. 

Falah: I lived abroad for 6 years, however I used to come back to Beirut every chance I got (probably 100 times). And every time I came back it was just amazing. So finally when I got a good job opportunity that continues to challenge me and is in line with my career plans, I just took a leap of faith.

How do you make the most of living in Lebanon?
Angela: Honestly, I really don’t think life in Lebanon is as bad as people who have lived here all their lives say it is. Yes, fine, there is no 24/7 electricity, no water, bad traffic and annoying politicians, and I do complain too. But I just choose to surround myself with positive people and look at the bright side. I’m happy at work. I live in a nice house. I have my whole family here. My cat. The ability to walk everywhere. All four seasons. The beach, the mountains. Amazing restaurants, amazing bars. And the best part is that all your Lebanese friends will come visit and stay with you when they’re back in the country.

Falah: I’ve been back for 6 months now, so at the beginning I was settling down, finding a home, then furnishing it (still work in progress). I also got a bike. My wife and I try to go outside Beirut every weekend to somewhere new in Lebanon, and Lebanon has so many hidden and beautiful places, also great people to meet. Of course I also looooove eating mama’s food more often.

What is one of the biggest challenges of living in Lebanon after living abroad?
Angela: Lebanon is a very weird place, and I’m not sure how it’s actually functioning. The luxury and comfort of having a smooth running country is nice, but I don’t think this is the biggest challenge. I would say the salary cut was hard at first but you adapt. I think the hardest thing is making choices here. Every decision for some reason has a much bigger effect. Actually, maybe that because I’m getting older. 

Falah: It’s probably the disorganization and uncertainty. For the first time, I try to see through the noise and avoid frustrating situations such as traffic, slow internet, and electricity. As for the uncertainty, (un)fortunately as Lebanese we know how to neutralize it and just carry on with our lives.

How have you implemented what you learned abroad into your life here?
Angela: I personally think everyone should leave Lebanon (if you have the opportunity) and live abroad at least once in their lives. You learn how to live alone and how to be independent. You learn how to make real friends and surround yourself with a new family. You learn a new way of life. So when you come back to Lebanon, you’re no longer stuck in the routine and mood of those here. The hardship you face here is only a stepping-stone. I think the greatest thing I learned abroad is to be adaptable; and that is one of the most important qualities to develop when you move back to Lebanon. 

Falah: Working abroad in multinational companies taught me high work ethics and standards that I implement at work here. I also rely a lot more on technology during daily activities such as transportation, banking, even for recycling I use an App. One thing that I learned but haven’t implemented yet is volunteering.

What’s one of your favorite things about living in Lebanon again?
Angela: Having my family close to me, though the family obligations can be overwhelming sometimes. Reconnecting with some old friends. Being able to walk everywhere. I recently bought a bike and it was one of the best decision ever. The list can go on and on but I’ll stop here. 

Falah: Family. Getting to see them more often is amazing. Outdoor activities come second.

What would your advice be for other returnees?
Angela: Make sure what your are doing here in Lebanon satisfies you. Live with your parents for the first part of your return just so you won’t have to deal with too much at one time. Definitely find your own place before your first year is over. Surround yourself with the right crowd – with people that are inspiring and positive. This will help a lot. Have a routine. It’s very easy to spend all your money in one day without noticing. Don’t live too far from your job so you won’t have to deal with traffic. 

Falah: For those of you who wish and plan to move back to Lebanon one day, try not to delay that day too much. The earlier you move back, the better it is to establish yourselves.
For the brave ones who moved back, I say “Ahla w sahla.” It’s a rollercoaster, but you will enjoy every single bit of it.

Stay tuned for our next blog as we continue this series…. 

TOG Team ft. Angela & Falah 

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