Brain drain Beirut

Rather than spending my Saturday doing nothing, my plan was to head north up the coast to the ancient town of Byblos (Jbeil in Arabic). However, due to the Beirut traffic I soon deviated from this plan and got off at the first city along the way. While grabbing something to eat I got into a conversation with a Lebanese guy and soon we were discussing politics (of course). The general rule in Lebanon is that people start talking about politics very soon, even though everyone says you should stay off the topic. He told me that after graduating in mechanical engineering he wants to move to France or Canada and that basically 8 out of his 10 friends already left Libanon. Many universities follow the American or French education system so that it is easier for people to move to these countries. This in in line with what I have been hearing a lot; there are more Lebanese people living outside Lebanon than within Lebanon. According to him, there are even more Lebanese in Brazil than Lebanon, but I am have my doubts about that statement. On my plane to Beirut, I was also surrounded by Lebanese from Australia, France, the UK and US. Most of which have left during the civi war and visit Lebanon over the summer which makes Lebanon more of a touristy place then you might imagine.

He believes that change is not going to come any time soon; the Lebanese society suffers form an extreme version of “verzuiling” and since the people are so embedded in their bubble,the political parties will remain to be corrupt since their voters are loyal to the party regardless. With many educated people leaving the country, this process will only be reinforced.

After our conversation he had already paid for my lunch, said it was Lebanese hospitality and kissed me on the cheek when saying goodbye. That is something I still need to get used to.


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