Do you know Lebanon? At first, you picture the bright side: beautiful women, beaches, history and delicious cuisine. But reality is a stark contrast with this idyllic vision in this country where tourism is still the main source of income. Being a woman in this traditional Middle East area is challenging and the El Dorado remains Europe and America for those who want to find their independence. But, like Carole, they find themselves facing the hard reality of every immigrant; the fear of the ‘other’ and the rejection of the others.
“Hello ! My name is Carole and I’m a Lebanese. Lebanese doesn’t mean lesbianese, it means I come from Lebanon. It is a country, it does exist on the map. You don’t see it, you just have to imagine it …”
This was the beginning of my first stand up comedy show. For me, being on stage, in front of people laughing from my misfortunes, is like therapy. And the first thing I wanted to solve was the question of my origins. Brown hair, brown eyes, brown skin–more the Orient beauty than the Aryan style. However, that was never a problem in a place like Berlin, where multi-kulti is trendy and where people tend to accept different cultures from their own.
I lived all my life in Lebanon until I was 22 years old. I studied Mechanical Engineering and a six-month internship brought me to Berlin in 2009. One year later, after I finished my bachelor’s degree, I managed to come back and work at the same big German company. I didn’t know what was waiting for me there. As a Lebanese, I’m only allowed to stay in Berlin if I have a job. That concretely means I’m trapped in the fabulous world of Mechanical Engineering till I can get my residence permit in two long years. Don’t misunderstand me. I love my speciality. I like the fact that it is logic, rational; it forces you to follow strict directives. The exact opposite of my life actually. But what I can’t stand is German hospitality.
In Lebanon, as in every Middle East country, family is really important. Everybody has a solid familial structure there. Brothers, sisters, cousins, you’ll never be alone! Just imagine how hard it is for an Arabian to come in Berlin where all physical contacts are avoided at work in order to respect the personal space. And work was all my life. The first year was disastrous for my mind, but it is the case of all Lebanese coming to big European cities.
Europe is the El Dorado, it is what we are all dreaming for. It is false to think that Lebanese women are staying at home, raising children and taking care of their manicure. Appearance has his importance in Betroth, as well as education, culture and studies. You have to embrace a career that offers you a concrete future: doctor, economist, engineer, lawyer…No place for artistic brains. Just because art is considered useless. You don’t have any chance to develop yourself professionally in Lebanon, you have to export your talent. This is where the shoe pinches!
Usually, European companies don’t accept you because they already have undergraduates as qualified as you. I got the chance to be taken in this German company, so I took it. I was convinced that my future was to develop myself in this environment. But I quickly faced the reality: I was a symbol of positive discrimination. The exception that confirmed that this company was opened to all communities. The first year was horrible–I felt into depression. No responsibility at the office, no time to make friends outside the working environment. What was my reason to live? And everybody in Lebanon was like: “My god, don’t you realize the chance you have to be there?” I guess I didn’t.
So the first year led me to depression, what would the second bring me? Resurrection. I understood later what had been my mistake. I was suppose to be the one to change for the company and I didn’t. I was the exception and I wanted to make it visible. So I continued to wear high heels, short skirts, make up–everything that sounds “non professional” in a German context. I continued to speak and laugh loud, to touch people, to express feelings. I wasn’t a working robot, I was an human with enough intelligence to avoid becoming as mechanical as the things I’m creating. Today ? Well, today things are going better: no more rebellion from me just more responsibilities and understanding from my bosses.
Actually, this rebellious phase was a terrible way to express myself. In this company, I just had the feeling to be the equal as anybody else. But I was me! I discovered it when I began theater classes. I had my own body, my own feelings, and my ways to express them. Discord was just the easiest way I had found to exist. Theater gave me confidence in myself, in others too. After that, I saw I wanted to be creative, to build something. And my old fears just reappeared. I couldn’t leave my job without leaving the country. It was impossible for me to return to Lebanon. Of course, I would be pampered again and have the support of my family. But I wasn’t a child anymore. I had been through too many things to let things go down so easily. Waiting was my only solution.
So, I’m still in Berlin. A 24 years old lady performing in stand up comedies and dreaming of building her own start up. I’ll be able to do it in two years. But it is hard for me to understand why liberal countries like the European ones are blocking creative and talented people. If my start up works, I’ll be able to enhance growth–at my own level, of course–and create jobs. My dream still remains to be independent, as independent as I’m on stage. This stage has become the place where I can express myself artistically while waiting for a better opportunity.
Now, I know it’ll be impossible for me to return to Beroth again. A void has been growing between me and my relatives. My father, who is really important for me, keeps thinking comedy is just a hobby. He makes me laugh when he says I’m doing the clown in my free time. I tried to explain him that it was important for me, that it was a real job actually because of all the time it took me to write and rehearse. But there’s still that void. They think the time I’m spending on this thing is wasted time I could have use to develop myself professionally. They don’t see that this hobby is actually the key of my future professional life as it develops my creativity, my contacts, and my confidence–it makes me grow up.
I’ve come to accept the dark side of my life. I have nothing to complain about anymore. Let’s face it, I’m pretty well payed with a lot of free time…And I’m halfway through my immigrant’s life! In two years, you’ll see a new start up coming out of nowhere where all the employees will have to be different, creative, and 200 % motivated. In my years of desperation, I’ve learned one thing: never to give up. Maybe now I have to fit my company and his exigences but the time will come where my determination will allow me to be my own boss.