How to Succeed at Living in The Middle East When You Are Not Middle Eastern Proficiency Quiz (Western, Middle-Class Version)

Communicating/ Planning

* People who announce that they are very interested in other cultures are

  • very interested in other cultures
  • monologuing trolls

If you go to lunch with a new acquaintance who monologs about hitchhiking across Europe at 18, backpacking in Nepal at 21, trips to Iraq, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bhutan, etc., your reaction should be:

  • WOW that is so amazing!
  • What did you think of [name of country that acquaintance mentioned that you are most interested in]
  • Talk about your own travels in most exotic place you have been to
  • Ask your acquaintance if they have seen any good movies lately

If you try to organize a pot luck dinner in the Middle East, you

  • are being culturally au fait
  • should be celebrated for trying to introduce a new style of entertaining
  • probably work for an American embassy

A Middle Eastern friend calls you and gets a busy signal. His attitude is:

  • no problem
  • he suggests you reprogram phone
  • the next time he sees you, he grabs your phone and reprograms it so that when you am on a call and get another incoming call, the phone buzzes, then tells you that when he calls you must answer immediately. Do you understand him? Answer his calls right away because it might be important – like he might be coming to town and he would need you to call a restaurant and order pizza for him!

When  Middle Eastern friends say they are with “family,” they usually mean they are with:

  • nuclear family as well as aunts, uncles and cousins
  • parents
  • siblings
  • spouse

If you make tentative plans at 7pm Wednesday to go on a day trip at 1pm on Thursday, at what time will you get confirmation that the trip is on?

  • 9pm, Wed
  • midnight, Wed
  • 10am, Thurs
  • 1:05pm, Thurs

On average, how much time do you have between when a plan (dinner, movie, trip, etc.) is suggested by a Middle Eastern person and the plan happens?

  • 1 day
  • 3-4 hours
  • 1 hour
  • 2 minutes

How long does it take the average American living in the Middle East to completely lose the ability to plan any event more than 1/2 hour in advance?

  • this never happens
  • 10 years
  • 5 years
  • 2 years

Daily Life

You haven’t lived in the Middle East until you have been told:

  • the USA never made it to the moon, that was all Hollywood hype
  • eating pig makes you weak and hurts your heart
  • four different versions of the same event from the same person
  • all of the above

On a two-lane road, you see someone driving towards you in your lane. You should

  • beep
  • flash your lights
  • slow down
  • speed up and drive straight at him to encourage him to get back in his own lane

The height of decadence is:

  • taking a bath in ice cream
  • 2 lbs. of Belgian chocolate for dinner
  • 5 hours in the beauty parlor
  • driving to work in a sleeveless dress without putting on a cardigan

You go to a plant store to buy clay pots and there are clay pots, but you don’t buy them because:

  • they are suspiciously cheap
  • they are too expensive
  • you can only buy them by the dozen
  • no one in the store knows the price of any of the pots

A store that advertises “luxuries” will sell:

  • Cartier, Dior
  • Mont Blanc, Nespresso machines
  • high-end chocolates, gourmet pasta
  • laundry soap, salt

If you have a magazine subscription, the magazine will:

  • arrive by mail once a month
  • arrive by mail at irregular intervals
  • be handed to you in your office by a man you have never seen who then demands you pay him for it

If you have a mysterious pain in your foot, the doctor will likely say that it is from:

  • Ill-fitting shoes
  • Wart
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Gout


The new head of your company begins his inaugural speech to the staff by:

  • thanking them for their hard work
  • explaining his vision for the future
  • explaining his credentials
  • explaining, in exhaustive detail what his title will be and that he, heaven forfend, did not ask for this more important title to be given to him but it was forced upon him and he doesn’t want to stand on ceremony and insist people use this important title but since it was given to him by the business owners, he feels obligated to use it

If I tell you the correct answer is 4, you will:

  • not know what university he came from
  • assume he has an MBA
  • know for certain he came from AUB

Life at Home

If your cleaning lady announces, “Madame, I am finding those, too big, husband and wife, I am beating too much, too big, children coming, beating, I am beating” – what is she talking about?

  • Your neighbors
  • Your pets
  • Mice
  • Spiders

A normal number of accent cushions in a living room is:

  • 6
  • 12
  • 18
  • 24

If you are American, how long will it take an Iraqi neighbor light into you about American foreign policy?

  • the first time he meets you, after exchanging pleasantries for few moments
  • second time he meets you
  • third time he meets you
  • only if you bring up the subject first
  • immediately

Washing machines are advertised as:

  • anti-rot
  • won’t tip over
  • self-cleaning
  • anti-rat

Your fridge:

  • has an ice maker
  • is pink
  • has special place for yoghurt
  • locks

You find a huge spider (body the size of a cherry tomato with noticeable sharp pinchers and long, thick legs) squatting on the side of the tub, you tell

  • Everyone
  • No one
  • The people who you do want to visit you
  • The people you do not want to visit you

You mention that you saw a millipede, the person you are talking to asks, “Where?” Your answer

  • is to tell the truth, you saw it in the garden
  • depends on how much you like the person, if you have warm feelings of affection you say, “At a co-worker’s house;” if you do not you say, “My living room”


A hugely successful song with a disco beat is:

  • Woman in Red
  • Dancing Queen
  • We are the Champions
  • Take Me Home Country Roads

A song that jumps the Western to Middle Eastern cultural barrier:

  • Blinded by the Light
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • Walk This Way
  • I Feel Good

Almost every man you meet in the Middle East will know and revere:

  • Billie Jean
  • Jailhouse Rock
  • Mustang Sally
  • Hotel California

Food and Dining

The waiter brings your order to the car – the first thing you should do is:

  • pay him
  • open every carton to see if what you got is what you ordered

You feel like an egg and cheese sandwich, you call your favorite restaurant and ask, “Do you have an egg and cheese sandwich?” They say no. The best method to end up with a cheese and egg sandwich is to:

  • Call another restaurant
  • Beg, please please please
  • Ask the same question again

You ask, “Would you like a cup of coffee?” and a person from the Middle East responds with “Thank you” – do they want coffee or not?

  • Yes
  • Yes, but you will need to ask them three more times before they admit it
  • No

Match the food item you order with the food item which will arrive with it unless you specifically forestall it (which is usually unsuccessful anyways):

1 – hamburger a – green chili peppers


2 – pizza b – fried egg
3 – tea c – garlic mayonnaise
4 – omelet d – milk
5 – mango juice e – pickled onions


6 – chicken masala “not spicy” f – 1/4 cup sugar

It is normal to serve meatballs coated with:

  • breading
  • hot sauce
  • butter
  • peanut butter

Which type of pie will you normally find in the grocery store:

  • Apple
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry
  • Pineapple Jam

Trying to home-brew is a good idea.

  • No
  • Yes
  • Yes only if you have a good maid and are willing to pay her triple to clean up the mess when something blows up.

Vital Information

Before moving to the Middle East, it’s a good idea to read:

  • 1) Aeneid
  • 2) Oedipus
  • 3) Antigone
  • 4) Odyssey
  • 1 and 2
  • 3 and 4

Bonus Question – How many bottles of perfume are ‘too many’?

  • 10
  • 25
  • 50
  • don’t be silly, there is no such thing as too much perfume


Correct answers:

last of the list, food: 1-b, 2-c, 3-d, 4-e, 5-f, 6-a