I always get asked where I’m from: Am I Lebanese? Am I Iraqi? Am I British?

It’s really not as simple as the YES or No answers. But if there is one thing I should’ve brought back from Beirut four years ago (besides the zaatar and the zeitoun, obviously) it would be a few of these words that I struggle to find substitutes for in English on a regular basis, probably daily.

1. Naaiman


Yes, man, the number of times I see people come out of the shower – not in a creepy way but more like wet hair in the morning at the bus stop or even seeing someone with freshly cut hair, eyebrows did, beard trimmed - really, anything that has slightly made them look ”fresher” requires a naaiman. What is the substitute? You cannot even compliment someone who has just come out of the shower. That is weird and it is totally not British (*pinky up whilst holding a tea cup*).

2. Yalla


Yalla is the star of the list I cannot believe I did not put it as No. 1. I think yalla translates to "now" but I can’t go "now bye." I mean I could but it would be more like narrating what I’m doing using time adjectives. Now Bye, Later shower, soon food? Visa please? Yalla is just a word to throw in between your sentences. Yalla let’s go? Basically, it’s like a verbal comma or semicolon. Yalla the next one?

3. Walaw

giphy (1)

This one, I think already has a substitute which is don't worry. Thank you. Walaw. But walaw can mean different things especially if done with the right facial expressions. My personal favorite is when a Lebanese person goes walaw, proably bites their bottom lip, leans back a little, and if you’re lucky they might also lift their arms slightly. When this is done, the Lebanese person transforms from an ordinary chap/chappete to your uttermost savior and super hero. They are no longer your average Rami or Sally. They have simply got all of your trust. Hey can you help me with this? Walaw! Do you know how to do it? Walaw!! You are almost insulting them by your question. It is given that these walaw users are complete geniuses. You were just never told.

4. Inshallah


This word may seem very Islamic to a lot of you, but inshallah is not only Islamic, it’s a major part of Middle Eastern culture. It means, ‘If God wills’, very religious, I know, but really, you don’t have to be religious to use it. You just have to be Lebanese. It is the perfect escape excuse. Can we meet tomorrow? Inshallah. Can I get this? Inshallah. It means no. My dad loves this one. If you dare say to the person they are basically saying no, you are insulting their faith. Are you trying to disobey God’s word? Off with the head then? *references back to Victorian Britain*

5. Jeha


Jeha was the character of our parent’s favorite stories, Jeha, however wasn’t the smartest of characters. He has somehow managed to appear on a quality packet of crisps, but that’s not the point. We all know a Jeha or two. Why can’t I shut some stupid Brits up by simply saying "Jeha talking"? Why is that not a thing? Why are the likes of Archie and Elkie walking around town thinking they have quality bants when all they do is so Jeha-like?

6. Bakh’aa

giphy (2)

Baka is basically how you’ll probably end up saying it if you're not Arab, unless, you say Baha, with the strong H, like H for habibi and actually end up saying it right. Bakh'aa means BURN, it is the word to describe the situation when someone mugs themselves off, or receives a burning comeback and so they should basically be quiet for the rest of their life. That's probably a bit exaggerated, but hey all these Arabic words have really gotten to me. I find myself needing this word so much. If you knew me when I was in Lebanon, you would this word is my life, literally.

7. Jagal


This could mean lad, but sometimes it could upgrade to fuckboy. It really depends on who you’re talking about. It’s not you’re average guy. A typical Lebanese jagal is someone who wears a tight shirt, unbuttons the first three buttons allowing his chest hair to pop out. That’s probably an understatement. It’s really intimidating. He has spiky hair and wears skinny jeans, and his shoes are probably a rip off of three brands all together. He is most probably leading the dabke at your cousin Hanan’s wedding. A British jagal would be wearing Nike trackies walking around your local market like he owns the town.

This post is a StepFeed Community post, written by a guest contributor. If you’re interested in contributing to the StepFeed Community, please contact [email protected]