There are many big families in Lebanon: the Itanis, Malaebs, the Khourys, the Hakims, the Haidars...you have one friend from each of these veritable tribes most likely.
Then there are the smaller families. If you've been in Lebanon for long enough, you're still able to pinpoint their origins and ask them the inevitable: "Are you related to [insert name of kid that was in your class in brevet]"
Every once in a while, you will come across an unusual family name, and it makes your mental social map go haywire. They make you question everything you know to be true.
People who have unusual family names will relate to these reactions. I, for one, get them on a daily basis.
1. "Inte Libnaniye?" - Are you Lebanese?
The first question, without fail, is whether I'm Lebanese or not. People tend to think that if you have a last name that no one has heard of, you can't be Lebanese. It's impossible.
2. Doing a mental GPS of your ancestral village
Confusion cannot go unanswered. So, this is where intrusive questions start. "Min wein bil zabit" aka, where are you from exactly. It's lovely to see even more confusion when you don't come from a specific day'a.
3. Guess my sect
We don't know why the Lebanese cannot rest until they know the religious sect of every person within a 10 meter radius.
They feel bad about it (or at least I hope they do). So they go about asking for it in an extremely convoluted way. Mostly, they just offer their religion, to which you're supposed to respond to with yours.
Such a great conversation starter.
4. Pronunciation/spelling is key
How frequently I'm asked to say my last name has led me to be insecure. Maybe I'm saying it wrong?!
When I say it and people ask how it's spelled, without fail - I am literally spelling it out - they will misspell it.
I mean it's alright, it's not like they can't say it right anyway...
5. But...what does it mean?
Yes, my last name means rain, like literal rain. No, the doesn't reflect anything about me, where I'm from or what weather I like.
6. Tensions are rising
There's always a bit of hesitation when someone struggles to say your last name. They don't want to say something to offend you, but hey, they need to know where in this rugged 10,452 km² land you came from.
Trust me, by now, there's no possible way you could offend me.
7. Who's yo mama?
This is usually a last resort, but people are getting really angry now. They have no idea where you're from, so maybe half of you is enough.
So, they ask, where is your mom from?
You get bonus points if your mom's from a day3a no one has ever heard of.
8. Telling it like it is
Now that everyone has given up, and has just accepted that your surname is really unusual, people leave one simple remark:
"Ism 3aleyk kteer ghareeb" - Your last name is really weird.
Thank you for that life-changing revelation.