I had the pleasure of witnessing a fun exchange on the flight from Beirut to Istanbul Sunday evening/Monday morning. The flight being Turkish Airlines, all of the flight attendants were Turks. The announcements were made in Turkish, followed by English. The word “Turk” was almost impossible to miss. Still, the three Arabs sitting in front of me had some issues. After failing to get some information by babbling at an attendant (clearly a Turk) in Arabic, he said:

Arab: Do you speak Arabic?
Attendant: No.
Arab: WHHHY?


Attendant: Do you speak Turkish?
Arab (without any sense of irony): No.
Attendant: Whhhhy?

I do not actually know what country the Arabs were from – it was possibly Syria (based on their passport covers), but I couldn’t hear their accent long enough to fully determine. It wasn’t Lebanon, I could tell that much. But I found it to be a problem that I’ve encountered over here more than I am comfortable, which is a complete failure to appreciate universality of experience, namely, that the same issues you have, so too do others. Like many [male] Arabs, he expected to be catered to – the reality being that when you travel to a country, the burden is on you. I couldn’t help but smile at the Turk’s response.

So who won in the end? I would say: Turkey.