Friday, April 3, 2009

The Tunisia Pet Peeves list

Let me preface this by saying this: I love this country. But I feel like I'm at an interesting part of my experience right now in the sense that I am getting sick of some aspects of the culture here. Some of the things are silly and probably not worth being annoyed with. Others probably deserve my frustration. So without further ado, in no particular order, I present to you the

TUNISIA Pet Peeves List

1. Most cheese is so expensive here. A wedge of parmesan at Carrefour, (Tunisia's version of Walmart) is 88 dinars. True story. Oh and good luck finding mozzarella. This shouldn't be a big deal but I really like cheese.
1B. Because of this, Tunisian pizza tastes really strange. Not bad, just different. 

2. As long as I'm on the topic of food, there aren't any tortillas here. I wanted to make my family tacos but all I could find was pan Libanese, this Libyan bread that isn't really close to a tortilla at all minus the fact that it is flat bread. No cilantro either. And all good tacos require cheese, too. I've been craving a taco since February.

3. Many Tunisians are just plain loud. I'm sort of a loud person myself so this doesn't usually bother me. But when the rest of my family is up at 7AM on a Saturday morning and yelling to each other through the three floors of my house, I wish I had more pillows to put over my head. A lot of times ordinary Tunisian conversations sound like angry arguments, as well, just based on volume and intonation...When my host mom yells at my host brother it sounds the same as when she asks him about his day at university. It's weird to adjust to.

4. I hate it when vendors and shop owners assume I'm a tourist. I know I'm not Tunisian either but please don't try to tell me that necklace is worth 4o dinars when I bought one in Tabarka just liked it for 5 dinars. I am not an idiot. I will argue with you about in in Arabic and then YOU will feel like the idiot for trying to jack the price up in French.

5. I would like to be able to walk down the street without having to cast my eyes down when I pass men in the street, because apparently eye contact is interpreted as a come-on here. I've been hit on by 10 year old boys and 60 year old men alike and all ages in between. I don't know where Tunisian men get off thinking they're god's gift to women but I am sick of it. I would like to be able to walk 2 blocks from my house to school without 5 different men trying to get me to give them my phone number or go out with them. 
5B. To their credit, they're always sneaky in getting your attention. A popular technique is to ask "Semahni, kadesh al wacht?" which means "excuse me, what is the time?" I used to stop and let them know only to realize there's a watch on their wrist. The next line is usually "you have beautiful eyes, would you like to go on a walk with me?" Ley, yaishek. No thank you.

6. In a similar vein, I miss some of my freedom. I can only go running in certain parks at certain times of the day. I can't be in the medina after dark because that's when the drunks and the thieves come out. I can wear a bikini on the beach but not without some creep telling me he wants to "get to know me better." My family is very overprotective and treats me a lot more like my 17 year old sister than my 21 year old brother. I'll be 21 in November. But it's because women have fewer freedoms here. I shouldn't complain because it is far worse in other places in the world, and it's not like it's safe to walk alone in Des Moines at night either, but at least I can go to a cafe in the states by myself without some guy inviting himself to sit down with me.

7. Drivers here are terrifying. I thought Iowa drivers were bad. I will be extremely lucky if I make it out of here without being hit by a car at least once. Walk lights mean nothing, stop lights mean nothing, Tunisians cross the street in the middle of traffic unscathed but drivers don't break for foreigners.

8. My homestay coordinater, Rym, approached me the other day telling me my family was concerned that I "don't eat." I burst out laughing. I couldn't help it. For dinner last night I had a giant bowl of couscous, half a baguette of bread, a whole orange, a whole apple, keftaji, and a whole fish. I ate it all and when I declined seconds my mom asked if I was feeling well or if I didn't like it. This is the story of my life when it comes to meals here. Interestingly, though, my little sister can eat a bite of her fish and three spoonfuls of couscous and it's OK for her to be "hamdullallah" or finished.

In the grander scheme of things, 8 complaints ain't bad. If I had to come up with a United States pet peeve list it would probably take me a month to write everything down. I needed to vent, though. Thanks for reading :P


  1. I am sort of surprised that shitty cell phone service, or even crappy Tunisian internet did not make the list :P

    Also you can not forget about the all the different tourist traps wanting to rape your wallet. Fake pottery caves, pictures with camels, freeing fennecs, etc. hahaha

  2. It's okay to be a little homesick. We all miss you too!