You're Welcome, Thank You!!

The phrase rains down like a torrent from balconies, rings out of store fronts like a dinner bell and is thrown from car windows with more gusto than a used McDonald’s wrapper:  “You’re welcome, welcome!!”

It must be the national motto of Palestine or perhaps just the phrase of the week. . . for the umpteenth week in a row.

No matter where we go, or what neighborhood we’re in, no matter whose car we get into, or where we’re going, the greeting is always the same.

“You’re welcome, welcome!!”

If the speaker paid attention in English class, sometimes this greeting is complemented with, “Welcome to Palestine!”  If he has seen a few too many American movies, the phrase can end in any number of grammatically, or contextually, inappropriate ways.

But the “Welcome” is always there.  And, it is always sincere.

At first, it can be a bit off-putting.  When a group of young teenage males come running at you across the street, you do not immediately expect the encounter to culminate in an exchange of smiles and handshakes.  Certainly not if you went to school in Boston, or grew up in New York.

Born and raised in the American Midwest, friendly greetings are, to me, as common as cheese-topped casseroles. Educated and enlightened in New Orleans, sweet homely welcomes have a place in my heart right next to king cake and beignets.

Even so, I’ve traveled enough to expect that any shopkeeper who persistently beckons me over is looking only to make a sale.  When I finally give into such summons, and am inevitably presented with a small sweet, it is honestly startling that instead of peddling me goods he simply insists, “You’re welcome, welcome!!”

There are a lot of misconceptions about this part of the world.  A lot of misgivings, misinterpretations, and missed opportunities for understanding.  Some would probably even go so far as to say that the Middle East is just plain backwards.

Well, as far as greetings and salutations go, yeah, it’s a bit backwards.  I’ve always been accustomed to, “Thank you!,” followed by,  “You’re welcome.”Here in Nablus, you'd better get used to being greeted with, “You’re welcome, welcome!!”

And what can you say, but, “Thank you, thank you!!”

- Adam

Adam is an intern at TYO Nablus.