8 Arabic Words to learn if you are an Expat moving to Middle East

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Marhaba! Welcome to the Arabic speaking world. 

Aside from the food, language is the second thing that you ‘taste‘when you become an Expat. Trust me,learning a few local phrases  will save you from debilitating language bubble trap.Those everyday language dilemma,they will come.

I still remember my culture shock hearing Arabic for the first time. It’s neither ugly nor pleasant to hear, it’s just ‘unknown’ to my ears. I can’t understand a single word. It  sound so strange and I felt like my brain is tortured trying to dissect each word. At home I heard the prayer calls from the mosques and I jumped out of bed, and asked, “Is that  a global warning to evacuate the whole building or some kind of cult gathering,reciting their chants.”? I couldn’t sleep on the first weeks. My system needs to get used to it.

Looking back after 8 long years, I smiled at my poor mind. I realized that it really takes perseverance and “desire”to learn a new language. The other day, I was talking to a friend in English and suddenly I replied in Arabic, and here in Germany, I still found myself  uttering  basic Arabic words /phrases unintentionally like La ( No) , Aiwa (Yes), mafi ( nothing) and the phrase that becomes my favorite expression, Shuno Hada!?

If you’re an Expat in the Middle East, (or planning to be) these are the Top 8 Arabic words that you should know and learn. Knowing the basic lingo is always helpful. Arabic language has core phrases that are essential wherever you are in the whole region and speaking them as the way that natives do will definitely  bring a smile on their faces. Take it from me, learning the street language is the best way to integrate, its much easier &  easy to memorize especially if you don’t have time to study it formally. Remember, Arabic is a language where much words have no direct English translation, so go for it.

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Learning new language- Love it or Hate it?

Khalas – literally means finish, end, and provocably, It’s over. This is probably the most underrated Arabic word that I have learned in Kuwait. It could mean a lot of things depending on when & how you used it. You can say ‘Khalas’ after a phone call, when buying something and you agree with the price, or simply nodding to end a long discussion. Sometimes it’s used to denotes Shut up! or That’s a wrap! Having a hard time to tell the taxi driver to stop, just say “Khalas” and you’re done.

Yalla  -means  Hurry up, Let’s go, come on,or can denote as well as ‘Okay’, when used indirectly. Yalla is my favourite word so far. In Hebrew, a combination of the Arabic word yalla means “let’s go, hurry up” and of the English word bye means “see you later”. This combination is used as a farewell expression (usually when you are in a hurry). Sounds like “OK must go, catch you later”

Shokran –  means Thank you.
A very straightforward ‘shokran’will be your next favorite word and will bring you a long way. People normally reply with ‘Afwan‘( or You’re welcome).

Assalamu alaikum –  Salam, or Assalamu alaikum literally means Peace be upon you. It is used when you  greet people and also before you part with them. It’s like the simple ‘Hi, Hello,and  Goodbye’ in English. Natives always reacts positively when Expats/tourists utter this word. Its one way to show people politeness & being courteous. Over the phone, I’d       love to say ‘Salam’after I’ve said Hello. It always brings fresh vibes in a conversation,          also before ending a call. People normally replies, Salam, or Wa Alaykum Salaam, Waleiykum assalam warahmatullahi wa barakatuh ( And peace and mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you).

 Masha’Allah  -Masha’Allah is a word that you use to show that you are happy about a good thing that happened to someone else.  For example, if your co-worker just had a baby and told you about it, you would say “Masha’Allah”.  Other examples of times when you would use this word are when a friend buy’s a new house or if someone shows you a picture of their child.  Basically, if someone talks about something good in their life, say Masha’Allah.

Insha’Allah – Insha’Allah is definitely one of the precarious words I have learned while being in Middle East. It confuses me at first, but later I understand when & why they kept on saying it. Although at work,I found it vague when I follow-up on things and they just replied ‘Insha ‘Allah’.Insha’allah ( pronounced as in-sha-la) literally means “God willing”. This is a phrase that is said a lot by locals on daily conversations.When you use this word, you want to make sure you use it before it happens.For example, you would say “Insha ‘Allah, I will see you tomorrow” (or  God willing, I will see you tomorrow).

Hamdullilah – Hamdullah is the opposite of Insha’allah. You say Insha’allah before something happens and Hamdullah after it happens. Hamdullilah means “Thank God”and you use it to give thanks for something good that happened. People normally utter this word after a meal, or when going after a hard time and its over. Don’t be surprised when you asked someone how are they doing and they just replied “Hamdullah!”. If you are so bored and doesn’t want to elaborate your answer when someone asked how are you doing, simply answer, ‘Hamdullah!’

Shuno Hada – or Shu hada means “What is this? ” For me, its more of a sarcastic way of saying “What in the world..??! ” or at things if it appears to be insane or unbelievable. I love this phrase because I saw many crazy things back then in Kuwait and I just laugh while saying “Shuno hada!?” Talking about Only in Kuwait, right?

 

Do you have any favorite foreign words? Feel free to share it in the comments!

If you would want to learn a new language, which one it is?

 

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Only in Kuwait!

 

 

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Only in Kuwait | by Justbluedutch

Why Kuwait is such a controversial country? It’s a tiny oil-rich magnet in the Gulf and yet  holds a profound mystery for some who haven’t been there, and a nonchalant charm for Expats who have toiled there every single day.The other day I was reading the recent study by Internations citing that Kuwait (along with Nigeria & Greece )  is still on the bottom sink for “Worst Country for Expats “. I dunno how to feel about this but somehow, I knew, stats are based on facts too. I , for example, how is it to live there day after day.

Being an Expat allows you to see things in both ways. More of a culture shock for some but normally it is how you  see things, accepting it  and adapting to a new culture. Integration happens when you began to pick it up and live with it , and not for the sake of  comparison to your own roots. I have seen strange things in Kuwait. Some that is so odd that makes me crazy.Who doesn’t? For locals, it all seems normal for them.Nothing to argue about. As simple as : If you don’t like it here –pack your bags & Leave!

I think anybody comes to the Netherlands , or in Germany, even in Philippines would also have something to say about the “not so ordinary “in their eyes as an Expat. Looking back at the 8 years I spent in Kuwait, for some things I don’t really get why and How on earth they are doing it. I have written the Guide to Expating in Kuwait and for those who are new to this country’s arid climate “How to beat the heat in Kuwait “ you might as well chuckle with me as you know exactly how is it .

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Shuno Hada! No Parking , both in Arabic & English signages. What are these cars doing in here?

1.Only in Kuwait that the Handicapped parking spaces are seized by ordinary people.Even the ones with a clear signage.Only in Kuwait that you could be beaten by a mob because of a dispute in a parking lot. Why do I get the feeling that pedestrians never felt safe along roads in Kuwait. Sure thing, SUV rules!

2. I love coffee, absolutely but I don’t get it why they drink tea almost every hour and drink coffee or Arabic coffee {gahwah}  in small cups 3 rounds in one sitting. Why not just get a mug? Did you know that only in Kuwait that a tea boy is called “Office Boy”?

Did you know that in the Avenues alone, ( the largest super mall there) there are 6 Starbucks , in all over Kuwait there are 76 branches! I am sure this list will be updated soon. I tell you, people there always need  a caffeine fix. What about Costa Coffee, Coffee Bean & Leaf, Caribou, Second Cup,Tim Hortons etc., the lists go on.

Coffee and Tea in Kuwait will never get boring. So as the sweets, cakes & pastry shops!

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I swear this is a typical scenario in the streets of Kuwait!

3.I don’t understand why  maniacal drivers  put up their feet on the dashboard and let babies do the steering. Is it the new toy?  In 120-140 km/h.In the Gulf road, and some things that this speed is still so lame!

Yes, without seat belt.

Wearing seat belt seems like more of an offensive rather than defensive. Taxi drivers have 2-3 phones being used simultaneously WHILE Driving! It’s a bonus if you found one having Skype calls to any point in the world. You have the whole story all throughout your ride.

4.Seriously it’s only in Kuwait where I saw camels, sheep, lamb & goats being transported and paraded in the highway. Especially in the busy roads of Al- Ghazali  road going to Shuwaikh, in front of a shopping mall Centerpoint.  I know the Friday market is out there but still, it is an odd sight for me. It’s a thing when you see these poor animals paraded to slaughterhouse. Right there, in front of your car. You can even smell the camels from your window.Way to the desert area, you see camels strutting their stuff in the roads going to Wafra /Kabd /Khiran/Abdali area and yet you don’t see any road sign for you to watch out for animals.

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Sabah al kheir Kuwait! Camel herd in Wafra farms.

5.People don’t mind incorrect spelling of signage of shops, menus of the restaurant and even directions. You’re so smart if you figure it out yourself. Well as for food, you need to eat like a local for you to know where is the best Shawerma or best done kebab & grilled stuff. With burgers, people seems to know where it is no matter what the hour is.

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Only in Kuwait. laundry shop in Abraq Khaitan.

6.The make up Oh God. Talk about make-up and Loads of it. I have never seen that much heavily make-up women here in Europe, but only in Kuwait that women wears make up even going to a Bakala in 50 degrees .

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One Authority of the Soft small / big please?

7.Only in Kuwait that the sky changes from bluish to grey to orange to brown to almost pitch black due to sandstorms. But sometimes, this mighty M is always visible.

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Watching the sandstorm looms over McDonald’s.

 

How are things over there? Do you also  find ‘Strange’ things such as these?

How do you deal with it? I would love to hear your comments .

Be it from food, behavior of people, how locals interact with you, customs and traditional way of life, at work, even just the country itself.You really see diversity at large. Kuwait is one small country but booming with Expats you it’s no wonder that you can find an Asian store right next to the block next to an Indian restaurant and opposite to a Turkish pastry shop and just a few meters away to an American boutique. A Kaleidoscope indeed.

For the new Expats in Kuwait, welcome and enjoy your stay.

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