You know you’re an Expat in Kuwait when the sight of the colors red, green, black and white has become a norm wherever you go.
One of the things that stands out and I particularly noticed while living in Kuwait for years was the local’s love of their national flag. It just sprouts everywhere! In the shopping malls, bridges, in the motorway, in almost all building’s facade,in cars and yachts,and oh even in the shirt that people wear! I’m telling you, visiting Kuwait during the festive month of February is quite an experience. As the biggest festival of Hala February approaches, around 4 weeks before the event, almost all houses including office buildings are heavily decorated with life-size Kuwaiti flag. The face of the Amir & the Crown Prince is also almost e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.
In the Miya-Miya shops ( 100 fils shop or like the Euro shops), tons of things are being sold with designs of the flag as well. From head scarfs, earrings, hats, glasses, pins, dresses, almost anything that you can wear on yourself! In my old neighborhood alone, where most of my neighbors are Kuwaitis, all villas have this giant size flag hanging from their roof top down to their basement. It’s like their identity symbol. A competition of the biggest flag and I don’t really know who’s winning. Children wear dresses made out of the Kuwaiti flag colors. The colors green,white and red are made into a frenzy lights that dazzled at night. Kuwait loves sparkling, dancing, and almost surreal light displays.Well if you’re in an oil-rich country like Kuwait, you will put lights everywhere,too. This country is really a must see especially in February when they are celebrating their culture, national pride and liberation in their National Day.
I have never seen this kind of patriotism and pride which ever you may call it. Young children are part of this and they enjoyed it the most,for the fun part. In my home country, or in the Netherlands or even here in Germany on a daily basis. Even a Bakala in Kuwait has a flag in their doors. In the Philippines, flags and the ways that its being used is somewhat only in sanctified functions.Here, I know that a surge of display of flags and symbolism comes very timely during sport tournaments and of course, during Football season and its fanfare.
What local sightings do you appreciate or see in your neighborhood?
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I came to Kuwait in May 2008 totally ignorant about this country. Yes,i know about Saddam’s invasion but i haven’t got any clue what to expect from this country. You see, sometimes, when you make big changes in your life, it’s so spontaneous that you embrace it enough to get it through your skin overnight. Now, for almost 8 years of living and working in this small, yet oil-rich country, Kuwait has been close to my heart. My second home. I have embraced the Kuwaiti way of life, Muslim culture, the real heat during Summers , the fierce Sandstorms, the Authentic brightness of the sun, and the parenthood in this culture.
I’m telling you, Kuwait is not your typical tourist destination .If i were a tourist, i would never put Kuwait in my Bucket List. Why? No nightlife, No public partying, no alcohol, not much “Green Nature “ to see here, (yeah there is Desert), No Pork! Public Transportation is bad, besides,who would want to go out in the scorching heat? Kuwait is totally dormant especially during Ramadan. It doesn’t have an appealing profile in Wikipedia, or in Tripadvisor. But still, there are approximately 2.4 Million expats living here.People are attracted to go to Kuwait mainly to earn money. People go here to work, and this is from my own perspective.
Now from the moment you step out of the plane and out from the Airport, you inhaled Kuwait. The air you breathe in is different. The heat & humidity is quite a shock to most foreigners .The heat is real. It could stung your skin. If you come here during the months of May to August,then you might really praise the invention of Airconditioning.You cannot survive here without an AC. When people complained to me that they have hot temperatures, i shrug & always said,“Do you know how it feels to have 50 deg temps?“Getting used to the heat is one of the hurdles you need to overcome. A good pair of Sunglasses is also a must-have. Never ever come here during Summer!!
As we all know, Kuwait is an Islamic country. Arabic is the main language spoken although English is widely understood by Kuwaitis .Paperworks in Ministries are all in Arabic so it’s a nerve-wrenching experience to deal with them if you don’t understand it.Prayertimes are widely observed.Every place has it’s own Mosque (Masjid).I have seen cars parked in the middle of the highway, just because the driver needs to pray.I have seen my colleagues pray together, inside the mall,in the park, even in the island of a Roundabout.
In Europe, where in it is pedestrian-friendly, the car stops to give way to the pedestrians .In Kuwait, the cars and its drivers rules !Maniac drivers are the King of the Road most especially in the major highways. I saw men driving with kids in the driver’s seat,no seatbelts,annoyingly feet up on the dashboard,mobile phones are stucked on their cheeks!People are even driving on New Year’s Eve. I often wonder what in the world they are doing spending all their time driving around. Social status is also depends on the car that you drive. Swerving and cutting lanes is common and mostly causes accidents. Driving in Kuwait is not for the faint-hearted. Autobahn in Germany has no speed limit, yet the percentage of road accidents is lower compared to Kuwait who has speed limits set, yet has a high road-accident rate .Kuwait has broken the world record of number of traffic deaths.Not really the kind of record to be proud of.
I don’t know why but only in Kuwait that Men stared a LOT.I mean, its really crazy and uncomfortable the way people stares. I would believed that you could get so much attention if you are a Celebrity or a supermodel walking along the street and wearing flashy outfit! Don’t forget that Kuwait is a Muslim country and although Non-Muslim women here are not required to wear the Abaya, they are expected to dressed conservatively. I noticed that Kuwaiti women are fashion & beauty-conscious. They love the glamour & glittery lifestyle. Their wardrobe are always trendy and up to date with fashion . Of course, they have money to splurge on make up , clothes & everything. There’s never too expensive for them. You can always see fashionable women totally made-up even on a very laid back environment just like grocery shopping. International brands flocked in Kuwait’s top malls like The Avenues. From designer shoes to bags, they wear it even going to supermarkets. It’s no wonder also that Kuwaiti women are one of the top users of make up.I mean,they really wear it.Loads of it.Everyday.The number of salons both for men & women are more than the number of gasoline stations.
Luxury shops in Prestige of The Avenues
Shopping Haven in Kuwait
For most expats working here, An attractive salary offer without any taxes is the top reason to stay. Utilities are minimal. But the high cost of housing is getting higher due to rise in Expat population.If you are working from a private sector then you have benefits like Free Healthcare, Accommodation ,Transportation and Annual vacation leaves with Airfare .But sad to say that most disturbing inhuman acts of molestation and abuse for domestic workers are also coming from here.It breaks my heart to hear many stories of ‘Kabayans’ who are victims of injustice .I have high respect for these women who really work hard just to provide for their families. In Kuwait , modern slavery is prevalent.
When i was new here, “Diwaniya”caught my attention. It’s totally Kuwaiti. Every Kuwaiti household have a Diwaniya area,mainly a hall or Annex from their reception area for the purpose of meeting & gathering with male friends,colleagues and guests. This tradition is traced back since immemorial. The men usually dressed in their Dishdashas discussing various topics while relaxing,casual smoking,drinking tea,Arabic coffee & Sheesha, nibbling sweets or dates .I find it cozy with their beautiful soft cushions.
As an Expat , I could RANT a lot more about bad things about Kuwait, But then I would be a hypocrite to say that these things are absent in Philippines, in The Netherlands or even in the US.Every country has its own issues. Maybe the extremities are different but injustice & social problems are prevalent anywhere.There is no such thing as perfect place. As an expat, I have learned to accept this country, with its flaws and everything, After all,it is my own freewill to be here. It doesn’t mean that I approve of the rudeness, Hypocrisy, Wasta System, Modern Slavery and Racism but Generalization is complete ignorance.
I have read lots of hate blogs about Kuwait. It’s like spitting it out as a vomit. So many hate and disgust in their words. Kuwait have wounded their hearts. People have the right to voice out their own opinions and some have low tolerance of anything that pisses them off. It may not work for you, but it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t work for others. I have known kind and decent Kuwaitis so in the end, I tried to keep an open mind and looked on the positive side ;
KUWAIT –A country with distinct heritage.Has a stable currency and one of the richest country as per Capita terms. Kuwaitis are more liberal and westernized compared to other Arab countries.Their government is progressive.Yes,their lifestyle is grand,and spend like crazy ,living in big villas & mansions, but they have the money to spend. They can afford the luxurious life.They have Oil and the State owns it.They are endowed.When a Kuwaiti marries,the government gave money .Education is free.NO TAXES!Gas prices as 70 fils (around 0.25 USD) per liter.Expats bring their families here and settled.One way or another,they know that life is better here compared to their home country.Or else they would have left already.
Arabian Gulf on a clear,sunny day.
Symbolic structure along Arabian Gulf
Beautiful skyline viewed from Green Island
For those expats in Kuwait, they have a reason to still stay here. For those who have left already, they’ve had also a reason to go away.
I hope i have given you an idea what to expect as an expat in Kuwait. But how about you, How is your experience as an Expat ? If you like this post, please feel free to hit the like button below & share it. I would also love to hear your comments below.