I stumbled upon this photo when I was looking through my archives tonight. This was taken after a sandstorm in Kuwait. This was the sight in the floor at work. Pretty normal during those days. Our office janitor would just shrug his shoulder and say : Alhamdullilah!
After sandstorm which could last for days, I just stare at the traces all around me. The palm trees are soaked in dust, the windows, and the cars! Everything is drenched in dust, you can smell the pungent dust everywhere.If you notice the architecture in Kuwait, the buildings and facade are normally painted with shades close to this–Beige, rust, or somewhat close to 1011 (Brown beige) or 1015 ( Light Ivory).
The other day, I was cleaning our roller shutters and windows and this thought made me smile. Here in Germany, almost all windows are white, painted with 9010 ( Pure white) and you can see tons of cleaning products in the grocery shops. I was thinking that if it’s so dirty in Kuwait because of frequent sandstorms then why I only see Dettol ?
Maybe they realize that its useless to wipe out & clean when in the following morning its gonna be dusty again.It makes sense.
I wrote before how Sandstorm happens in Kuwait and my experience of it. It’s a typical scenario and not surprising anymore for me. I guess when you live with it for years and years, it becomes normal to you. One of the things that will happen to you when you move to Kuwait is that you will never wear clean shoes anymore. The soles of your shoes will always be dusty. There is dust in the pavement, in the road, almost everywhere. Flip flops? Oh forget it, it won’t work while you walk in the streets because your feet will only look like ginger soak in muddy puddles. If you stay in your car and never get out or walk, then you’re good.
After the sandstorm, we clean, we dust off and move on. That’s how life goes on.
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.
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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