Sunday, September 30, 2012

Moving concerns?

Are you relocating to Kuwait?  Are you concerned about the Arab Spring?  Demonstrations?  Iran threat?

I received an e-mail  from a woman moving from the States with questions concerning the current climate in Kuwait and thought I would post some of the information I provided to her.  Feel free to leave comments.  Everyone's perspective is a good perspective.

Your post about Bedouin and their issues have been more frequent this year, and you did report on "protests" on this issue. You have also mentioned having a "go-bag", which did not make me very comfortable.

"Bedoon", not "Bedouin".   Bedoon (means "without") refers to a group of people who have lived in Kuwait for generations, but have NO NATIONALITY.    "Bedouin" refers to a group of people who were nomadic tribesmen - similar to the American Indians in many ways.

Bedoon are protesting for their basic human rights.  They are peaceful demonstrations and are isolated to the North of the country in an area where Westerners/expats will probably never see.

Go-bag:  I have heard lots of alarming statements over the past 16 years of living here.  The notifications, announcements, advice you will hear from people is often not reflective of the true pulse of the country.  Many corporations don't know the slightest thing about the pulse of the country because the only people coming here from companies are their business development or operations people; their business is not to collect cultural information about the country, but to get down to business.  They pass what limited information they collect on to HR people, who, in turn, form their own opinions and pass it along to people moving to the country.  It is like the Chinese whispering game where it keeps turning WRONG down the line.

There are very few books written about Kuwait by people who have actually lived here for any amount of time. 

I'm very concerned about our personal security. I have two small children and as a mother I do not want to put them in ANY danger in exchange for some monetary gains.

My Western  friends in Kuwait have children your children's age.  This is an extremely child-friendly country.   (And I believe this is a question best posed to other parents who live in Kuwait.)

I know that no one can predict the future, but with your 16 year experience in living in Q8, how do you feel today about your personal security? Do you know if US embassy has any plans to ensure the security of the US expats?  

It is not the mission of the US embassy in any country to ensure the security of US expats.  Be very sure about this.  Their mission is diplomatic.  They will assist in the event of an evacuation, but only in extreme circumstances (you and your family will most likely be long gone by that time).  I have friends of friends who were evacuated during  1990.  The embassy flew them to Dammam, Saudi Arabia (a 30 minute flight). They were charged $10,000/per person for that 30-minute flight.  I discovered all this information when I participated of a mock-evacuation of Americans in 1997.  We met at the US embassy.  They showed us the evacuation forms we were to sign in the case of a real evacuation; stating that we had X number of days to repay the US Government for getting us out (the worse the danger, the more expensive the cost for getting us out).  They took us on busses to an area where Chinhook helicopters (personnel carriers) took us out to an aircraft carrier.  It CAN be done, but it is highly unlikely that it will ever happen.

The American company you/your husband is employed by would be more likely to evacuate family members first.  That is usually the norm from my experience if they feel there is any type of a threat.  Don't worry.  They'll say, "family members/dependants are advised to leave."  Then, you'll get a vacation to the States for a while.

There are 20 US military facilities around Iran.  There are many Patriot missile sites located around Kuwait guarding civilian populations.  Do I think it is a threat?  War is a threat everywhere - including Hometown, USA these says.  Is there a safe place anywhere?  My cousin wasn't safe in Manhattan on 9/11 for example...

I have made a conscious choice to stay in Kuwait and I have never regretted my decisions.

The crime rate in Kuwait is very low.  The majority of violent sexual crimes are committed against the less fortunate (Asian workers).  Murder is not common.  Justice is swift and there is the death penalty in Kuwait (although I don't believe anyone has been hanged since this Emir has taken power).  There used to be public hangings before him.  It is a huge deterrent to crime.  Guns and ammunition are both against the law (unless specifically for hunting what is left of the wildlife).  In Virginia where I'm from, there is a concealed weapons law; anyone can have a gun in a week.  You never know who is packing.  Not in Kuwait.

The driving is the worst crime. Reckless, unchecked road-rage at very high speeds.  National driving maximum is 80mph on the highways and everybody goes faster (like who really remains on 55?)   Get a bigass American-made SUV!  Most people also don't see the need for child seats here.... need I say more?  Crunchy airbags.

If you and the Desert Dawg had to move to Q8 today, would you do it knowing what you know now?

I don't feel my personal security is threatened by anything going on right now.  I feel completely safe.   I stayed here in 2003 and experienced SCUDS and US cruise missiles and even then, it was not a deterrent. 

(I do, however, feel threatened by the growing number of blondes moving to the country!)

I feel completely safe now.  I don't feel a threat to myself or my dog.  Would I move to Kuwait now?  Sure!  However, I'm not 29 anymore (although I’m 29) and I doubt that I would have the courage to do it again alone at this age.


intlxpatr said...

DG, I think you're a little wrong about the guns. Yes, there are laws against them. There are still guns around, and you never know who is carrying.

You are right about the rumor mill and the lack of credible information. As much as I love the embassy folk, they may not tell you the truth about risk assessment. Your best bet is to have a network of people built up who can help you get out if you ever need it, and a stash of cash. :-)

Anonymous said...

i feel safer in kuwait than in downtown philadelphia, houston, and by far the around the greyhound station in atlanta

i went back to the usa this summer and was going to buffalo airport to pick up someone, took a wrong turn ended up in urban buffalo, LOCKED THE DOORS, DROVE AROUND SCARED POOHLESS until i found a 7-11 run by arabs - went in, spoke arabic, and felt at home, talked about kuwait and joked about wanting to be in jahra rather than in buffalo!!!!

Jobs Abroad said...

I am living near kuwait and heard so many good things in kuwat also good people. I do not think it is dangerous this days dan before, i think it is mo romantic than before :)

S Godwin said...

I've lived here with my wife and our now 9 year old daughter for the last 8 years. DG was one of the first people I've met when I hopped of the plane and still routinely call her for advice on where to find whatever or who should I call that thing. Her advice is sound and based in experience.

Having a 9 year old in Kuwait has been quite an experience. I'm from the south and my wife is from the midwest but our daughter has been enrolled in the UK school system since we got here. So we get a lot of those children were quite lovely - y'all. It's fun. Kidding aside I've never worried about my family's safety in Kuwait (except as DG has mentioned - on the road). I have no fears about an idiot walking into a school with a gun. Drug are certainly not unheard of here but unlike at home where you would ask a teenager where to get some most here will never see them. My greatest concern is the sense of entitlement or belief that everyone lives like this. For AAA money you can get BBB sized house or for AAAAA money you can get BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB sized house. We went bigger. Ridiculously big for a family of three. We have had a live in housekeeper who has worked for us for the last 5 years straight. I've not washed a dish, cleaned a toilet, nor mowed a yard in 8 years. Obviously its a bit different back in the real world. There's also the fact that my 9 year old is still 9 and not 22. She's not constantly bombarded with the crap most kids are at home. She plays with dolls, does her homework, feeds the neighborhood stray cats, even builds out in LEGO City with her dad - normal kid stuff.

All in all you children will be much safer here than they would be in any major US city.

NYC Expat said...

She is more likely to die of boredom in Kuwait than anything else.

And as for the go-bag and "stash of cash", I tried that and my bi-monthly maid made away with it.

Desert Girl said...

I love you, S. Godwin and family!!! :) I don't see y'alls enough and I really miss you in between. Thank you, as always, for the positive words.

Desert Girl said...


I feel your pain (a former maid stole about $10K worth of gold from me), but you've got to admit, your maid stealing your go-bag is kind of funny in a purely ironic way... Just sayin.

Anonymous said...

So I have a Jewish friend thinking of moving here. I live here and have no fears but when they asked if being a Jew would be a problem I really had no idea how to answer. Are there any Jews here?

Desert Girl said...

Jewish Friend: Don't advertise it. There are Jews living in Kuwait. I've had a few Jewish friends here. one just recently married a very nice Kuwaiti Moslem man. But alas, there has been an ongoing little problem about Palestine for a few years now (like - since 1947) and most Kuwaitis (and Arabs in general) don't feel too kindly towards the entire Jewish faith - regardless of an individual's political beliefs. Unfortunate, but true. As long as your friend doesn't have an Israel stamp in his/her passport, or advertise by wearing a yamaka or star of David, he/she should be just fine. If ever asked, just say "Christian".

Jennifer said...

Ask the other moms on and we lived there for a year and a half and have been living in AbuDhabi for more than 2 years. Driving on the roads is definitely the biggest safety concern. Secondly it's the dust storms, buy air purifiers for the bedrooms. Thirdly, in Kuwait, it's having enough fun things for children to do.

Anonymous said...

I am planning on moving to Kuwait next year to join my husband. He tells me it's rather safe out there but I want to look for a job, do you have any suggestions where to look?