Why am I living in Kuwait?
I have known Kuwaitis for most of my life. They always made it seem like an interesting place. In 1993, I came here to visit a Kuwaiti family and I loved Kuwait. It was so different and interesting and the family embraced me like I was one of their own. I moved here in 1996 following a job offer I got on that initial visit in 1993. (In 1996, I was only making 600KD a month and could afford a nice place to live, a car, and I traveled often to Bahrain. Imagine!)
How am I handling life in Kuwait? (2014)
It is a routine now after 17 years, like you would form a routine anywhere else in the world. I work. I visit friends. I go to the beach in the summer and the desert in the winter. In between, I visit friends with several farms in Kabd and I love animals, so I try to spend time with like-minded people who have dogs like I do (I have a German Shepherd, a Maltese, and a Czech goat).
Is life easy enough in Kuwait?
Yes and no. It is a very lazy lifestyle (being able to have a PT maid, a PT gardener, a guy who washes my car every day, cleaners who deliver, valet parking at the grocery store, etc.) and for the most part, everything is still less expensive than in the US (with perhaps the exception of dining out – which I don’t do very often anymore because there is just too much traffic and parking lots piss me off). It is always hard living away from your family; however.
It is VERY important to find a like-minded group of friends here who will become your support system. I started my "group" when I met a few other single Western girls at a gym. We got invitations and made a lot more friends. If you don't have good friends here, you will have a hard, lonely life.
Has it become much harder to live in Kuwait?
Yes. I think that foreigners who have lived in Kuwait for as long as I have, have seen the changes. The cost of living is higher (you used to be able to get a shawarma for about .250 fils) and there really aren’t cost of living increases or a true desire by employers to want to change with the times. For example, cost of living wage increases, true salary surveys for similar job categories in the country, etc.
The traffic is horrible now. I don’t think you can “blame” foreigners for the increase of traffic problems; however, it is inevitable that now that Kuwait is a safe country to live in (Saddam is no longer a threat and Kuwait is not considered a semi-combat-zone), more people are going to come. It is now a global village: people move around! I think the Kuwaiti government is to blame for the traffic problems as ANY country should have developed mass transportation plans years ago and implemented them by now. Look at the advances that Dubai has made, for example. Urban planning is imperative and Kuwait hasn’t lived up to its potential.
On the other hand....
When I first came here in 1993, the big clothing store was "Fashion Way" (Where BHS is housed now in the building next to The Sultan Center in Salmiya). The malls were Laila Gallery and (one down the same street that I can't remember right now). Most people still shopped for quality clothing overseas (during their summer vacations) or at local souqs. Hard to believe that now, you can find almost anything you want in Kuwait. From that aspect, life here has gotten better.
In 1996 when I first arrived, most people still weren't using the internet. No e-mail. Everybody still had pagers in Kuwait and mobile phone prices were still really high (service prices and the hardware). So communicating with my family was difficult. Even getting to my family was more difficult because the only direct flights to the US were on Kuwait ScAirways - and I would have to go through New York, which I hated to do.