I saw this in the Kuwait Times today and it is very good advice to newbies, so I thought I would re-post.
10 tips for new expats moving to Kuwait
By Jamie Etheridge
I remember when I first arrived in Kuwait how incredibly alien everything seemed. The strange sand colored landscape mostly devoid of trees and grass are shocking for someone visiting the arid Gulf region for the first time. Over the days, weeks and months to come I acculturated to the point that after a few years things like going to the ‘saloon’ to get your hair cut now seem perfectly normal to me. (Does anyone but me think it’s ironic that in the States, a ‘saloon’ is a place in the Old West where they sold beer and liquor?) I don’t even hesitate when ordering mushakil at Canary (although my accent leaves much to be desired) and I can take my child to the public hospital without losing my mind.
For the novice expat, arrival in a new country like Kuwait can be both exciting and daunting. There are so many challenges to living here. Whether you hail from Belgium or Bangladesh, adjusting to an alien culture, land and society takes time. There will be a million questions on everything from how to find a flat (realtor, classifieds or driving around for hours in the areas of your choice) to how to get a driver’s license. Some things your employer will take care of for you but for the most expats, when it comes to daily life, they’re on their own.
So here’s a few tips from an old timer to new expats now calling Kuwait home:
1. Start every day with patience. Seriously there are so many things here, so many ways of doing things that can drive you crazy. Just relax, take a deep breath and accept that things may take longer or be done differently than you are used to.
2. Find a few places – a local coffee shop, a bookstore, a spot on the seaside, a park or a favorite mall – that you like and get to know the area and the people who work there. Familiarity helps a lot when starting a new life so make some friends – even coffee shop acquaintances that you can greet each day and who will recognize you too.
3. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Yes, I know it’s currently 50+ C outside and that the cars on Kuwait roads are notoriously disrespectful of pedestrians. Do it anyway. Perhaps in the evening. You will be surprised at what you see and you’ll begin to appreciate all the interesting and lovely things that can be found in your neighborhood.
4. Explore Kuwait. When I first arrived, I used the Gulf Road as a baseline and would drive around in increasingly larger concentric circles – always working my way back to the Gulf Road – as a way to explore new areas. This can also help you find the small grocery, dry cleaners, mobile phone shop, gas station and other daily life services you may need.
5. Don’t stress the bureaucracy and the paperwork. If you have a deadline for anything – a paper that needs a stamp or a visit visa about to expire, rest assured it will NOT come through on time. That’s just the reality of life here. If you are very lucky, you might but it’s best not to count on it. Do what you can, ask help from your employer and the company mandoub and then just wait – seriously, you will drive yourself nuts worrying about paperwork in Kuwait but believe me, it’s really out of your hands.
6. There will be many things here that are not done the way they do them back in your home country. But that’s sort of the point, right? Remember you are here for a reason – a job, following a spouse, whatever and its best to focus on the bright side.
7. Respect the local customs, language and religion. Courtesy and respect work in almost every situation.
8. Enjoy the strangeness. You may eventually become a lifer expat. I realize now how much I enjoyed my early years in Kuwait and I wish I had fought less against the strangeness and explored more.
9. Be homesick. But don’t let it get you down. Instead book time to chat online with family and friends back home but also make plans to get out and meet people in Kuwait and build a life for yourself here regardless of the circumstances.
10. Smile. It’s not easy and for women it can be viewed as flirtation but still do it. Just be careful and keep walking if someone starts to harass you.
If you are new to Kuwait or a long time expat, what do you think is missing from this list? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . (Only respectful replies will be published. No vulgarity and no spam please.)
By Jamie Etheridge