Monday, January 19, 2015

True Kuwaiti Hospitality: The Kindness of Strangers

When I first arrived in Kuwait - way back when I was a mere child - I got all kinds of invitations: weddings, dinners (in and out of people's homes), sight-seeing, events.  All were usually followed with, "Welcome to our country.  If you need anything in Kuwait, we are here."

While my friend was here visiting from the States, I witnessed that same newcomers hospitality to Kuwait bestowed on her.  It won her over in the same way it won me over - and pulled me into returning to Kuwait to live here.  It is for many people kind of an OTT other-worldly experience. You don't get that kind of hospitality in the States (I don't know how other people's perspectives are coming from other places in the world to Kuwait).

When I arrived in Kuwait, I was invited to an enormous wedding that blew my mind.  They gave attendees gifts.  The food was amazing. The people were amazing.  I was introduced to all kinds of wonderful people and they too invited me to other weddings and to their homes. I felt like I was part of something huge.

My new friends took me sight-seeing all over Kuwait.  I got to see all kinds of new and exciting things in a completely different country.

When I moved here, the invitations started to diminish and I settled into a routine of work and home.  I still saw my friends, but usually outside and not at their homes.  If you think about it; it wouldn't be different back in the States.  You might get an invitation to someone's home once in a while, but not all the time.  The newcomer is no longer a novelty, but just another person residing nearby.  Maybe people think you are too busy or not interested.  I am interested and I am always very grateful to receive an invitation.

It shocks me now,  almost 2 decades later, that I sometimes receive invitations out-of-the-blue; often from complete strangers.  And so it happened this week.  Because of my dog.  Well, because I'm on Instagram and part of a community of dog-lovers.  One of the gentlemen raises German Shepherds.  He invited me to meet him and his family; ironically in the same neighborhood where I live.  They were truly lovely people and I am very grateful I had the opportunity to get to know them.

All those newcomer emotions came back:  The hospitality.  The enormous abundance of food that is put out for guests.  The questions about my life.  My questions about their life.  The tentative looks of interest.  The respectable way they sit and address a newcomer.

Again, I felt like I was back 18 years ago, first arriving to Kuwait.  What a wonderful thing to do for a complete stranger!  And that, my friends, is true Kuwaiti hospitality.

I thought about it and I hoped that I could do the same thing for strangers someday; but then I realized that I already do it.  I often invite people to my home that I don't know.  I hope that they walk away with the same emotions that I did; gratitude and warmth.

A special thanks to the Al-Mulla family.  Your kindness is appreciated more than you can imagine.

(....And a word of advice to newcomers to Kuwait.  Accept invitations while you can.  Make Kuwaiti friends when the opportunity arises.  You never know when you will have them again.)


UnSuperMom said...

As a Kuwaiti who went to college in the States I can say the same about Minnesotan hospitality. Everyone was so nice, inviting us over for holidays and accommodating us by making food we can eat (if they were serving ham).
I rarely felt homesick because people were so nice and helpful.

roygbiv said...

I had a similar experience in Morocco. As an American, immersing myself into a culture of hospitality blew me away. Thus, I am looking forward to moving to Kuwait. Thanks for this.