Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A man followed me in Kuwait. What should I do?

I saw a post on one of the expat women’s forums on Facebook.  I thought I should throw this out there for people either new to Kuwait or just not as informed as you may think you are.  

This is a discussion of the dangers (perceived or not) of men following you in the country.

The first time I came to Kuwait was in 1993.  I stayed with a Kuwaiti family and respected their traditions.  Because all the girls in the family wore hijab, I also wore one when we went outside.  We got followed by men in cars.  Why?  Because they wanted to give us their phone numbers.  When we pulled up at drive-up fast food restaurants (Happy Duck, back then), men in cars behind us paid for our meals.  Why?  Because they wanted to see if we would thank them and take their phone numbers to meet later.  The big thing back then was going to the Sultan Center in Salmiya - which was considered a pick-up place.  Guys and gals would troll the aisles looking for potential mates.  That first visit to Kuwait in 1993, my girlfriends brought me there and I couldn't understand why they were applying so much make-up to buy toothpaste...  (TSC later discontinued allowing single men to enter the store on the weekend nights.)  

As recently as 20 years ago, men and women in Kuwait didn't mix at all.  Many restaurants were segregated by "families" and "bachelors."  Kuwaiti marriages were, for the most part, arranged.  I have Kuwaiti female friends whose families didn't allow them to go out of the house without a male chaperone. And if a man and woman were “dating” – they were already engaged or had signed a marriage contract.  This tradition carries on with conservative families and is the norm in Saudi Arabia (where public dating is against the law). 

Note to the expat gal:  Foreign women weren’t necessarily regarded as “easy” (but in some cases, sure we were), but men knew they could more easily approach a foreign woman.  Also, 20 years ago, there weren’t as many foreign women in the country.  Unless you were butt-ugly or having a really bad hair day, chances are that you would be followed around.  

And just FYI – if you tell the man, “I’m sorry, but I’m married,“  it will mean nothing to him.  It means only that you are not a virgin.  Likewise if you are pregnant.

Kuwait had developed their own discreet dating language/culture. Like signals (a wink or a nod) to meet in front of the bathroom in restaurants to exchange numbers. A circular motion with the index finder in front of the lips meant, “I want to talk to you.”  A wink or a tap of a finger below the eye meant, “Ok.” Direct eye contact (stare) is a come-on.  Certain signals in cars mean different things: If you smile at a strange man in another car, it gave the “ok” to be followed (which is why many women in Kuwait look straight ahead at traffic signals).  Tilting the rear view mirror to one side (upward/downward) meant you were interested in someone in the car behind you.  Turn signals meant either “follow me” or even a few blinks either right or left meant you were interested in either the driver or the passenger.   Men left notes on women’s cars with their phone numbers.  Stick-it notes with phone numbers were balled up discreetly and handed to women.  A man following a woman around a store would be trying gain her interest, seeing if she would get close enough to him to take his number.  Kuwait’s dating language, not unlike other languages throughout time, is becoming extinct, although there are people who still use it.

I've lived alone in Kuwait 23 years and being approached, followed in my car, being slipped numbers on tiny pieces of paper, and discreetly talked to in stores and other public places by many men has taught me one thing: It's a historical/cultural dating system and I don’t fear it (only in several cases have I been afraid and that was being followed in a car.  In both instances, I reported it to the police.)   If a man is following you and you tell him to leave you alone or you’re not interested, 99% of the time, he will leave you alone.  For the tenacious 1%, you have the choice to scream and he will run away; or just take his number and throw it away.  I’ve also found that if it is a Kuwaiti man that is approaching you in a store, the store’s OCN security guards won’t be of much help to you.

Following a woman around isn’t right, but it is not particularly dangerous in Kuwait (unless your instinct tells you that it is).  Some of the die-hard old-school men (maybe 40s and above or from conservative/traditional families) still use the old dating system (probably those who have never used a computer chat room!).  Don’t freak out unless you have told them to go away or the man touches you (as even on your arm it is illegal in Kuwait) - or you feel you are in danger.

Change is good.  It's good that women in Kuwait are changing perceptions and laws regarding women's rights and mores of decency.  It is illegal for men to follow women in cars in Kuwait (called "eve-teasing") and punishable by 6 months in jail (you MUST report it to the police and unfortunately, that means going to a police station in person.  Call 112 for emergencies first.).  In the UAE, they publish full names and photos of offenders in the newspaper - regardless of their nationality or rank in society.   Stalking is serious, but sadly there are no anti-stalking laws in Kuwait (I had a friend who had someone follow her for months and the police couldn't do anything).  Being approached by a man in a store probably won't be taken seriously by police (perhaps just a report taken) but at least it gets the problem on the radar and adds to statistics.  More women need to report violations. 

I also hope that they will abolish Article 152; which states that a man can kill his wife if he catches her cheating. Yes, it is a current law.

And a word to the wise:  Follow the laws of the country where you live. Don't make your first violation into something that could put yourself in further problems.   Do not post the man's photo online.  While you may think you are warning others, you are placing yourself at risk.  This is in violation of the Kuwait Social Media Law, punishable by a 5000 KD fine, 6 months in jail, and if you are an expat; deportation. Further, if the man is from a large tribe, they may seek revenge for "shaming" the family by showing his photo. Why put yourself in further danger?  If you want to report someone suspicious, go immediately to the nearest police station or call 112.

Having stated all the above, if you as a woman ever feel like you are in danger: SCREAM and run for help.  Call 112 and report it at the nearest police station.  

The same applies in any country.

Disclaimer:  What's funny is when 20-somethings write to me and say that I'm insulting the "real Kuwait" or that I'm somehow slandering Kuwait.  My intent is never to slander Kuwait.  I wouldn't have fought for/lived/worked/bettered Kuwait for the past 2+ decades if that was my intent.  
Kuwait is not perfect.  No place is.  But good or bad - it is what it is.  This blog is written from MY PERSPECTIVE about my personal experiences.  If you don't like it, you don't have to read what I have to say.  No one is holding you hostage and forcing you to read.

Ethiopian maid tortured to death by her sponsor


An Ethiopian housemaid was beaten to death by her sponsor inside the latter’s house in Firdous area. According to security sources, Farwaniya securitymen had been conducting investigations over the death of a housemaid.

Autopsy had revealed traces of physical abuse on the corpse. During their investigations, securitymen discovered that the victim’s sponsor had beaten her to death because of the victim’s lack of concern for the cleanliness of the house.

After securitymen detained the suspect for investigations, the latter admitted to beating her housemaid but insisted that it was not premeditated. A case was registered against her and referred to the Public Prosecution.

--- end ---

How long is this culture of abuse against domestic workers going to continue?  Safa Al-Hashem:  Where are you and your outrage against expats when one of the expat community is tortured to death by a Kuwaiti sponsor?  Can’t these foreign domestic workers be replaced by Kuwaitis – just as you have suggested that Egyptian plumbers be replaced by Kuwaitis?  Perhaps only then will these horrendous acts of cruelty cease.

Alternatively:  Death for those who cause death.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Kuwait Government Documentation Service Company

My last post brought me to this post.  I've never heard of this company before, but their website says that they've been around since 2003. Maybe one of my readers will find this useful - especially since I get the, "Where do I go to.....?" questions all the time. (Drivers license renewal seems to top the list at the moment.) 

I don't know anything about their fees or anything more than I have posted here, but I like that they have all their services listed in English and in a simple manner.  If anyone uses them, please let me know so I can post your comments.

Great concept. I hope their service is good.  Wish I had known about them before.

Concierge Medicine - Coming Soon to a Doctor Near You?

Since Kuwait likes to get behind the trends of other countries, this may be something that will catch on sometime in the future.

The definition of “Concierge Medicine,” according to Wikipedia:

Concierge medicine (also known as retainer medicine) is a relationship between a patient and a primary care physician in which the patient pays an annual fee or retainer. This may or may not be in addition to other charges. In exchange for the retainer, doctors provide enhanced care, including principally a commitment to limit patient loads to ensure adequate time and availability for each patient.

The practice has been referred to as concierge medicine, retainer medicine, membership medicine, cash-only practice, and direct care. While all "concierge" medicine practices share similarities, they vary widely in their structure, payment requirements, and form of operation. In particular, they differ in the level of service provided and the fee charged.

My mom is 86, retired and receives US government Medicare insurance.  Very few physicians in her area (near Washington, DC) will accept Medicare anymore.  (This is something to think about if you have elderly parents in the US.)    So, her alternative is finding a concierge physician.  She found one and the annual fee is around $2000.

In an article in Health Journal:

The concept of concierge medicine began in 1996, when a Seattle doctor decided to ask his patients to pay a flat fee—or retainer—in exchange for what he called “highly attentive medicine.” This allowed him to not have to rely on fees-for-service that were regulated by insurance companies.  (Full article HERE.)

The article goes on to say that the downside of concierge medicine is that it creates a two-tiered healthcare system for the haves and the have-nots; allowing membership only to those who can afford it.

This concept of membership is popular in Kuwait (health club memberships, auto-purchasing memberships, errand-running memberships, Kuwait official documentation servicing memberships, banking concierge memberships travel agency memberships), so I can see concierge medicine coming to Kuwait. 

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Overdue Gratitude

Little disclaimer:  I'm big on gratitude.  I believe it is part of my spirituality.  If your grateful to people (animals, other living beings) you are showing gratitude to God.  So I do it as often as possible.

Yesterday, I was writing one of my scathing therapeutic letters to El Cajon that I will never send him.  In this one, I was saying that I hadn't written in a while and that I was feeling better now.  Ah, but The Universe must have heard me and threw in a monkey wrench.

Just as I finished writing the last sentence, El Cajon, came into my office and thanked me.  A lot.  He just hit a big target at work and was thanking me for helping him achieve success; that more money to him meant more ability to help part of his family that is struggling. "I wouldn't be able to have accomplished this without  you.  You did so much for me."....

I'm happy for him - and grateful for the appreciation - but....

'I don't know what to say you you.  I think of the right, the appropriate, the spot-on things I should have said to you not too long after you go away.  And then it is too late to say them.'  I just stare and smile.

So, he told me to just say, "You're welcome" and maybe send him an email later.  So, I did.

'I appreciate you taking the time to come to say thank you to me.  I'm happy that you are there when your family needs you.  But you weren't there for me when I needed you.'  That's all I could get out.  That's really all I wanted to get out without saying hurtful things that I would feel guilty for.

You weren't there for me.  That says it all.