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Cultureness

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life Kuwait makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Kuwait, etc.

Learning about other and our own culture has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. As my sister and I were growing up, our parents taught us that the best way to learn about it was through traveling and trying new things.

We traveled to a lot of places in various ways and styles of transportation; spend nights at one-dollar-a-night hotels, or fancy five star resorts. Our main objective was to learn about our Bolivian/South American culture before learning about other cultures. We were lucky enough to experience the rainforest, the amazing salt deserts, and even got to visit the underground silver mines in Potosi (The highest city in the world, located in Bolivia). By the time I was 12, I had seen more than 70% of my country.

Soon after, my parents felt my sister and I were ready to see more of the world. The world became our oyster.

We lived in Rotterdam, Netherlands, for a few months while my dad finished up his studies. While we were in Europe, we backpacked through many countries. My parents took us to as many museums as possible. It was after that trip that I realized my passion for other countries and cultures had begun. My need to share what I had learned with everyone else was what opened the door to another hobby of mine. Photography. These officially became my two hobbies. And this was just the beginning.

When I turned 15 my dad informed us that he had been accepted to Harvard University and he wanted all of us to join him. So we moved to Boston. We lived on the university campus and I was lucky enough attend school in the area. I remember meeting my dad’s classmates and their families. They were from all over the world and we spent our Saturday nights sharing each other’s food, language, and especially our traditions. We found in each other a new international family. This time I learned to not only learn culture from a museum, but from people.

By 19, I moved to the States and began my studies at the University of Eau Claire Wisconsin. Living away from home and having a new family (made out of international students), I started to put in practice some of the culture I was learning. That increased the amounts of celebrations, gatherings, and different kinds of food. I also met my best friend; he introduced me to a side of the world I had never learned much from, the Middle East. We have been married for over two years now.

I now find myself living in a country I never dreamed I would live in. I moved to Kuwait in July 2010.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

As soon as I arrived in Kuwait I knew that I had to share my experience and knowledge with the world. Kuwait and the Middle East are still a mystery to many people so I thought that if I wrote about this place and its culture and contrast it to my experience in the US and in Bolivia maybe more people would not be as afraid of this region. Also I wanted to help anyone living in or thinking about moving to this region.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

One of my favorite blog entry is the one I wrote for New Years:

New year, old customs

Tell us about the ways your new life in Kuwait differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

My life is very different from Bolivia and the US. At the beginning it was hard getting used to the idea that I have to be very aware of what I say and what I wear since saying the wrong thing to the wrong person could have massive consequences and wearing the wrong thing at the wrong place could give people a wrong idea of who I am. I’ve experienced culture shock here and in the States. Although I’ve lived here for a little over two years, there are still some days when something still shocks me.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Kuwait? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

Thanks to my husband I was as ready as you could be. Months before coming here, he made sure he answered all the answers I had. He didn’t want me to hate the place so he did everything he could to paint a realistic picture of what would be like to live here.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

When a Kuwaiti becomes your friend they will be the most kind and giving people you have ever met. I knew that but I didn’t quite know how giving they would be. You see when you give a compliment to a Kuwaiti (“those are nice earrings you are wearing today!”) they will take it off right away and give it to you. I keep forgetting this so several friends and relatives have given me several things. I always feel bad that I keep forgetting.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Kuwait?

  • Summers are extremely hot so try to stay hydrated and to spend as little time outdoors as possible.
  • People are conservative, so make sure that other people won’t see what you wear as offensive.
  • Things will be very different, just be open-minded and try to enjoy this place.

How is the expat community in Kuwait? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

The expat community is very divided: Americans tend to hang out with Americans, Spaniards with Spaniards, and so on and so on. At the beginning it was hard for me to find a niche where I could belong. Fortunately, I attended a Latin party where I met a bunch of Latina ladies and since then I’ve joined OLEK (Organizacion de Latinas en Kuwait) and have become an active member of the organization.

How would you summarize your expat life in Kuwait in a single, catchy sentence?

Unveiling Kuwait, a new exciting and different experience every single day.

Antoine Mariaux

"With InterNations it was easy to find the right school for our kids after they joined me in Kuwait."

Patricia Quade

"I found some amazing people on InterNations, and now I enjoy helping other newcomers in Kuwait."

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