Desert Girl: Desert Girl on Kuwait
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Kuwait, etc.
I’m a single, professional working woman who came to Kuwait for the first time in 1993 and moved here from the Washington, DC area in 1996. I have known Kuwaitis most of my life, so the transition wasn’t too difficult as I already had friends here; although in 1996, there were very few other expat women in Kuwait who were not married to Kuwaitis. It was difficult to find like-minded friends at that time. My blog is anonymous as Kuwait is a small, Islamic country and I may offend people. I would face big repercussions (possibly even legal problems) if people knew who I really am; although I suspect that most of the expat community already knows.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging in 2004 as a venue to rant. I call it free therapy.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I’m a freelance writer and often post my articles on the blog. I love the sea life in Kuwait, so I wrote about my experience.
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?
Even with Kuwaiti friends, of course it was a shock. For the first month, I stayed on the 17th floor of a 4-star hotel in downtown Kuwait and I awoke to the sound of roosters crowing and the prayer call. It was surreal. I also worked for the subsidiary of an Islamic bank, and they asked me to wear hijab. Wearing it properly without offending anyone was a real learning experience (that to this day, I am happy that I experienced).
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Kuwait? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Thank God, the people I went to work for were decent. I didn’t do much research before I came and my experience could have turned out really differently. There really weren’t many resources for expats back in ’93 (and no internet!) so I couldn’t do too much more research.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The funniest experience was when someone that I trusted taught me the worst phrase in the Arabic language, and told me that it meant, “I love you.” (said with a certain degree of passion). I had the “opportunity” to repeat it to someone I loved later… He had a good laugh. I now advise everyone to learn the bad words first so you know what you’re saying!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Kuwait?
- Gather as many perspectives as you can on Kuwait. Do not rely on one source (like your employer). Check blogs, ask questions on forums, write to people who have lived/worked in Kuwait.
- Research Kuwait laws thoroughly before coming! Especially the Kuwait Labor Law and the Kuwait Tenancy Law. Know your rights and what not to do.
- Make Kuwaiti friends. They will help you tremendously (and are usually willing to help foreigners).
How is the expat community in Kuwait? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Currently, it is not difficult to find like-minded people as there are so many resources, business and social groups. If you are not an outgoing person, however, you will find it hard as you have to “make it a job to find your group.” As the social life in Kuwait is conducted underground or in private (private parties, etc.), it is imperative to find a group of friends to socialize with. Otherwise, you become a depressed working machine with no life.
How would you summarize your expat life in Kuwait in a single, catchy sentence?
Kuwait: It’s Different! (After 18 years, I can honestly say that I learn something new every day.)