Ok folks, so I have officially lived in Kuwait in six months and, as such, I pretty much consider myself an expert. An aficionado of the Middle East, if you will. I do not see any problems with this statement.
Anywho, I think that at six months it is a good time to reflect on my experience so far. As an OCD-type person, I really love a good list. Therefore, I am going to list out the good and the not-so-good about my experience here so far. Note: These are only my personal opinions. I can not speak on behalf of others because every expat has a different experience and mindset. Some people love it here and stay for ten years. Some people stay 3 weeks and run away in the night and don’t show up at work the next day. So, ya know, everyone has a different outlook on being away from their home country. I, however, sort of feel like being here was meant to be a part of my life experience. I am so thankful to be here for many reasons, and yet, some aspects of being here aren’t so fun. So, let’s dig in, shall we?
- Proximity. Sure we are a stone’s throw away from some places that are not considered ideal vacation spots at this time, but we are also close to some really cool places. Bahrain. United Arab Emirates. Oman. Georgia. Did you know there is a country named Georgia?! I just found out! You can take a quick weekend trip and hit a new country each time. That is pretty cool in my book.
- Kuwait is generally peaceful. They’re located in a hotbed of the world (both literally and figuratively) and generally act as mediators between other countries that don’t play nice together. They also have a positive relationship with America and welcome the mixing of the two cultures, and without that, I wouldn’t have the privilege of living here.
- The shopping malls. There are malls upon malls upon malls upon malls here. There is a giant mall called The Avenues that has 11 Starbucks, 2 Ihops, 3 H &M’s, 2 Bath and Body Works, an Ikea, and so many other places in between. It takes you a literal half hour to walk it end to end without stopping and moving at a fairly brisk pace. There is also a mall that is shaped like the Titanic. Just because. Their passion for shopping is really conflicting with my goal of saving money. And I’m not mad about it.
- The food. There are plenty of places that you can order traditional Kuwait cuisine from but if you want to know what Kuwaitis truly love, it begins with a Cheesecake and ends with a Factory. It also begins with an Olive and ends with a Garden. Red Lobster. McDonalds. Chili’s. Ihop. With the expception of Chik-Fil-A and Chipotle (more on that later) you can pretty much find any American chain restaurant you desire. Yeah yeah, I know. I should be branching out of my comfort zone. But I prefer to eat like the locals and scarf down those rolls at Texas Roadhouse gosh darn it.
- The coffee. I love Arabic coffee. It has cardamom in it and, with a little milk, it is heavenly. If you don’t like that, there are also several Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, Dunkin Donuts, Caribou Coffee, Seattle’s Best, and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf coffee houses around to satisfy your need for caffeine.
- The Call to Prayer. While I don’t actually know what is being said (it’s in Arabic) I do find the cadence to be relaxing. It happens five times a day and every neighborhood has a Mosque. I am Christian, but that doesn’t mean I can’t honor the traditions of other faiths, and this is one that I like. It also serves as a reminder for the time. I hear the first call to prayer and I know I have about 45 minutes left before I have to wake up for work. Plus, the call to prayer reminds me of New York when I lived across the street from a Mosque on the Upper East Side.
- 4D Movies! They are so fun! For more on that, check out my post here.
- Your friends do really become like family here, since you are so far away from your own. They are the people you rant about work with, the people you travel with, and the people who end up on your couch for a weekly Bachelor marathon.
The Less than Ideal
- The driving. This issue isn’t exclusive to Kuwaiti or Non-Kuwaiti. Pretty much everyone seems disinterested in following the rules of the road. I have seen cars driving at top speeds with people sticking their heads out the sunroof like teens in their first limo on the way to Prom. And don’t even get me started on the free-for-all that is the roundabout here. Kuwait traffic laws, however, are very clear. There are signs on highway overpasses that say things like “Speed = Death.” I am not sure how much more to the point you can get.
- Lack of sidewalks. Between the dust, sand, and general blazing heat for several months a year, people don’t spend a ton of time outside. Therefore, sidewalks don’t really exist in most places. If you decide to walk, you’re deciding to tromp through the sand or take your life in your hands and walk in the street (not a good option, see above).
This is the closest thing I’ve seen to a sidewalk in my neighborhood. I’m sure you can see how the tree placement would interfere with using the sidewalk for actual walking.
- The lack of color. Sandstorms are a thing here. We are in the desert, people. Therefore, most buildings are a tan color that matches the sand. That way, when the sand blows and sticks to the buildings, it is barely noticed. I do miss colors though. Especially green. Also trees. Flowers, too.
- There is no Chipotle. I need to build a franchise out here. Give the people what they want.
Just like anywhere you go, you take the bad with the good. Certainly though, the issues here are not like some news outlets would lead you to believe. At this point, the good outweighs the bad and the experience outweighs any discomfort. Plus for those days where it doesn’t, you can go drown your sorrows with some Pinkberry. Because they have that here too. Damn, living in the Middle East is rough.
Until next time,