American in Kuwait
One year ago, I wrote about living in Kuwait. After two years, and on my way out of Kuwait, I have a more well rounded perspective of the people, government and country as a whole.
Kuwait is many things to many people. To a Kuwaiti, its home; to an American its a pretty good paycheck and less taxes. As middle east countries go, its not a bad place to work, but Kuwait tourism is NOT great for non GCC foreigners (in my humble opinion). Since there is not much to do you can save more than working in Dubai and its not even close to being as strict as Saudi Arabia.
You can get Kuwait girls, alcohol and even private parties.
Here is a quick summary:
PROs of KUWAIT
1 – Decent jobs backed by the worlds biggest currency; the Kuwait Dinar (KD) – The money brings people from all over the world. For Americans, the companies pay a little better and there is a tax benefit with foreign earned income exclusion.
2 – Not A Super Strict Middle East Country – Kuwait is a place where you will see Shia & Sunni, different nations, different races living close together with mostly petty grievances against each other rather than violent protests or miniature civil wars and acts of terrorism cropping up. Even though its illegal to drink or distribute alcohol, people still do it discretely in their homes or in private get together.
3 – Close to Many Tourist Spots – Kuwait has cheap flights to Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bahrain and many other countries. So you can spend vacations in these countries and have a great time.
CONs of KUWAIT
1 – Not Much to do – The main hang out spots are the malls and coffee shops. There are no clubs to dance, no alcohol, not much extracurricular activities.
2 – VERY dangerous roads – According to Chairperson of Traffic Safety Society in Kuwait, “Kuwait has broken the world record in the number of traffic deaths. He said 17 deaths are recorded in every 100,000 accidents” – See more at: http://www.bananaq8.com/cars/traffic-accidents-rank-no-8-for-deaths/#sthash.vThC7wWk.dpuf
3 – Anti-foreigner laws – As of 2012, the laws in Kuwait started getting a little unfriendly to expats. “The ministry will take decisions and measures aimed at reducing the number of expatriate workers by 100,000 every year for 10 years to reach one million” (kuwait). Expats deported for serious traffic violations (indiankuwait news). Its also difficult to bring loved ones when working in Kuwait.
These laws are due to the ratio of foreigners to Kuwaiti. Foreigners make up almost 70% of the population. Most of the 70% are low skilled laborers from India and other countries. Foreigners take most of the jobs Kuwaiti’s would not take.
How Do Kuwaiti’s feel about Americans:
It was about 5:30 am. We were a car full of Americans not fully awake on our way to work. We pull into a gas station in Amadhi, Kuwait. A Bangladeshi gas attendant approaches the car.
“Fill it up. Premium,” My co-worker hands him a corporate gas card and he starts to fill the tank.
A young man in a car across from us is yelling to get our attention. He is Kuwaiti, “Hey! Hey, excuse me.” His English is broken but very clear, “Where are you from?”
“I’m from America,” he says.
“I love America. You are great. Everything about it,” He smiles and gives a thumbs up.
Many of the young Kuwait adults think like Westerners, so its no wonder Americans get along very well with them. I know at least two co-workers in Kuwait happily married to young kuwaitis with children both are moderate Muslim Americans with great love for the people of Kuwait.
You may get the occasional rude person getting in front of you inline in a restaurant or ATM, but most of the frustration, ignorance and blatant recklessness will be found on the dangerous road of Kuwait. The roads and terrible government should not be a gauge for the rest of Kuwaiti people.
Filipinos, Indians, Bangladeshi, Sri Lanka, Nepali, Palestinians and others are not treated well in Kuwait. While many are happy to have the opportunity that Kuwaits job provides, they are not happy about the overall treatment of some that see them as less than human. The feeling from Kuwaitis is that “if you don’t like Kuwait, then leave.” Make no mistake, if these people had an alternative, they would leave.
Overall, Kuwait is a place with so much potential to be an internationally loved hub of greatness shining bright in the middle east. But I am not sure international is what they strive to be. The country is still defining itself.
Great Comments from Kuwait Unplugged:
arabianfox6/4/12 3:44 pm
‘Having been’ the 3rd generation in Kuwait it is safe to say I have huge respect for the country, enjoyed it and hold it in good regard outside.
But its hard to ignore genuine cases of racism and kind of a general apathy towards manners on the road or in a queue.
I still visit (painful procedure) and its pleasant in short bursts like a week or 2 tops, but alas it may be only for another 5 years or so till my family retires and ‘settles’ elsewhere.
— Kuwait Unplugged