Life in Kuwait: First Few weeks

I arrived in Kuwait on the 14th of September, which means I have officially been here for three weeks. Time seems to have sped up since I arrived here because how on earth did 2 weekends pass already?!

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During the first few weeks in Kuwait I have (sort of) adjusted to the heat, made my apartment into a home and gotten (somewhat) settled at work. More importantly, I am learning a lot of new things. So in this blog post I will share some of my experiences over the past few weeks through the lessons that I have learnt.

 
Lesson number 1: Adapt and accept

Laws, rules and regulations don’t mean much here- Kuwaitis make it up as they go along. After a week of teaching high school and middle school learners, the director of the school met with me to tell me that because the major in my Bachelor’s degree wasn’t English, I can no longer teach middle and high school… huh? My teaching certification clearly indicates English as one of my didactic subjects but in Kuwait, “this is the rule”, “we cannot do anything” and “we apologise”. Illogically, this law doesn’t apply for other teachers here whose majors are different to what they teach… I just happened to be the one teacher for whom this law applies.

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So I am back in kindergarten with a wonderful teacher assistant and a sweet class. No problems there at all. But; who knows what I will teach next week? Grade 4 music? Grade 1 Islamic studies? Gosh.

I also see this sort of mentality on the roads. There is no following the rules of the road or any courtesy on the road- people park wherever they want to (in the middle of a roundabout) and drive however they want to (climbing the curb, cutting across four lanes)- they just make it up as they go along.

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I am learning (albeit slowly) to smile, nod, adapt and accept.

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Lesson number 2: Kuwaiti time is worse than African time.

Growing up in South Africa meant I was quite used to ‘African time’- every function would start an hour later than the time on the invitation, ‘just now’ meant anything between 5 minutes to 3 hours and being late was an acceptable norm. It drove my punctual self to madness. Kuwaiti time is WORSE.

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“When will I get paid?”

“Inshallah, it will happen soon.”

Soon as in tomorrow or soon as in next month?

“What is the time frame for the receiving the civil ID card?”

“Inshallah it will take time”.

But how much time? 

“How can I open a bank account?”

“Inshallah, the school will assist you when the time is right.”

When will the time be right?

Inshallah means ‘God willing”. So whenever God wills it, things will get done. I guess this actually leads on from lesson number one about how I am learning to accept and adapt to this incredibly relaxed culture.

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Lesson number 3: Your life can be easy- if you learn to accept and adapt.

With the school covering the costs of accommodation, transportation to and from work, lights and water as well as the flight from South Africa to here, I don’t have a lot of costs to worry about. For the first time in my life I don’t have to worry about being left with a paltry amount after meeting my monthly expenses. The peace of mind that comes with financial freedom is somewhat… heady!

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Of course what comes with that is learning to accept the idiosyncrasies of this culture. If I obsessed over when certain things would be accomplished or how I can’t wear certain things to work then I wouldn’t have any peace of mind. I am learning to enjoy the positives and shrug off the negatives.

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Lesson number 4: You can find beauty in any place if you look hard enough.

Not to sound biased, but I hail from one of the most visually spectacular and culturally unique countries. From breathtaking mountains, lush greenery, terrifying wildlife to gorgeous oceans, South Africa has it all (Ok so I am biased!). And then I came to Kuwait and met the desert! If I could use two words to describe Kuwait it would be- ‘brown’ and ‘sandy’. Apart from the skyscrapers and highways (which you could find anywhere in the world), Kuwait isn’t a particularly pretty place to live. However that’s not to say that there aren’t some pretty places to see.

Yes the beach is enticing and the structures are impressive. This may not be Italy or the Philippines but I am learning that you can always find beauty if you look for it. Here are some scenes from my trips out and about in Kuwait:

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Al Khout Mall in Fahaheel- a mall built on the sea
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Traditional Arabian dhow ships

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Night scenery at Al Khout
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Someone must have been having a laugh when they opened up this chain of stores!

 

In summary, living in the Gulf is teaching me to become more open minded and amenable.

Yes, of course I am open minded already, otherwise I would’ve never considered living abroad, right? But living in the Gulf requires a whole new level of open mindedness. Even when I moved to Korea, it was hard to get the idea out of my head: “How can they be so stupid? If we do it my way, it just makes so much more sense and is easier, quicker and more efficient.” But as I am finding out, to overcome these thoughts, I just have to be more progressive and tolerant than ever before.

Instead of working against the culture, I am trying to find its strengths and looking for how to get the best results, even if the method of achieving these results is vastly different.

Now that the weather in Kuwait is cooling down (below 40 degrees), I will be able to do more exploring and of course, more blogging!
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Remember to find me on Snapchat & Instagram for more pics and immediate updates on my life here in Kuwait!

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