What is life like in Kuwait as an expat? Well, according to a recent survey, it’s one of the worst places in the world. But statistics only tell half the story. I got in touch with a fellow blogger for the inside scoop. Sheli is a American expat who lived in Kuwait from 2016 to 2018.
What is it like living in Kuwait as a woman?
Living in Kuwait as a woman is a different experience than living in Western communities. You must pay attention to your attire and ensure you always wear pants [trousers], dresses or skirts that cover your knees and shoulders. It’s also best to avoid tighter clothing. It’s about respecting Kuwaiti customs.
Although you may see others, both locals and occasionally other expats, not adhering to this dress code, it is not considered respectful.
Adhering to these customs is especially required during the holy month of Ramadan.
Can women drive in Kuwait?
Women are allowed to drive, but this depends on your visa status.
If you are on your own work visa then it is possible to get a driver’s license; however, if you are a dependent on your husband’s visa, it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to drive.
Tourist visas from most Western countries, which are valid for three months, also allow women to drive with their home country’s license.
What is social life in Kuwait like? What is the expat community like?
Social life in Kuwait can be somewhat limited to restaurant’s, malls, and cafes. Alcohol is not allowed in Kuwait so this is not an option.
As for expats, there is a very large expat community with people from all over the world.
Professionals are typically housed in dedicated apartments for their workplace, which provides a community with those you work with. For example, the majority of Western expats are teachers in K-12 schools or universities.
Outside of these professional groups, it can be a bit difficult to find a community. If you’re moving to Kuwait you often have to go out of your way to make friends.
Tell me about daily life in Kuwait.
Daily life in Kuwait is typically easy going however, you should never expect anything to be done quickly. Everything takes time in Kuwait.
Grocery stores are easily accessible and although you may need to visit multiple stores to find the items you’re accustomed to, they are generally available. There is also a fair selection of imported products from Western countries.
The banking system is quite different than in the United States. Joint bank accounts are not allowed and you need to have your own employment and work visa in order to open an account.
Hailing a taxi or hiring a driver to get around is quite easy. However make sure you have cash as most cannot accept credit cards.
And how about working in Kuwait?
Working in Kuwait can offer a great experience as you’ll have the opportunity to work with many nationalities.
There are many expats in Kuwait so it’s likely your co-workers will be from all over the world.
During your application and interview process it’s important to clarify the number of hours you will be expected to work. The standard number of hours expected is 48 hours, spread over six working days per week. Of course, this working hour ratio depends on your profession.
If you’re interested in having your own car you should also ensure that your work visa will allow you to get a drivers license; some visas do not provide for this.
Workplaces vary widely so I’d recommended you to contact others in the position you are considering, for example on LinkedIn, prior to moving to Kuwait. This will give you a better of the work environment.
What is the food like in Kuwait?
There is a wide variety of cuisines, including traditional Kuwaiti restaurants, Indian, Lebanese, and Western. There are also many American options, from fast food to smarter restaurants. You can also order delivery from anywhere, through apps such as Talabat.
Is it expensive living in Kuwait?
Living in Kuwait can be quite expensive.
Many employers provide housing. However, if you chose to find your own housing you will likely exceed the stipend provided by your employer.
Rent generally includes utilities, although this is rumored to be changing in the near future.
Groceries are generally more expensive than in the US, as everything must be imported to Kuwait. Particularly, items imported from Western countries are quite expensive.
As for eating costs, it varies widely depending on the restaurant. You can find quite inexpensive options, but most sit-down restaurants are more expensive than what you would find in the United States.
The cost of petrol however, is quite low!
What are the main advantages and disadvantages of life in Kuwait?
The biggest advantage of living in Kuwait are the numerous travel opportunities. There are many direct flights or direct flights available from Dubai, which is a short hour flight from Kuwait. There are plenty of surrounding countries to explore. Short trips and weekend getaways are easy. Kuwait also has many public holidays, depending on your profession, so finding time to take vacations can be much easier than living in other countries.
Disadvantages include the higher cost of living, the strict observance of Ramadan, and often last minute scheduling of public holidays.
During the holy month of Ramadan it is illegal to eat or drink in public anywhere in Kuwait. While most grocery stores remain open, the rest of the city shuts down during the day. Many business adjust their working hours accordingly.
While many public holidays are scheduled in advance, many rely on the position of the moon. This means that public holidays may not be announced until just a few days in advance. This makes travel planning very difficult.
All in all, do you think Kuwait is a good place to live and work?
All in all, Kuwait is an interesting place to live and work.
You’ll be able to experience a new culture and hopefully have new travel experiences while you’re there.
Although there will certainly be some frustrations with moving to Kuwait you’ll also be able to grow, enhance your work experiences, and learn new things along the way.
Sheli blogs at nutritionistaabroad.com. Follow her journey for worldwide travel advice, healthy recipe ideas and eco-friendly solutions.