Kuwait City, Kuwait Report of what it's like to live there - 04/19/22

Personal Experiences from Kuwait City, Kuwait

Kuwait City, Kuwait 04/19/22

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We have been to Sicily, and Puerto Rico as part of the military. We have been to South Africa, Oman, Israel, Tbilisi, and Mexico City as State Department employees.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Arizona, no non-stop flights. We only went on one R&R (due to airport shuts downs and other restrictions at post). We went through Dubai and I cannot remember where we had a layover.

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3. What years did you live here?

2019-2022.

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4. How long have you lived here?

In four months it will be three years.

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Diplomatic Mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Like any other post we have been to much of it is luck and timing. Some housing is great and some housing, in my opinion, is subpar. The embassy here has a few homes on compound where some of the mission staff live. It's a three-minute walk for compounders, anywhere from a five to forty minute drive.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive. The local beef (doesn't matter where they say it comes from) all tastes off to me. The chicken is great, the seafood is fresh and good. No pork unless you get from the military base. Cleaning supplies are super expensive, fresh berries super expensive (and go bad in just a couple of days). The paper products are awful, in my opinion. I order from Amazon for toilet paper and paper towels.

That being said, you can get just about everything here. Some days they have certain items and some days they don't. I just wasn't expecting to pay three dollars for a small container of yogurt. That said, if you want it, you pay for it.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Vanilla for cooking, but other than that, nothing.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

They several food delivery options. Most of the grocery stores deliver. Every option of food is available. The standards are just not as high as State-side standards and not all of the kitchens are very clean. I cook two meals most days. Occasionally we order out for delivery, (a couple or so times a month). We have not much opportunity to eat out since we were here for the beginning of the pandemic and now I have a stockpile of food that needs to be used.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

I had the worst case of of pantry moth infestation when we first moved here. The larvae were everywhere, under the bleach lid, in the aluminum foil, and plastic bags. I literally had hundred of them hatch at the same time. I had no flour or rice that they came from. We brought the moths home from the store and I lost hundreds of dollars worth of food.

My whole pantry had to be scrubbed, and scrapped with a toothpick at all of the little holes, i.e. nail holes, doorjambs, etc. I still find the moths every time I go shopping, and I just have the moth traps now. I have found a few ants, a couple of roaches (outside). Some geckos. Nothing too bad (besides the moths).

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I send no outside letter mail. I receive mail through DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is available and not to expensive. The going rate for us is 3kd a day for transport + 1.5-2.5 kd an hour. I have heard many people complain while they like their domestic staff, not one of them seems to do deep cleaning. I don't know the going rates for drivers, or lawn care people.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy has a small gym on compound. There is also a gym at the Radisson.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I use my credit card and debit card often, but this post does seem to be a cash society. I have had no problems using them. There is a ATM right outside the main gate.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Out of respect you should know some basic skills. I was planning on taking a class but of course that was shut down. It has started back up again though. Almost all Kuwaitis that I have encountered speak English. Many of the other expats do not.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, 100% yes if you have a walking disability where you need to use a wheelchair.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I take a taxi or a careem (Kuwait version of Uber). The taxi I use is more expensive, but I use almost exclusively. It is expensive, but most everything here is, except gas, domestic help, and water.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I recommend a small SUV. The roads are maintained for the most part. I have no fear of being robbed or carjacked. In my opinion, the driving here is aggressive to say the least. Kind of like bumper cars, but less fun.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We have great internet. We have Zain and it cost 16 kd a month. There are issues every once in awhile, but it works remarkably well. It took us a few weeks as you can not get the internet without your MFA (diplomat) card.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I have Google Fi.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

We have a dog who is 12 1/2 and a small to medium dog. No quarantine for us coming from Mexico City. Getting her out is going to be difficult as CDC changed the policy about dogs. Kuwait is on the high-risk for rabies list, although I have not heard of a single person getting or animal being bit by a rapid dog or any animal. It takes about six months to process the dogs out of country now. I'm not sure if this is just going back to the US. As we will take our dog with us on home leave, she needs to go through the whole process.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are some limited job opportunities within the Embassy, and also some school jobs. Many jobs on the local economy as one person stated, if you want to earn local pay (but my understanding means very little earned).

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Animal shelter.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual for Embassy staff. Casual for everywhere else. I just know that the women should be more modest.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

In our time here, I have heard there has been a concern or two for terrorist threats against Americans. I have little to no fear of a criminal act against me.

The older Kuwaitis seem to remember the US coming in and saving them. The younger generation where not alive and, in my opinion, they have some dislike for us. I am talking about those who are younger and wealthier.

All in all we, as westerners are okay, but you always should have a certain amount of caution when you are going about your day-to-day business, just like you would anywhere else.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

With the air quality, people who have asthma made have a harder time. I have had no personal experience with serious injury. I had some dental work done, and the dentist seemed very heavy-handed.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Poor air quality many days of the year. It is mostly sand but some pollution as well. If you are sensitive to pollution, you will have a hard time.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Cook at home if you have serious food allergies. Make sure post knows about your allergies if they are serious. Air quality is poor most days during the spring and summer.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Mental wellbeing went to heck in a hand basket the last couple of years. In my opinoin, Kuwait can be a tough post to begin with.

During the summer months it is so hot, and at times humid. I am trying to be positive about this post and give it a fair review. I was here during ALL of the shutdowns, lockdowns, and restrictions. So it is hard for me to remember how it was before. I think now that things are becoming more open and normal post is trying harder. AWEA and the the Community Liaison Office (CLO) hold functions for families, couples, and singles.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Summer is hot, September and part of October is hot and soupy. Winter comes along and it is so wonderful and at times chilly. Then March rolls around again and it becomes hot, hot and sticky or just flipping cook an egg on the sidewalk hot. So about five months of the year it is pleasant.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I have heard mixed reviews on the schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I have heard none.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

They are available and they are expensive. I have had no direct experience.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Some. Not many clubs.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

HUGE! Before covid the population was 2/3 expat and 1/3 Kuwaiti. The expat is still sizeable but a bit less. The morale is different for each group of expats that you ask. The diplomatic missions have it fairly easy. Many of the laborers have it harder. Many are treated harshly in my opinion. Most of the service industry is run by expats. From what I have learned, most Kuwaitis do not work.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Shopping, eating out, going for coffee, and having small gatherings at your home.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

In my opinion, this is not the best post for singles. Great post for families with small children. In my opinion, if you are a single female your dating pool is pretty limited.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Because this is a Muslim country my answer would be no, but if you have a partner it might not be too bad. In my experience, the locals do look down on the LGBTQ community.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes to all. Even among our local employees India vs Filipinos. North or South. Asians have it hard as most locals think he or she are domestic workers. In my opinion, women are viewed as less.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

After the restrictions were lifted I went to Doha, that was amazing. Buying beautiful carpets.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Carpets are great.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It is a close hop to other fun citites, Tbilisi, Doha, Italy, Hungry, Oman.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That it would be so unattractive. No green at all. Sand and oil rigs. Dirty beaches.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No, I am sorry to say that I would rather have gone to DC than come here. That is saying something.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Your pristine car.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor and patience. You will need both.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

none that come to mind.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

While we were here during the pandemic and things were not wonderful. We were lucky to have been here and not some of the other far flung places that we have been to or have friends at. We kind of thought it would be like Oman.

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