Struggles only Middle Eastern Expats know…


The summer in the Middle East is by far the hardest time as an expat, although I usually do my best to avoid as much as I can, including Ramadan. Ramadan, for those who do not know, is the holy month for Muslims, which starts and stops based on the moon. I’m still rather unclear about that part and most of what Ramadan is. I just know that I’m not allowed to visit my Starbucks until the sunsets because otherwise I’d run right smack into their glass door. (If you were wondering, no I don’t own a Starbucks but there are so many on every corner, each of us could own one.) Everything closes, the people fast, and sit around contemplating- well again, I don’t really know but I would assume they contemplate their hunger pains.
As I was saying, summer sucks. Its 125 degrees on a good day, the sun never shuts up, and there is nothing to do. Summer starts around March and ends around December. During this time we start to miss home tremendously and start wishing we didn’t live here. “Ugh if I was home I would totally be at the beach” or “ If I was home I would be going to concerts/festivals/lake/boating/insert fun here”. We all know that we’d be in the same spot which is in the living room watching Kardashians avoiding summer outside. Possibly, most definitely with a beer in hand. Logically we know sometimes that it is not better, just different. Maybe more people to share the summer misery with, but nonetheless, we think the grass is greener. I always get “the fever” as I call it, which is wanting to move home. It happens every August. I remember our “expat counselor” who talked to us about living overseas and what it entailed before we moved to Hungary. She told us that our emotions would ride like a rollercoaster with a range of happiness to complete and desolate sadness and FOMO (fear of missing out). We’d have to tackle these feelings as they washed over us in an attempt to stay the course that we had mapped for our future. So here some of us sit thinking “Why do we live here? Can’t we go home, or even somewhere else preferably with 3-4 seasons?”

I’ve compiled some things I thought of this year while I spent two months in the States. For those who haven’t lived in the Middle East I may sound a bit pretentious, a little stuck up, and kind of a turd… but things are different here… so you will learn a little.
I now have USA culture shock. In a country where you can be, do, and say whatever, it’s amazing how many things that I encountered and thought “Kuwait does it better.” There are times when people don’t get it, and neither do I.

  1. I missed my maid. I had to mop and sweep my own floor AND fold my own laundry. It was horrible.

2. I couldn’t find Halloumi cheese anywhere but yet the choices in food at the grocery store were unending.

ChristisHalloumiCheese225g
Yummy!

3. I tried unsuccessfully haggling prices at Walmart. Apparently that’s not a thing there.

4. We drove to get Taco Bell. No-one brought it to my door on a scooter in 15 minutes flat. I    had to drive. I spent more in gas picking it up than I did on the food.

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Food, Please!

5. Speaking of driving… I passed someone on an entrance ramp the highway and turned left out of a straight lane. Oops? There were no cameras, so you can like, speed! (Not) My husband has literally forgotten what a blinker is, so a cop pulled him over and let him know where it was. Then as he turned out of the parking lot in front of the cop he again had to ask me where it was… Oh, and apparently you cant park on sidewalks, its considered “in bad taste”.

28-DSC03879
no parking? sidewalks double as parking.
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Speed Cameras

 

6. Wait, I have to PUMP MY OWN GAS??? And how much is gas????

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I have to do this myself?

7. My grocery bill was $80 plus all this other money. Something called tax… sounds stupid.

8. I got a doctor bill. Like an actual bill from the doctor. Insurance doesn’t just pay all of it?

9. “You don’t have a passport? What do you show when you travel?”

10. My waitress was rude at a few several restaurants and didn’t even ask to hold my baby… I was totally missing the awesome Filipino staffs. Hello Ma’am, Sir!

11. Emergency Lane apparently is for actual emergencies not for passing.

accident
Using the Emergency lane

12. Inshallah, said no-one ever. Never.

13. There’s always a shock when I would say “ I don’t have a phone number just email me, I live in Kuwait.” Then you get that one shocked look and stupid questions… “ So.. do you… like, feel safe over there?” My response is usually “ I don’t know, do you feel safe over here with all the shootings in your own neighborhood?’

14. God people drive so SLOW here!!!! Yalla! Yalla!!

15. I couldn’t call my friends and ask if they wanted to go to Dubai for the weekend. They wanted to like go to the next city over. And drive. ew.

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Dubai…

16. No-one wanted to wash my car while I shopped at Best Buy. So how do you wash your car?

17. “Do you valet?” Parking my own car is exhausting.

18. Where are all the camels?

Kuwait-01b
Camels anyone?

19. The nearest Starbucks is how far?? 2 miles? That’s incredibly too far.

20. Last but not least:

I had to take my own groceries to my car. Worst experience ever.

Im sure all of you know at least a few of these, if you have more to add please comment!

 

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Lulus Hyper Market

 

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26 thoughts on “Struggles only Middle Eastern Expats know…

  1. This whole article is just, I can’t explain. Yes everything is different in each country but you can’t even fold your own laundry? Mopping and sweeping your own floor is hard? Parking a car is exhausting? Gosh. That’s so sad. I’m sorry someone does EVERYTHING for you over there but I actually enjoying doing all those things on my own. Not everyone drives slow in the united states, Starbucks is pointless. Driving is freedom to some people and again, these countries are extremely different but doing things on your own without help is quite satisfying. This is not a 3rd world country, if you don’t like it don’t come back.

    1. It’s meant to be satire and for a laugh for the silly things we realize are different in each country. No, I don’t go to Starbucks everyday and of course I fold my own laundry even if I have help sometimes. Just to be fun, get a laugh. My entire blog isn’t completely serious.

    2. You have obviously never lived in the Middle East. I do and I recognise everything listed here and I find it extremely funny. Perhaps it’s best not to comment when you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    3. I really don’t understand your reply. It sounds very condescending. I hope that wasn’t your intention.
      You enjoy sweeping, mopping and folding laundry? Really?
      Do you not have kids? Or hobbies or someone you like that you would rather spend that time with? Productive people delegate unskilled tasks. It’s what helps you get more out of your time and ultimately your life.
      If you are able and can afford it, why ever not?
      Am I capable of sweeping and mopping my own floors? Yes, absolutely. Would I rather spend that hour tumbling with my toddler or reading to my daughter? Um…. yeah!
      We could never afford household help in the States. Now that we are in Kuwait, I can have someone come and do the cleaning and washing up so that mama gets more time to be with the littles and my hubby.
      This is definitely a good thing. Amazing, actually. Do you know how many gourmet meals I now attempt a week just because I know I don’t have to deal with the cleanup?
      Or how many times (daily) we head to the beach because I’m not worried about having to come home after hours of playing and have the gargantuan task of washing everyone’s sandy clothes, shoes, car etc? I’m free to enjoy my family without exhausting myself with all the logistics and clean up after. I just bathe the kids and put them to bed knowing the rest will be taken care of.
      I’m glad that you find satisfaction in doing your own housework, but many of us would find that time better spent elsewhere.

  2. I get it, probably only those of us who have had the awesomeness to experience life overseas would. I left Kuwait in June, and I am having serious roller coaster rides of emotions daily. Coming “home” to Canada has been a harder transition then when I left to go to Kuwait. I miss all of those things you mentioned!! well except the heat… I would probably even go back sucking up the decision to come home! A major factor that I have found is the grand expat community in Kuwait and how we all have our cocoon of friends that we have made that grow to be more like family then friends. Coming home… friends have moved on (as they would) no weekends at Avenues, or poolside or just hanging out ordering Talabat!!

  3. Haha, living in Kuwait, this made me laugh! And as much as we moan and groan about the expat life and all the things we miss out on while we’re here, whenever I go back home to see family, I miss Kuwait terribly.

  4. Thanks for the great article, it was spot on! We lived in Kuwait for seven years and after being stateside for three years, we still miss living there. One thing I really miss is having “wasta”. A law is a law, a rule is a rule, a policy is a policy, but it is amazing how far a sweet attitude and genuine kindness will take you. If some says no, someone else usually says yes. I have found that it works here too, but you have to go through many more people to find that kind heart.

  5. Great job, we almost fainted from all the bills we were getting when came back from 12 years in Saudi where they provided everything, everything & house boys. Man those were the days.
    After reading your article my wife is asking “why did we leave? It wasn’t’ my idea!

  6. Totally love your article, so true. The first time I came back to USA after living in Kuwait I had to totally re learn about personal space, everyone thought I was cutting into line when I was just being kind and closing the gaps so no one could cut in. One woman even stepped back and yelped while hugging herself, when I entered her personal space reaching for a can on the supermarket shelf. It was then I realised I needed to adjust back to western ways.

  7. As an American Expat living in Kuwait, I get it. This is SO dead on. I’m guessing the first person who commented can’t relate. I just spent two months in the states and am headed back to Kuwait. When people ask me if I feel safe there, I remind them I have a much higher chance of being harmed in the US. My groceries are cheaper in the US but there is no one to carry them to my car. I must have been missing Kuwait when I taught my nieces the meaning of “Yalla” this summer and used it to get them to hurry up. Reverse culture shock is definitely a real thing that you captured well here quite humorously!

  8. I lived in the Philippines for 17 years and missed alot of cultural ways after moving here. We had 4 maids and a yard boy for $150 a month! Our 7 bedroom house was $200 a month! People were so happy and positive. Everyone laughed easily. I never felt lonely. Yes, stores closed for siesta from 12 to 2 pm, but you just plan your day accordingly.

    1. its different now siesta is no longer the practice here “no lunch break” is the trend, business makes use of waking hours. Stores (groceries) close at 10pm malls 8pm. House helps by law are now protected by law with proper wage rates and mandatory social security coverage.

  9. Great article. Canadian who was an expat in Kuwait…it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…but all were so memorable…

  10. Great article that was meant to be satirical, but so much of it is really true! I lived in Q8 for 12 years and I DO miss my wonderful Sri Lankan maid, Sherry! I still find myself saying Inshallah, and Yalla and using the hand signal for ‘wait’ (fingers together pointed upwards and then shaking the hand a bit). I too got a speeding ticket the first summer I went home. Yep, “Ma’am Sir” is how you’re addressed, but totally miss great customer service from Filipino waitstaff and ordering from Talabat, but there’s Food Panda here in Bangkok. One of the best things about living in Kuwait…with all the holidays, it was a great jumping off point to visit Jordan, Egypt, Oman…Turkey, just to name a few. Europe? 6 hours. However, what I really miss are the wonderful friends I made while living there! Big sigh…

  11. I’ve lived in Kuwait for four years and ABSOLUTELY understand and agree with everything you covered. You really return very different… but I think it’s mostly in a good way. Also a bit lazier. Hehe!

  12. Just came across this. Hilarious! I’m an expat living in Qatar (from the US), and every time we go back ‘home’ (where is home really though?), we get a reverse culture shock!
    The first time I went back and drove into the gas station, I just waited there. My husband then reminded me that I actually have to get out and pump it myself!

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