Wednesday, May 02, 2012


It seems my last post struck a chord with many of you, and I am grateful to you for sharing your varied experiences growing up and/or living here in Kuwait. Some of you have settled here permanently and are genuinely happy, some of you are just getting by until you move back home, some of you come from places that are much harder to live in.. and that's just fine. Every expatriate community around the world has a similar mix of people. And by the way, I apologize for the use of the word "foreigner" a couple of times in the post. I understand now how grating it must feel to read it.

I confess that while this post was brewing in my head for months, what set me off that day was just one single online rant from a couple of expats who hail from one of the most desirable and advanced countries in the world, with one of the highest standards of living anywhere. Their rant was sort of justified, but it got me wondering how and why these people came here in the first place, and why they are putting up with this nonsense. Why don't they move back to their wonderful country where they will be much happier? That's what I'm still curious to find out.

As I said somewhere in the comments, the litany of grievances that I listed were a mixture of my own frustrations and the complaints I hear from some expats. But mainly they are our own legitimate complaints as Kuwaitis, and I mean the Kuwaitis who actually care about what's going on in our country and not the lobotomized consumer zombies trolling the shopping malls day and night, numbed by a constant diet of junk-food and repression.

Kuwaiti is on the edge of an abyss, driven very close to that edge by sheer incompetence, corruption, negligence, short-sightedness and indifference from the very top all the way down. Add to that dismal scenario a toxic mix of sectarianism, fundamentalism and ignorance and is it any wonder we're in the state we're in? There are times when I switch off and simply focus on work, friends and family and not worry myself with what's going on around me. Other times I watch the news from around the world and deliberately ignore news from Kuwait. But inevitably it all creeps back into my life one way or another.

So yes, dear expats, we Kuwaitis have our real worries and grievances too; the biggest of which is that a small wealthy nation like ours is squandering away its future and not living up to its potential. More on that in other post, or you can go through the long archives of old posts because God knows how many times I've said this before!

OFF TOPIC: Since most Kuwaiti bloggers and blog readers have migrated to Twitter (thus illustrating Kuwaitis' notoriously short attention-spans!), I've become less motivated to write long elaborate posts here on Kuwait Unplugged, even though I love writing and I miss it very much. But it seems that it's mainly the Arabic-language (i.e. Kuwaiti) readers who have moved away while the English readers are still here. Is that a correct assessment? There's only one way to find out, people! As I've said many times over the years, it's the interaction with readers that keeps me going so lets see how it goes before I decide to make a full return to blogging :-)

Don't let me down!

Thursday, April 05, 2012


I haven’t written anything on this blog in well over a year, but today’s post has been brewing in my head for a very long time and I’ve finally made the effort to write it down and post it. And I am writing it in English because it is addressed to Kuwait’s large and varied expatriate community.

First, a disclaimer: This is not a xenophobic “if you don’t like Kuwait, get the hell out” assault, the likes of which many of you have no doubt encountered on many blogs (mainly in the comments) over the years. No, I am writing this out of genuine concern and bewilderment. I seriously want to know what keeps you foreigners here in Kuwait.

Are you happy here? If yes, that’s wonderful and I would love for you to share your thoughts. If not, why are you still living here?

Just so we're clear, I am a full-fledged Kuwaiti, born and raised here with a few years abroad during my college years. And while I didn’t have a standard Kuwaiti upbringing (whatever that is), I nevertheless feel that I am of this land and my roots will always be here. I love it like anyone else, warts and all.

Yet most of us Kuwaitis are in an abusive relationship with our country; we love it much more than it loves us and of course this is the root cause of our frustration. We suffer daily the indignity of watching our beloved country descend into a swamp of ignorance, chaos and corruption while all around us our neighbors continue to make great strides forward; we’re approaching failed state status, albeit a failed state with a lot of money which just makes it even more failed in my opinion. And yet at the end of the day, it’s home.. and we do what we can to make it better, bit by bit. It’s a tough battle and getting tougher every day but we cannot give up the good fight.

But enough about us Kuwaitis. What about you expats of all nationalities? What keeps you here? No, really… I’m genuinely curious. I hear and read the complaints on a daily basis on the blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc. and I always wonder why you don’t just move to somewhere else where you’ll be happier. Again, I’m not telling anyone to get the hell out but since many of you don’t have deep roots here, why do you feel obliged to stay if you’re unhappy? Look around you and take note of the following:
  1. Kuwait is under the death-grip of a bunch of lunatic fundamentalist Islamists who are the de facto rulers.
  2. Our legitimate leaders are either too powerless to reign them in or actually complicit. I don’t know which is worse!!
  3. Not a week goes by without yet another outrageous assault on our/your civil liberties!
  4. Cultural offerings are scarce.
  5. Movies get butchered by the censors beyond recognition.
  6. Aside from a few restaurants, most eating options are in shopping malls, killing any hope of a pleasant dining experience because you have to cut through the marauding hordes just to get a decent meal.
  7. The roads are deadly
  8. The summers are bloody hot and dusty
  9. The beaches are now polluted. Even the fish you eat is suspect!
  10. There’s no nightlife to speak of. At all!
  11. You can’t get a drink anywhere, unless it’s illegal alcohol of dubious origin and outrageous cost.
  12. The lack of bars that function as social outlets makes it very hard to meet people.
  13. Public healthcare is a disgrace.
  14. Public education is a disaster, producing spoiled semi-literate lawless racists.
  15. Corruption is rampant.
  16. Lawlessness is a way of life.
  17. Bureaucracy is a cancer that kills all initiatives.
  18. Sectarian hatred is rising.
  19. Development projects are stalled.
  20. The national airline is a travesty.
  21. The entry visa process is an insult to humanity.
I could go on, but I’m getting depressed myself!! Basically the country is falling apart due to severe mismanagement and nobody seems to care or want to do anything to fix it. It takes an especially sad turn when we look at Kuwait’s wasted potential and its loss of prominence among its neighbors. I think it all went to our heads and we simply got complacent and lazy while our neighbors overtook us.

And yet it’s not all doom and gloom. There are bright spots that make life in Kuwait pleasant and easy going.

But that’s not why we’re here today… We Kuwaitis can tolerate and fight all the above points because it’s our home. The question is: Why should you foreigners have to put up with this?? I know many expats who live in Saudi Arabia, which is far more oppressive and limited than Kuwait will ever be, and yet I don’t hear them complain as loudly. Is it because they were very clear about what they were getting into? Is it because they are being paid amazing tax-free salaries they wouldn’t dream of getting at home? Is it because there is hardly any freedom of speech there? Please share your thoughts.

Again, I must repeat that this is not a “get the hell out” rant. I strongly believe that Kuwait is greatly enriched by its community of expats from all over the world, and that you have every right to have your voices heard. Constructive criticism is always welcome and you should never feel that you are offending Kuwaitis by being honest. I know there are many Kuwaitis who feel you should just take your salaries at the end of the month and keep your mouths shut, but on behalf of all decent Kuwaitis – and there's a lot of us! – I apologize for their rudeness and urge you to ignore them.

Please share your views here in the blog comments or wherever you read this post.