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:
- Kuwait is under the death-grip of a bunch of lunatic fundamentalist Islamists who are the de facto rulers.
- Our legitimate leaders are either too powerless to reign them in or actually complicit. I don’t know which is worse!!
- Not a week goes by without yet another outrageous assault on our/your civil liberties!
- Cultural offerings are scarce.
- Movies get butchered by the censors beyond recognition.
- 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.
- The roads are deadly
- The summers are bloody hot and dusty
- The beaches are now polluted. Even the fish you eat is suspect!
- There’s no nightlife to speak of. At all!
- You can’t get a drink anywhere, unless it’s illegal alcohol of dubious origin and outrageous cost.
- The lack of bars that function as social outlets makes it very hard to meet people.
- Public healthcare is a disgrace.
- Public education is a disaster, producing spoiled semi-literate lawless racists.
- Corruption is rampant.
- Lawlessness is a way of life.
- Bureaucracy is a cancer that kills all initiatives.
- Sectarian hatred is rising.
- Development projects are stalled.
- The national airline is a travesty.
- 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.