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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Hawally, Kuwait

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Hawally

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

Yes, briefly after the move

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

No, it isn't needed in my setting, enough people know English or are able to translate.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

Yes

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How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Nothing as bad as I expected. It is much more modernized and safe than I had pictured that it would be.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Yes, to some degree, though we were well traveled with our prior military background, we'd never been to the Middle East.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

frustration, less tolerance, homesickness at certain times

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

their acceptance of "foreigners", at least Westerners

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

I work in schools and come from being a mandated reporter of child abuse, it is more of the norm here, and there are no laws or much education about it. Another challenge for us is the way they drive in Kuwait. We'd heard about this when researching before coming here, but you actually have to live it to understand how terrible it is. That is very frustrating, and could be dangerous!

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

When I was interviewing for the position (school counselor), the Kuwaiti man on the interview team wouldn't give me eye contact when I was answering his questions. He'd look down at his papers, or over at my husband (it was a team interview, jobs for both of us). I thought he was being rude or that I was bombing out on the interview, like he wasn't interested. I found out later, that this was a form of respect for me. If he'd looked me in the eye it could be interpreted as a come on/flirtation. I am glad I kept my fuming to myself and didn't accuse him of being rude or uninterested in my responses during the interview!

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Remember your ways are not necessarily their ways, but that doesn't make either one wrong. To combat homesickness, be sure to bring family photos, and arrange to do webcams or skypes, to feel still connected to the familiar. This will comfort and sustain you until you go home for visits. Get out and experience the country and culture, don't stay cooped up in your apartment/house. Look at it as an adventure. Lots of your friends and family will actually be envious, and will want to travel vicariously through your experiences.

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