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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Kuwait City, Kuwait

Mar 07, 2016

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This expat culture shock report about Kuwait offers a glimpse at the experiences of an expat woman in the Middle Eastern country. Difficulties with Arabic, taxi drivers and cultural blunders are covered.

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

Kuwait City

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

The only cross-cultural training I received beforehand was the information I gathered on my own. After arriving, new hire orientation provided a little, but the majority was gained through experience.

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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?

After I moved here, I began Arabic lessons. It did help; however, the language does not utilize building blocks, such as Latin and Greek roots, and requires complete memorization. I can decipher a piece of writing, but I have no idea what it says.

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

Because I had thoroughly researched moving abroad, I was aware of cultural shock, which helped me recognize it in myself. Labeling it goes a long way in managing it.

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

Because it was my first move abroad, culture shock played a significant role. Rather than stages that one progresses through, I found it's more like a roller coaster that, with time, levels out into a smoother ride.

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?

I experienced all of these stages, some longer and more intense than others. Mine came in waves, and some stages reappeared that I thought I had already overcome. However, recognizing my emotions for what they were helped me manage the effects.

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.

I did experience some depression and a prolonged sense of detachment as if I did not belong to any group or any place.

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

I appreciate the people's sense of pride in their country, for they are very patriotic.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Oddly enough, I have had more trouble with other expats, mainly males. These men are aggressive, presumptuous, and will not accept no for an answer. If a women has light colored hair, she will probably be a target of unwanted advances. Another group that has been difficult is the taxi drivers. Of course, not all but certainly many will overcharge you without a second thought. I tend to avoid taxis as much as possible, but that also limits my experiences and outings.

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

The only blunder I committed was trying to shake the hand of a Muslim man. Many will not touch women who are not their family members. It made for an awkward encounter.

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

Know the stages so that you can recognize them while you're coping. Stay connected to other expats, and keep pressing forward, for it will improve with time, and you will enjoy your adventure abroad.

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