Sunday, November 12, 2006

What is life in Kuwait going to be like for my children?

As I sit here contemplating the move to Kuwait in May, I am so concerned about what is going on over there. Granted, I am also concerned about what is going on here in the US, but it is a known entity, one that I can predict, to a degree, the possible outcomes. I have been reading the Arab Times online. It is disconcerting the amount of corruption in the system in Kuwait. I know there is major corruption here too, but it doesn't seem to affect the entire nation's ability to move forward here. I wonder when the Kuwaiti people will demand more for themselves and from their government?
I also worry about taking my children from independent schools here and putting them into schools there. Are they going to get as good an education? I do so hope. Anyway, what they will get there is an intact family, and I know that that is the most important thing for them. For the most part, I am wondering and trying to picture what their lives will be like.
If anyone out there reads this and has ideas about growing up in Kuwait versus the US: schools, opportunites, social issues, etc. Please give me some of your opinions!!!


skunk said...

hi there,

i grew up in kuwait, but i'm not american so i cant help you with that part of the question.

i suppose it really depends on how long youre planning on staying here. the longer the greater the effect of course.

naturally there are both pros and cons about growing up here. i wont say that the pros are greater than the cons,.... but i will say that the pros outweigh in quality the sheer number of cons.

i travelled thru the us and did my univeristy in the UK, and there is a disitinct difference in the worldly attitudes of those whove lived overseas compared to those who havent.

the best thing about it is that you get a greater view of the world and how it works. even the corruption thing you talked about is an insight into how things really work in any country.

in a nutshell i think it'll give your children a broader frame of reference, and experiences theyd never get back home, all of which contribute to your childs character.

if youre planning on staying for quite a while you might want to google the phrase 'third culture kids' because that is essentially what they will become.

lol dont worry its not necessarily abad thing, and i personally love being one myself :P

if you have any questions my profile should have my email address on there.

heres the link to my post about 3rd culture kids:

nibaq said...

Arab Times is a tabloid magazine, we read if for jokes at times for its content and writing.

Schools in Kuwait are great, there are many private schools that really value education and those graduates go on to complete their education in the UK or US.

When considering how their life will be like besides the more consumerism US lifestyle there isn't much different. You got family, friends and safe pleasant place to live.

Stinni said...

My son is 5 and goes to private English school in Kuwait. There are pros and cons to schools in Kuwait and in the States. In the States I would worry about the school loner showing up to school with a gun to blow everyone away. In Kuwait I worry about pedophile and/or unqualified expat teachers.

In the U.S. you have plenty to do with your children but in Kuwait you sort of have to find things to do.

Check out the American Womens League in Kuwait. They used to be a big organization with activities for children. The British Ladies Society also offers things for moms and children.

If your husband is American and moving here as a contract worker, then you'll probably have you're own network within weeks, comprised of other contract workers and their spouses.

Stinni said...

I forgot to add:
American family in Kuwait. She home schools her children. I think they're from the south.

Good luck.

Carly said...

Thank you all for your comments and opinions. I have begun the dialog with ASK. I understand that there are some drawbacks of it being 'too' American, but I have heard the education is pretty good. Pedofiles??? Yikes!! Meaning teachers or students? I have heard of that through my husband in the govt. that a problem at the private ones too???
Thanks all!

Intlxpatr said...

You're in for a roller coaster ride. You will meet some of the kindest, most gracious and hospitable people you will ever meet. You will also run into frustrations trying to do the simplest thing. Plan now just to sit back and roll with it. I agree with Skunk :-) I too was a TCK and have been in the expat life most of my life.

Kuwait is very modern in a lot of ways. You will find modern stores, modern conveniences. You will also find exotic and challenging differences. Be prepared to grow and expand your ways of thinking.


AmericanQ8 said...

Carly, I hope this helps. I'm sending an article which appeared in the Friday Times here a couple of months ago. It was written by a young American who, after growing up in Kuwait, was contemplating his life upon returning to the States:

A Farewell to Kuwait
By Josh Boone
For most expats, Kuwait is just a stop-over in the wide spectrum of life, a place where one can work, live relatively cheap and make as much money as possible and then move on without giving Kuwait another glance. Yet for the few who have made this small desert nation their home, it is much more than that.
When I moved here I was seven years old and my family only planned on staying here for five years. I can still remember waking up the first morning feeling like I was in another world. Everything was different from living in an apartment, to the food, to getting used to people speaking in a different language. Nevertheless, adjustment was made easily as soon as I was enrolled in school which was another experience all in itself. Being used to the very bland cultural mix at too many American public schools, I was surprised by the diversity at my school – so many cultures all converging in one place to interact. Instantly, I made friends and within the first month I was adjusting just fine, even picking up a little of the native language.
For me, the opportunity to attend school in such an international environment is one of the best experiences I have gotten out of Kuwait. Through this I was able to gain irreplaceable knowledge about other places which over time has made me more open-minded to different cultures.
Another opportunity Kuwait gives its youth is the ability to be a kid and keep your innocence. Unlike most places in the West where kids grow up much faster and experience things at a younger age, Kuwait has a way of shielding its youth from things such as drugs and sex. This was a major shocker for me when I returned to America for two years in 1997 while my mother was going back to college. Once again everything was different. At my new school, the majority was white and although everyone could wear what they wanted to wear, they still looked uniformed to me. It was a small town in Florida called Navarre and everybody who went to my school was from that town. Yet, the hardest thing to get used to was the fact that all the kids were not into playing outside or video games like my old school. Here they talked about girls and going to parties – some even mentioned smoking pot. Even the curriculum was different. We had classes where police officers would discuss what happens to drug abusers and to kids who break the law and other classes on sex education where teenage mothers would inform the class on the dangers of premarital sex. To say the least I was shocked about how kids in the States behaved vs. Kuwait and desperately wished to return to a much simpler time which I eventually did a year later.
Of course things were never the same after returning to America for those two years, but I also got a chance to see what my life could have been like had I not left the States and I was more than happy to return to Kuwait a year later.
Now the time has come for me to once again leave my global citizenship behind and return to America and I can’t help but have a couple of questions racing through my head. The first and foremost, am I ready not to live the “cushy” lifestyle I live here with the housekeepers, drivers, cheap gas and three dollar valet parking? Not to mention cleaning and cooking for myself which I am ashamed to say I have very little experience. Secondly, can I really deal with the ignorance associated with the people who spend their whole lives in one place? I mean every time I have returned to the States and talk to people about where I’ve been and my experiences I start to realize that almost no one can relate or see the world as I have. Finally, I wonder how the States is changed this time and will it be as big a shocker as when I returned eight years ago? The truth is I have no idea but at least I have had the chance to see what life was like outside the bubble and now I will see if I can stand life inside.

Kleio said...

I have never heard of a case of pedophilia from any of the really good private (American/English) schools. Maybe that's something to worry about in the schools of lower standard (although again I've never heard of a case in the foreign schools), but you're definitely doing the right thing by talking to A.S.K. They are by far the best private school in Kuwait. Your children will get a 100% American education, in a multi-cultural environment. I went to A.S.K. from KG-12, then did my undergradaute degree at a top university in the U.S., and am now doing my PhD in the UK.

The biggest advantage to raising your kids in Kuwait is that it's safe. It's always a good idea to get in touch with other American or expat families when you first arrive to give you their insights, but I think you won't have that much trouble transitioning. Basically, in Kuwait you have the option of either totally immersing yourself in the local culture and society, or completely isolating yourself from it and only associating with expats. Most Americans I know in Kuwait live somewhere in the middle - making friends with expats but also getting involved in the local lifestyle. But what it all means is, you have a choice. Your kids will certainly get the best of all worlds in A.S.K. Most of my American and European friends in school really loved living in Kuwait, and some actually moved back after university.

Don't get too antsy or nervous based on things you read or hear on the news. Yes, Kuwait is right next door to Iraq, but you don't "feel" the effects of the war despite the proximity. As for the local corruption, like others have said there is corruption everywhere. As an expat living there, there is a lot that you won't have to deal with or worry about. Yes, there's a lot of bureaucracy and something as simple as getting a phone line can be extremely frustrating, but believe me, I live in London and it is just as frustrating sometimes here too! The States has mastered the art of convenience and customer service. It's not quite the same anywhere else in the world! As long as you are aware of that going in, you'll be fine. And there are always people to help in every little thing.

Reading Kuwaiti blogs is a good way to get a more realistic first-hand impression of what life in Kuwait is like.

Good luck and all the best!

Carly said...

thanks inti & americanQ, your posts were very helpful. american, are you planning on putting your ph.d to use in secondary schooling or university level. it seems like the public schools could use some help. :)

Carly said...

I don't know how these comments keep getting messed up. I had replied to all who wrote here, but....Anyway thank you all. Kleio, your post was very optimistic and hopeful. That's a great way for me to go in! Thanks.

Anonymous said...


I am also considering moving my family over to kuwait. I have 2 girls 5 and 7. I'm concerned are the girls treated badly? I've heard stories and worry about my girls. I was also wondering how you were doing carly? If you are adjusting and do you like it.

Carly said...

Hello Anon,
As you can see I haven't been blogging in ages! I have started working, teaching in a university, so I am busier now.
My children have adjusted pretty well now. The one I worried about most was my daughter, as she was the eldest and a preteen at the time of the move, and she is the one who has made the best adjustment! She love her friends and the little world they move in.
I think my son, who is now in middle school, has had the harder time given his nature and personality. He is just more sensitive than the average "Joe" his age. :)
You asked about girls...I don't see that girls are in any way treated badly. I have found no discrepancies in the way they are dealt with in school, nor in the outside realm, especially given the ages of your girls.
The major setbacks would probably be along the lines of things to do. There are just not that many; however, you can do some searching and find some good things too: art, music, dance classes, sports, travel, and of course malls, malls, malls! :)
There are many frustrating things about living here, as I am sure would be the case for me in living anywhere other than 'home'. But I found that you just have to make your own little world: family, a couple of really good friends, joining a nice health club, etc.
It is doable, and it is nice to be able to have the domestic help that makes it more so here!
Please write again, if I haven't answered what you want to know. I'd be glad to help.
Best wishes in your decision!

Anonymous said...

My husband is working in Kuwait and he hasn't meet anybody to hang out with. I was wondering where he could go to meet some people. The people he works with are loners and he is getting a little depressed. Any suggestions would be helpful. Congrats on the job.

Carly said...

Hey Anon,
Sorry for the late reply. Gosh, I don't know...what does he like to do? Does he want to hang with Americans or locals or what? Has he looked into joining a club, health or sports?
Fill me in a bit and maybe I can help.

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