By Ghadeer Ghloum
KUWAIT: Ever since Kuwait flourished economically after the discovery of oil and having the world’s strongest currency, it started attracting expats from all around the globe. Depending on their circumstances, expats come to Kuwait for different reasons, including higher living standards. Some come with their families and live in Kuwait for a long time and embrace Kuwaiti norms and culture, which blends them with the community, while others come individually for a short period of time. In any case, leaving one’s land of origin is never easy, and like any other place, being an expat in Kuwait has its pros and cons.
Born in Kuwait and raised in India, Mufaddal Patwa, a graphic designer and 3D visualizer, shared with Kuwait Times his experience as an expat in Kuwait for the last 13 years. “One of the biggest advantages of living in Kuwait for expats is the tax-free system, which is a major draw, allowing expats to keep more of their hard-earned income,” Patwa said.
This, he said, encourages people to achieve financial stability. He also referred to Kuwaiti cultural heritage and history as an enriching experience for expats. “The depth of Kuwait’s culture and kindness of its people will forever hold a special place in their memories,” said Patwa, showing his appreciation for Kuwait’s heritage sites and Kuwaiti cuisine, in addition to the Mutlaa Ridge, Souq Mubarakiya and serene beaches. “This country is a beloved home-away-from-home,” he said.
However, being an expat in Kuwait remains challenging under some circumstances, Patwa told Kuwait Times. “While fluency in Arabic often brings growth opportunities for many in the private sector, it also creates challenges for expats who do not speak the language.”
According to him, the importance placed on Arabic proficiency and relationship-building with Arab superiors often limits professional advancement for non-Arabic speakers. Another challenge for expats is visa restrictions that complicate the process of changing jobs and uniting with family members who live outside Kuwait. “It is hard for expats to bring their families or change jobs. This can negatively impact their quality of life and sense of security,” Patwa said.
Dana Aladem, a Palestinian-Jordanian who was born, raised, educated and is now working in Kuwait, sees herself as part of the community and views Kuwait as her country. She expressed her gratitude for living in Kuwait for several reasons. “There are so many advantages of living in Kuwait that have helped me move forward in my life,” she told Kuwait Times. Aladem said Kuwait facilitated her academic journey by offering her a chance to complete her master’s degree at Kuwait University at an extremely affordable price in comparison to other places.
“Education is a priority in my life and Kuwait gave me the opportunity to study my master’s degree at Kuwait University at a very affordable price.” Furthermore, Aladem emphasized her satisfaction at finding the job she likes, as a researcher, which she believes is vital for Kuwait since the state is paying additional attention to support students. Aladem also said Kuwait grants her safety and security. “It is a safe country and this is the most important advantage of living in Kuwait.”
After residing in Kuwait for 67 months, Section Lead for the US Department of Defense Carlos Nino, who also manages the US military live fire and training areas, shared with Kuwait Times his experience as an expat in Kuwait. “I have learned to love Kuwait. Here I converted to Islam and for once learned to experience another culture I’ve fallen in love with to the point I hope to marry into it. I have also met great people,” he said. Living in Kuwait had a unique impact on Nino, as he found himself welcomed in Kuwait, and is interested in further expanding and deepening his relationships in the country.
On the other hand, Nino is confused about some restrictions in Kuwait, such as the inability to own property as an expat. “Lots of the restrictions don’t really affect me as an American as I have seen it affect other nationalities. The main one is not being able to own property, with prices of accommodations high in Kuwait. I am a pickup-truck type of man, so the inability to own one hurts, as well,” Nino said.