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Living in Kuwait

The information provided under this section helps a new expat get acquainted with some general information about living, cultural, political aspects and religious beliefs in Kuwait to have an informed life start.
Kuwait is the largest city on the Arabian Gulf with a population nearing four million. Though the land area is similar to the size of Wales, the population is mostly confined to a single conurbation. The climate of Kuwait is that of a semi-desert with winter temperatures falling close to freezing but with summer temperature exceeding 50°C in the shade. Despite the high summer temperatures, living conditions remain comfortable with the extensive use of air-conditioning.

Kuwait is a friendly, pleasant and easy place to live in. The cost of living is similar to any other developed state and how far one’s money goes really depends on one’s choice of lifestyle.

LANGUAGE

English is spoken by the majority of people in Kuwait. Nearly all shops, road-signs, advertising and even the currency employ English script as well as Arabic.
Newspapers are available and there are two local English-language daily newspapers (Kuwait Times and Arab Times).

TRANSPORTATION

Taxis are the most distinct, practical and convenient type of transportation in Kuwait, as they are easily located in several residential areas, and public places in all of the cities in Kuwait. There are taxi offices everywhere in Kuwait. Majority of taxis operate 24 hours.

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With the cheapest fuel prices and large urban motorways and expressways, many take the opportunity to own vehicles whilst some choose to lease rental cars. Kuwait City has no shortage of transportation options whether for tourists or corporate travelers. Kuwait has a well-developed road system.

CLIMATE

Kuwait's climate is one of extremes. Maximum temperatures in the summer can rise above 50 degrees centigrade, but can drop to below 0 degrees in the desert in the winter. Summer is deemed to run from May to October and sees not only extremely hot weather, but also spectacular sand storms with high winds which can reduce visibility to nil. It’s usually very pleasant during November to April. Annual rainfall is about 5 inches. In general the coastal area is marginally cooler and more pleasant. Humidity is usually low.

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RELIGION

Kuwait is an Islamic state, and mosques of varying size and importance are to be found throughout the country. The largest is the Great Grand Mosque (Masjid Al Kabir) opposite the Seif Palace. For most newcomers, their first awareness of Islam will come as the dawn prayer rings out across the city, the first of five calls to prayer each day.
There are five pillars of Islam – basic beliefs common to all Muslims. The first is the profession of faith: "There is no other god but Allah, and Mohammed is the messenger of God". The second is prayer and the third is fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. The fourth is the giving of alms, and the fifth is the pilgrimage or Haj to Mecca, which all believers should attempt to make during their lifetime. Islam has a separate calendar with 12 months all of which are timed to the phases of the moon.

 

Kuwait is a shopper’s paradise! There are excellent super markets selling food stuffs from all over the world, including all of the well-known brands. Major international household stores are represented including CARREFOUR, GEANT, IKEA, ACE, MARKS & SPENCER and DEBENHAMS, along with numerous local.
The nightlife in Kuwait focuses on friends and food, and smoke of water pipe or shisha, or maybe one of the low-key discos, but alcohol will not be sold here due to religious beliefs. However, nightlife in Kuwait has its own charm and can add different kind of flavor to your vacation, as nightlife in this city does not mean just the nightclubs and bars.
Away from the malls, the more traditional shops and ‘souks’ provide opportunities for bargain-hunting and purchasing eastern goods. Supermarkets are numerous and fully-stocked with western and local products.

PRACTICE OF OTHER RELIGIONS- Unlike other Middle Eastern countries Kuwait has a written Constitution i.e. Article 35 that states… “Freedom of belief is absolute. The State protects the freedom of practicing religion in accordance with established customs, provided that it does not conflict with public policy or morals.”
CHURCHES IN KUWAIT
• Evangelical Church, Kuwait City
• Roman Catholic Church, Kuwait City
• Roman Catholic Church, Ahmadi
• Roman Catholic Church, Salmiyah

PERSONAL CONDUCT /BEHAVIOR

Exercise particular care in your behavior with others, especially officials, to avoid offending local sensitivities. Verbal insults and obscene gestures may be considered a criminal act and, if found guilty, the accused could face deportation, fines and/or a prison sentence. People have been detained on allegations of showing disrespect toward others by making verbal insults and obscene gestures. Avoid intimate physical contacts, in public.

 

POPULATION

Kuwait's population is so small that the country has traditionally needed a significant foreign workforce. Consequently, there is a large population of non-Kuwaitis working in Kuwait. The expatriate workforce is multinational with particularly large numbers of Egyptians, Indians, Filipinos and Pakistanis. The total population is about 3.4 million.

The holy month of Ramadan is important as a month wherein all Muslims fast completely from dawn to sunset– this refers refraining from eating, drinking and smoking, and to every other "bodily indulgence" including malicious gossip and spite.
Nightfall is marked by the breaking of the fast, and the whole month is a time of celebration and family togetherness.
It is important to note that during Ramadan non-Muslims are also forbidden to eat, drink or smoke in public and that this is upheld by law.
During Ramadan business hours are usually adapted. Public holidays are usually associated with the Islamic religion and are a time for celebration.

PROHIBITED ITEMS

Items like Alcoholic beverages, pork and bacon products, pigskin and, of course, narcotics of any kind are absolutely prohibited. Videos/DVDs are subject to censorship and some books are blacklisted as politically subversive. Pornographic material is banned. Import restrictions are similar to those found in other countries as regards fire arms and explosives.

DRIVING LICENCE

It is relatively easy, although time consuming and tedious, to get a Kuwait driving license, if you already have a driving license. Unfortunately, it is not possible to get a license until residency has been stamped and the Civil I.D. card obtained. This can take two to three months. To save time buy a car! The process involves translation of the Home Country license, completion of application form and various letters provided by the school. Applicants then take all of their paperwork to the local Traffic Department, have an eye test, make a payment and a license (usually for 10 years) is issued.

 

Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol and pork products of any kind and these commodities are therefore illegal in Kuwait.
CLOTHING - The extremes of temperature make it essential to have a range of clothing suitable in extremely hot summer to freezing cold winter.
What one wears is a matter of personal choice and whilst expat women are not required to cover up with an abaya (a full-length long-sleeved dress which covers the clothing underneath from shoulders to toes), a large amount of sensitivity should be considered so as not to attract unwarranted attention or to cause offence. Generally covering the knees and shoulders when out in public is a must. Within the shopping malls, cinemas and restaurants the air-conditioning can be extremely fierce so it is a good idea to carry a scarf, shawl or cardigan! In the winter warm clothing is recommended.
It is normal in Kuwait to dress smartly and to maintain a high standard of personal hygiene. During working hours staff is required to dress formally and conservatively and to maintain the highest standards of grooming. During the summer contact lens wearers may experience frequent drying out of the eyes even if protected by sun glasses, and are advised to invest in prescription sunglasses which automatically lighten and darken with the intensity of the light. Female are advised to swimsuit as in some places bikinis are not acceptable.

TELEPHONES

Telephones Land Lines cannot be applied for until all residency documentation is complete (6-8 weeks). Local calls are free and international calls can be received on land line phones. International lines can also be applied for, but are very expensive (KD 500 deposit) and are not recommended. Telephone cards can easily be obtained to make international calls and the cost is quite reasonable, being comparable to the international rates at off peak times. Mobile phones are very popular, it is recommended to bring your own mobile and change the chip when you arrive in Kuwait. Ensure your phone is ‘unlocked’ to accept a Kuwaiti sim card. Local sim card can be obtained by submitting a copy of your passport or civil to any local service provider outlet and can be activated immediately.
An attachment (USB dongle) for a lap top can also be used for internet access, available from the local mobile phone service; this is the most reasonable method of having internet access without bothering with a home phone line. The use of Skype and other methods of cheap internet ‘phoning’ are steadily taking over from regular overseas phone calls.

POSTAL SERVICES

The postal service is normally reliable, but there are occasional lapses. Letters to or from the all parts of the world usually take 5 and 10 working days. Many use private courier services like DHL, TNT etc. for timely and safe delivery of items.

 

TRAVELLING

Expats who have residency can travel in and out of Kuwait as they wish. At present it is, for obvious reasons, not possible to travel to Iraq and obtaining a visa to travel to or through Saudi Arabia is very difficult. However, people frequently travel to Bahrain and the UAE on weekends. Also reasonably accessible are Oman, Egypt and Cyprus. Many take advantage of longer holidays to travel further to such destinations as India, Turkey, Thailand and Kenya.
Expats coming to Kuwait on work Visa/ NOC must wait till they obtain their residency and civil ID sponsored by the employer to exit the country as departing from Kuwait will automatically cancel the NOC/ Work Visa.

HEALTH CARE

All expatriates are charged KD 50 per annum for Government health care - this is paid by the employer. There are well equipped government and

private clinics and hospitals throughout Kuwait offering medical care. Standards are usually good. Most expatriates use the government clinics. There are many excellent pharmacies throughout Kuwait and these operate a rota system for night services. Most hospitals and clinics have in-house pharmacies. There are many efficient and reasonably priced opticians where eye tests are free and glasses delivered within 24 hours. Banks offer yearly travel insurance for a nominal sum and will cover health costs when overseas (not in Kuwait).

FINANCE AND BANKING

Kuwaiti Dinar (KD) is currency of Kuwait. It is traditionally a stable currency linked to the dollar. However, rates do vary from day to day – but is usually approximately I KD = 3.3 USD.
The KD is divided into 1000 fils. Kuwait is served by modern banks which offer all normal banking services. International credit cards are generally accepted by major businesses.
Opening times for banks are usually 8.30 am to 1:00 pm Sunday through Thursday. Most banks are open in the evening and work from 5:00 pm to 7:00p.m.All banks provide automatic cash withdrawal facilities outside working hours. School and the majority of its employees have accounts with Boubyan Bank, Ahli United Bank, and Gulf Bank
Banks and money exchanges provide facilities to change money. New staff is advised to use their credit cards to withdraw cash locally and bring cash with them for the first month, rather than any form of traveler’s cheque. Kuwait airport also houses several money exchange counters for easy access.

Informative Websites

https://kuwait.visahq.com/
www.kuwaittimes.net
www.aware.com.kw
www.expatwoman.com
www.expatarrivals.com/kuwait/pros-and-cons-of-moving-to-kuwait
www.e.gov.kw/sites/kgoEnglish/Pages/Visitors/Visitors.aspx
 

HEALTH REGULATIONS

In order to qualify for residency one must have a medical check which is mostly geared towards detecting such major diseases as AIDS, Hepatitis, Malaria and TB. Those found to have serious infectious diseases are not allowed to stay in the country.
Vaccinations certificates against cholera and yellow fever are required from travelers coming from infected areas with the exception of children less than one year old. Vaccination against TB is recommended.
Expats are advised to contact their local Kuwait embassy to obtain latest information in this regard.
SHIPPING GOODS- Goods can be sent by both air and sea to Kuwait. Bear in mind that school accommodation provides most of the household items, almost anything that you need for daily living is all available in Kuwait. Most teachers coming new to Kuwait bring only their personal effects in the suitcase and bring any other goods they feel they need when back on holiday.
One may ship goods to Kuwait; the delivery time may vary from one courier service provider to another.
Items which seem to cause most problems are: Medicines, Sharp tools, nail cutter, knife, liquids /drinks of any kind, perfumes etc. must be avoided to carry.

Embassies Website and Contacts

www.kuwaitiah.net/embassy.html
www.kuwait.usembassy.gov
www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations/british-embassy-kuwait
www.canadainternational.gc.ca/kuwait-koweit/