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Kuwait : As I see…

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Since I have been in Kuwait, I have been observing things very closely here about the customs, the odd facts & the way things move here and there has been some really interesting revelations which has struck my four eyes and it would be really nice to pen them down & share it with you all and shatter some myths about Kuwait…even though I have spent little over a month here, I still feel like writing about them and letting the world know more about Kuwait which globally is known for the Iraqi Invasions than anything more…

1. The first thing which struck me the moment I landed here was there is no taboo wrt Smoking in public places here, when I was checking out at the Airport I saw people smoking openly in the Airport Building and there were no “No Smoking” boards to be seen (atleast I didn’t see any) and the biggest revelation was when I saw a smoking personnel manning the Baggage Screening counter and smoking away to glory in his Military Fatigues!!! I went up to him and asked him “Can you smoke in the Airport” and he merrily replied back “Man, you can smoke anywhere in Kuwait, want a smoke?”!!! Since then I have seen people smoking in Shopping Malls, Barber Shops and even inside a Hospital Parking Lot. I am sure the big reason for this phenomenon is that Liquor is completely banned here so people atleast want some form of intoxication which they can enjoy uninhibited!!! But surely sanity has to prevail here as non-smokers have every right not to inhale the smoke and there are even children at public places who inhale the harmful smoke unknowingly…don’t know when that would happen here but surely that is the way towards a better future…

2. The next thing which I noticed were the wide roads, big cars and crazy speeds on Kuwaiti Roads, every car is zooming away from your vision, the permissible speed on the Ring Roads here is 120 kmph but you can easily sense that people go way beyond that. All brands of cars are visible here, the brands which are quite rare to sight in India are commonly seen here zipping away to glory; Porsche, Maserati, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Hummer, Buick, Lexus, Cadillac and a host of other brands which I had never heard before, ones like GMC, Lincoln, Genesis, Infinity & Dodge, Dips helped me in getting to know more about them though, have seen almost all series of BMW & Mercedes here. The best quality Petrol is sold at Rs. 9 a litre here and that’s the reason everybody here drives a big engine car, yes I have seen some Sparks, Altos, Swifts and Matizs here but still those are rarities…lets see which Car I manage to buy…

3. You don’t see stray dogs in Kuwait but Stray Cats are omnipresent!!! Yes you can see cats gorging away with gay abandon in Dustbins all over the place, one of the locals here told me that Dogs are a taboo here that’s why they are very rarely seen here and there are strict rules which apply to Pet Dog Owners…

4. Kuwait is Numero Uno in terms of Per Capita Waste Generation, every resident here generates on an average 0.80 Kgs. of waste every day, no wonder you see rampant misuse of Plastic Bags everywhere, even the Laundry packs underwear here in Plastic Bags one by one!!! Nobody cares about not using plastic here and I don’t think there’s any effort any effort by the Government here to limit the use, I hope there’s enough recycling happening to minimise the damage otherwise the World might be fighting about Global Warming but here in Kuwait nobody even bothers…

5. The Cost of Living is surprisingly very economical here, I had heard when I had not come here that this place would be very expensive and the savings won’t be that high but in my 1 month time here I have observed that almost all the things are not at all expensive, the groceries are similarly priced as in India, the food is a little bit more expensive and electronics are much cheaper here. All in all it means that my savings potential here would be pretty decent.

6. Since I have been here I have been pleasantly surprised by the good weather, it has rained 4-5 times in the last month which is a rarity plus there was a Thunderstorm here as well on 18-April which is known as “Sarrayat” so I am yet to experience the typical oppressive Middle East Heat but as time goes by it would happen sooner than later, the temperatures in the summers here reach as high as 55 degrees, so all my friends in India can get some consolation seeing my plight in some time to come!!! But here there are no Power Cuts(thankfully!!!) and every covered area is air-conditioned so you really don’t feel the heat if you stay indoors in the day and luckily my job is a desk-job so no travelling out in the heat for me and it’s a big relief!!!

7. The Nishant-Rain Love Affair continues even here and people are calling me the lucky charm who has bought bucket-loads of rains here with me from India!!! This affair started with the Mcleodganj Ride in April 2009 and followed with my rides/trips to Binsar, Mt. Abu, Bharuch, Bhangarh, Bikaner & Wellington and no wonder it is following me to Kuwait as well…Rain Power I call it!!!

8. Talking of Power and the bills, the electricity is extremely cheap here, at my home which is a centrally air-conditioned one and power is used quite freely without any worries because with all the crazy power consumption included the bill comes to just 7-8 KWD a month which is just 1250 INR a month, surely the Government here is very liberal and the residents just love it!!!

9. Believe me folks Kuwaitis are the luckiest people on this Planet Earth, they get paid by the Government for everything, Monthly Allowances, Car, Home and zero percent loans for their entire life, yes that’s true. And in the Private Sector the minimum salary to be paid to Resident Kuwaitis is 750 KWD per month which is some 1,15,000 INR even if they are pure freshers and this is a Government Rule. One particular caste here gets 75,000 KWD when they get married and that’s just a small measure of 1 Crore INR!!! And it gets better with time, 5,000 KWD for each child; no wonder Kuwaitis have atleast 5-6 children each!!!

10. Due to the Harsh Weather conditions and the crazy traffic here Motorcycling here is not a passion activity or even used as a Mode of Transport even when the Harley here is priced at just the half price in India and the time I have been here I have just seen 5-6 bikes on the road here and am yet to spot a Harley on the road but there are some Motorcycling Clubs which meet frequently and go to the Desert Rides to enjoy Motorcycling. Let’s see when I can gather the money & courage to buy my Dream Machine Harley here and join the fun…

11. For the crazy money this country has and it generates, this is a very small country wrt the size. if you compare, it is 1/3rd the size of Haryana and in the range of 150 kms one can reach the Saudi Arabia & the Iraq border. Almost half off the country is filled with Oil Fields and Kuwait holds 10% of the Global Share of Petroleum reserves and the estimates predict that this would stay for the next 90-100 years, I wonder what happens to Kuwait after that, its high time they reduce the dependency on Oil Revenues but believe me it’s gonna be tough, they have no other resources other than oil, human or non-human!!!

12. As you know or might not know that the Currency of Kuwait – The Kuwaiti Dinar is the strongest currency in the World, currently the exchange rate is Rs. 155 for one KWD and the surprising part is that here coins are very prevalent and the biggest currency note is of 20 KWD, yes I mean it is equal to almost 3000 INR but there must be bigger denominations as well in case of bigger payments…maybe some strong reason behind it but I am yet to find it though…

13. One big funny thing which I have noted on the roads here is that there is a big noticeable sign board each time a Traffic Camera approaches on the road with the words “Camera Ahead” written, I mean quite ironical!!! All drivers keep a note of the boards and then the cameras to avoid over speeding and each time a camera approaches they bring down their speed to the allowed 120 kmph!!!

14. Grocery Shops here are called ‘Bakala’ and practically everything is available at these outlets, some of them are @Indian Bakalas@ where you get all Indian goods as well like Indian Toothpastes, Soaps, Hair Oils, Shampoos and yes the important thing…Indian Cigarettes…yes Navy Cut & Gold Flake are sold here, Made in India by ITC and packed & exported for Kuwait and the pricing here is cheaper than in India, surprising but you can owe to the No-Duty structure on cigarettes here. I smoke Dunhill Reds here and have got a liking to it!!!

15. Cinema Halls here have a very peculiar feature to them; the seats are divided on the basis of your sex. Yes, on the right side all the Bachelors and Married Men without their wives sit and on the left side all the females & families sit, I experienced the same when I went to watch ‘The Hurt Locker’. Surely an education for me about the cultural restrictions here.

16. Kuwait also has another Numero Uno position which it enjoys, ‘Per capita Restaurants’, there are restaurants all over the place here literally the same way we find Pan Shops in India you can find eateries here. All American Brands are here plus some amazing local ones serving Turkish, Arabic & Moroccan cuisines. But the sad part with some of these is the Sign Boards and Menus are in Arabic and no staff understands English so I use Sign Language to explain them what I want to order and I am sure due to this limitation I am yet to sample some of the real delicacies till now. There are also a host of Indian Cuisine restaurants here and are surprisingly a big hit with the Arabs here!!!

17. Meat here means Beef & Lamb is rarely served at the restaurants here and till now I have not really liked the taste of Beef here and don’t try it too much and stay safe with Chicken, Turkey & Sea-Food here plus with the heat here eating too much of Red Meat anyway is not advisable.

18. I get to eat some amazing Andhra Delicacies at the place where I stay, specially at weekends which is a big treat for me; till now I am loving it and let us see till how long I can manage on Andhra Food, at times I go and buy my meals from a Turkish Speciality Restaurant named ‘Turkish Grill’ and it has been my favourite eating joint here till now, it serves some amazing grilled meat dishes with freshly-baked Turkish Bread.

19. Every Apartment complex here has got it’s own ‘Harris’ who primarily is the caretaker of the building, he takes care of the Security, Maintenance and Garbage Management; plus for a small fees also washes the cars every morning, surely one helluva important person and you surely got to maintain good relations with him, the one at my place is an Egyptian and he doesn’t understand even a single word of English so communicating with him is a nerve-tiring process, luckily some buildings have Indian Harris who would be much easy to deal with…

20. This is a country of expats and more than half of the population is made up of non-Kuwaitis, and mostly Indians & Egyptians. This is the reason this place is one big melting-pot of different cultures & traditions and all expats have been instrumental in helping to develop this country to the place where it is now and expats are well-respected due to this reason.

21. Wasta – The most important skill to have and use!!! Now you must be wondering what the hell is this ‘Wasta’, well it is in plain & simple Hindi ‘Jugaad’ but here it is more to do with the right relationship than money through which things really move in India, one needs Wasta for all kinds of paerwork here; Residency Visa, Family Visa, Degree Attestation and getting a Driving License. As per Wikipedia(yes Wasta finds it’s place there as well!!!) it is:

“Wasta” is an Arabic word that loosely translates into ‘clout”. It refers to using one’s connections and/or influence to get things done, including government transactions such as the quick renewal of a passport, waiving of traffic fines, and getting hired for or promoted in a job. In other words, it amounts to getting something through favouritism rather than merit.

22. Have also picked some other Arabic Terms here which are good to know here and communicate with Arabs who have no clue of English and generally they are good to learn till I am here…

23. All the newspapers are thick & heavy and not with Classfieds or advertisements but with News from all parts of the World and literally about all the topics you can find, Music, Cinema, Politics, Sports and what not and I enjoy reading them here and keep myself updated about the global happenings and for all Indian News I read the Online Version or e-paper of both ‘Times of India’ & ‘Mail Today’

24. Last but not the least Liquor is banned here and one can’t drink even at the five-star hotels but at some Embassy Parties, Liquor is served, one strange rule this!!! But illegally Liquor is imported into Kuwait and with the right contacts and money one can easily buy it…And then there are the Bahrains & the Dubais of the World- the Party Havens of the Middle East where the rich & famous from here go and then party hard!!! I also would plan a trip there once my paperwork is done & dusted with…

I am sure this list would keep on growing as time progresses here & I would keep updating this post or writing new ones with the additions but one thins is for sure this country is surely a good one to stay for 3-4 years, experience all the niceties and then get back to where I belong…

So till the time we meet again…

Cheers to life…

Till then ride safe and have safe sex…

Inquilab Zindabad…

Hasta la Victoria Siempre…

Jai BoP!

26 Comments

  1. man, loved reading it jha paaji!!!

  2. i love the write up!! very thought provoking.the eco-unfriendliness,the hefty funding, and the moderated cost of living;i feel it all boils down to one prime reason -size!no wonder they can afford packing material:apparel on a 1:1 ratio:)thats no excuse though! and on a different note,u’ll soon find your place as the Wasta guru in Kuwait!! ..eagerly awaiting your next one!!

  3. Dude, you make it sound like its so much fun there….yes, the booze & the seating part aint right but for all the other amenities, that aint too big a thing to compromise upon….so m sure dat u’v alrdy startd savin up for ur harley 😉
    take care n keep postin bro…..

  4. very well written and informative. Loved it !

  5. since abhishek is not too much into blog reading, i am the one who updates him about you..:)

  6. Kifal Hal? Kuwaiti Trivia. fun to read.
    didn’t like beef? if its all air-conditioned, why the hold on eating too much red meat? u mut be missing buff meat though. “badhaa”.
    Man, do buy a Lumina, if u can.
    Want to hear some more Arabic terms.

  7. Reading about the cultural restrictions, can I assume no sexual liberty there?? Is prostitution at all recognized??.. If not, I wonder how the expats are satisfying their urge…

  8. Nice post bhai. The best part was the seating arrangement in Movie Theaters and camera sign boards 🙂

  9. to daaro peene ke liye tujhe daaro ka wasta dena padta hai

  10. @ Nilu…Thanks man for reading it…keep following…

  11. @ Neesha…yeah its sad to see the rampant use of plastics and I really wanna know if all the waste here gets recycled or not…

    keep following baby…wud come up with some good ones soon…

  12. @ Amit…yeah one got to follow and respect the rules of a foreign country and I have no issues with either of them…yeah the saving has started but yet to finalize if I wud buy it or not…

  13. @ Mansi…yeah I know how lazy and technically challenged Abhi is and I have full trust on you to pass on the news !!!

  14. @ Dips… Trivia !!! thats a nice word for the write-up…
    yaar pata nahin kyon par mazaa nahin aaya taste mein…and yes I like the moinuddin Buff more !!!
    Lumina is surely a nice car…especially the sports model…lets see which one i finally manage to buy…
    And yes I would soon write a blog on the commonly used arabic words…

    keep following…

  15. @ Sharma…I knew you wud talk abt Sex !!! he he…prostitution here is banned like so many countries…and the westerners have their own nice ways to satisy their urges !!! all of them !!!

  16. @ Manish…thanks yaara for the comment…really interesting is the sign board concept !!!many more to see and experience…and wud keep sharing…

  17. @ Percy…bhai abhi tak koi try nahin kiya hai daaru ke liye…suprisingly havent felt any urge till now…

  18. Wow Nishant..read your blog for the first time..really liked it..good peice of information.

  19. @ Pratibha…thanks for the comment…keep following…

  20. Kuwait authorities wud soon felicitate you for indulging in such selfless promotion of this country JJ..! wat an amazing write-up…each description made my desire to come to this place only stronger…and Ajeya will now have a tough time listening to my wishlist…lol… wonderfully portrayed blog !

  21. @ Madhu…dont know abt the felications…kahin deport na kar den !!! for lettin out secrets !!! he he

    a girl’s wishlist is heard from one ear n spewed out of the other one !!! so dont u worry…i am on ajeya’s side…

    thanks for the comment…n keep following…

  22. Excellent post and got to learn a lot about Kuwait, even the secrets!

    You have got a new nickname now…Rain Man!!

    Point No.9 was quite surprising!

    Great work…keep rocking! 🙂

    FENIL

  23. loved ur blog.. it makes fr a very interesting & informative read.. & though i’m nt much of a writer bt ur blog hs induced some urge in me to write abt hongkong.. i so loved point no 9 tht fr a moment i wished only i were born thr tht i must hv hd atleast 10 kids by now… hehe.. keep writin buddy.. u rock..

  24. @ Fenil…thanks for the comment buddy…yeah so many surprising things here to see & witness everyday…

    you keep following the blog…

  25. @ Shweta…

    blogging is a great outlet for me as I am staying all alone here…

    u also start the HK blog…I am sure it wud be great…

    accha hai u r not in kuwait…global population badh jaata warna !!!

    you keep following…thanks for the comment…

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