When i moved to Kuwait, I was taken aback of this country’s love affair with Tea & Coffee. They are heavy Tea-Drinkers as well as Coffe addicts, i must say. A day in the life of Kuwaitis is not complete without Chai (commonly known as Tea in Middle East ) & Gahwa or Arabic Coffee. I see so much coziness from them sitting and enjoying a cup, whether its in the confines of their homes, or in outside cafes.
In Kuwait, tea is usually served after lunch. Kuwaiti tea is just regular hot tea, but many families add some flavors to it such as saffron or mint. Arabic coffee is also very important especially when Kuwaitis have visitors. Traditionally, when people visit, the first thing served should be the Arabic coffee.
Noor , a native from Bangladesh have been working in Kuwait as a Teaboy for the last 10 years of his life. He has 7 children, all that He left behind in Bangladesh without watching them closely while growing up. He goes back to Bangladesh once a year for his annual vacation for a maximum of 2 months and he goes back to Kuwait once again. His first Kuwaiti sponsor refused to grant him release to be able to transfer to other company. A release paper is needed for an expatriate to transfer his residency to another sponsor and get a new job. He earns 80 KD (approx. 263 USD ) a month for his job as a Teaboy.
Noor, like many of the expats who works in Kuwait as a Teaboy has a very tedious routine. His main job is to provide Tea & coffee, everyday. His life revolves around boiling water in the kettle, making tea or chai , Gahwa, other variants of coffee for all his superiors and staff in the company. Oftentimes, he is also a runner. He does the errands of taking supplies from the Jamiya ( a supermarket ) once He rans out for his tea & coffee supplies. His space is the pantry or a separate kitchen in the office. He is quite regarded as a passive employee, but his importance cannot be taken for granted. I have seen that my Kuwaiti Bosses get ill-tempered knowing that there is no tea or coffee to be served. Kuwaitis drink chai almost every 2 hours. There’s no such thing as coffee break in the Middle east (at least here in K-Town ). Staff asks for their cup of tea whenever they want it. But during Ramadan, Noor has a a lax schedule since people are fasting.
He had this special skill to make the kind of Gahwa that even our company visitors commend. Once the Big Bosses arrive, Noor is the first person they call. All staff knows the teaboy. If you make great Tea, then your job is secure. His happiness is to see his Boss and the staff enjoy his tea with delight. If you asks for a second cup, you can always see a sweet smile forming in his face.
One time I had a talk with Noor after He just came back from his vacation . I asked him if his wife knows how to make tea or arabic coffee. He replied that He’s the one making it for her because He knows it better. After all, Its his Job.
You see, drinking tea and coffee is a big part of an Arabic culture in Kuwait. It is part of their life. Their day revolves around doing their work while having a warm tea , or a quick caffeine fix of Gahwa (also known as Arabic coffee). In most Diwaniyas (or Kuwaiti gathering of men ), having tea is a part of a lively discussion. They most enjoyed it while having traditional sweets & dates. A typical Diwaniya mostly last more than 2 hours , mostly in the late afternoons. Imagine how much tea and coffee a Teaboy needs to make if there is a big gathering? Most Kuwaiti household has a separate Teaboy who also do the job of a gardener or a Houseboy help.
I wonder many times what would happen to Kuwait without their Teaboys? Or who makes Tea for the Teaboys?
How about you, Do you find any surprising cultural Habits in your new country?
If you like this post then you might want to check out my other posts about Culture shocks & fascinating encounters i have in my Expat Life here in Kuwait.