The Netherlands : A place with more bicycles than people

A Land where there are more Bicycles than People


Seems like everytime I visit the Netherlands I become more and more into their Bicycle Urbanism. I just can’t get enough of their bicycles! It is so enormous in volume, it is everywhere! I get off from the train and arrived in the Station and see a parking lot full of bikes. I thought I’ve already seen it before and it’s no surprise anymore but then I still found it unbelievable. Different kinds of bicycles, old and new, modern, E-bikes and so on and so forth it’s all there. The sight of bikes is as normal as the sight of beautiful Tulips colors in Spring! I say to myself- Only in the Netherlands ! The country with more Bicycles than people.

Bikes parked along the canals of Utrecht, Netherlands

So I am inspired to write once again about Dutch and their bikes because I think this information is inspiring, as well as informative especially for people who lived in traffic prone places ( like I was before!) . I know it also depends where you are in the world but we can learn something about Dutch people and the way they cycle through all cycles of life through their bikes. Netherlands is so flat compared to Germany so going to places is shorter but can also be very windy. I know how hard it is to cycle when you have strong winds ahead of you, it’s not enjoyable and I hated it always. Also, nobody enjoys cycling in the rain, or when the roads are icy and frozen. So I am asking myself why do Dutch people love cycling?

The Netherlands : a beautiful place with colorful Tulips, canals and BICYCLES!

Cycling as an alternative and healthiest way of transport is the most practical solution of getting from A to B. They say that when you cycle for an average of 30 minutes then it increases your life expectancy. And for Expats who lived in the Netherlands and also here in Germany, I am sure this is one of the culture shock that we all can relate. Once I came here, we bought a bike! Anyway, I have been seeing my Stats and I noticed that I have viewers from different parts of the globe and I think that for someone who have never been to Amsterdam or in the Netherlands in general, they don’t really have an idea how big is the Dutch cycling lifestyle . It is really not just a trend or a tourist attraction to see–it’s a culture, it’s their life.

The average Dutch person cycles around 1,000 km annually and only in the Netherlands that there are more bicycles than people! And—did you know that Dutch old people still cycle even they are 80!

Super chic Dutch Bakfiets

With a country of 17.1 million people, there are 23 Million bikes! Imagine that!Meaning an average Dutch has 1.3 bikes, 2 or more! I saw it by my own eyes in my numerous visits in Holland. Bicycles or Fiets is staple as bread (or Brood) in every household and oftentimes they cycle to buy bread! Both young and old ride their bikes, going to school and to work. Every.single. Day! 32% of journeys for example in Amsterdam is by bike alone.

Utrecht Bike Lot is now OPEN : Biggest Bike park Station in the World

Compared to USA with 325 Million people, they have 70 Million bikes. I think everyone owns a bike than everyone owns a car. Last Easter we visited Utrecht and I discovered something more, it seems like that the number of bicycles is much even more than I could remember from what I’ve seen along the canals of Amsterdam and the bike parking lot in Museumplein. 40% of the visitors going to Utrecht are coming by bike so the largest Bike parking lot is found in this city. The 17,100 SQ/m parking space under the Utrecht Central Station can take up up to 12,500 BIKES! Imagine that!

My daughter trying to ride a bicycle we found parked in a light post

If they love to cycle then they need to build cycling paths for sure.There are 35,000km of bike paths only dedicated for cycling in the Netherlands. Most of the inner cities are car-free and there are endless places to go without the need of a car. Bicycle streets is very common standard in many Dutch cities but Utrecht is on top with 6km and plans for more.Bicycle Urbanism is the trend in Lowlands and I can really see why it’s bent to last.
What’s so fascinating is that they even created a pop-up parking concept for bikes and they have installed the Flo – a speed detection system coupled with digital kiosks that read each cyclist’s speed and help them speed up or slow down in order to catch the next light. It is a more complicated system than the simpler ones in place in Copenhagen .

What’s with the flowers and utility baskets in the bikes in Holland?
Without Helmets , the Netherlands is the safest place in the world to cycle!

Another important thing, as a parent, I can totally appreciate the unique love affair of Dutch with their bicycles and incorporating cycling to their kids at a very young age. For the past 2.5 years that I am now living here in Germany, and married to a Dutchman, I am cycling almost everyday and it’s one of my preferred practical means of transport, especially if I want to get on with everyday routines . I love the freedom, the peace and security I feel when I ride my bike but not on rush hours! Long distance cycling is not for me but here they have E-bikes as well but I appreciate everyday circulation and exercise I get from it. The fresh air that I breathe while riding my bike can be a stress-reliever and at the same time enjoying the surroundings while cycling is so nice. It’s one of the things I called “simplest form of luxury“. I often cycle going to work, getting basic groceries and bring my child to the Kindergarten and yes, I cycle even in Winter ! It’s very common here as well for Kindergarten children ( as young as 2!) to use Lauf Fahrrad (or walking bike) and cycle to their school accompanied by parents. We never had this in Philippines and certainly not in Kuwait so this new culture is something for you to really personally experienced for you to appreciate. It is not just a trend. It’s a way of life.

Bike capital of the World!

On the other side, here in Germany, we use much of the “Anhänger“. Of course, Germans always have the best technology for everything! It’s a compact carriage tagged along in a bike so you can cycle with your toddler everywhere you go. My daughter loves it and its very common here. I think most of families with little children have it. Complete with straps, seat belts and children always wear helmet as much as adults. But not so in the Netherlands.They transport their babies and toddlers in a box-type carriage attached to a bike called “Bakfiets” together with a bag of groceries withe other things as well. It’s what they called “super-utility box “!
In Germany, even if you don’t do cycling professionally, or you’re not into Sport, people wear Lycra and cycling gears, which is a total NO-NO in Holland. Dutch people cycle in normal and work clothes. What is amazing that the women can cycle so classy on skirt while riding a bike!

Bikes parked in Train Station

I lived 200 meters from a nearby school and I observed that young people ( Realschule and up to Gymnasium) also ride their bikes going to school, but most of them are being dropped off by a car every single day or taking the bus.

Should I cycle or should I play?


It is well known that Dutch children are the happiest in the world. I believe cycling is a part of the development of inner security that they feel as a kid. Cycling allows them to reach destinations safely and gives them the feeling of freedom, and achievement.

Parallel motion –Bikes, houses, shops, bars and people

The Dutch train their children at a young age to ride so they can confidently ride in the roads when they are around 12 years of age, just before they start secondary school . Only if they pass their traffic exam are they awarded their Verkeersdiploma (traffic certificate). This training is necessary as 75% of secondary school students cycle to school, rising to 84% riding for those living within 5 km of school. Even for distances of 16 km (9.9 mi) or over, some 8% of secondary school children cycle in each direction to school, though this is mainly in rural areas where the closest secondary schools can be a fair distance away.Some 49% of primary school children ride to school, but distances are shorter and adults often accompany the younger ones .

People cycle like crazy without helmet and children sits in front of the bike without the child seat like we have here. Do you know why it so normal? Street accidents are unheard of. In the Netherlands,the traffic rules are so bike-friendly so safety is not an issue. I have seen it by my eyes, children pedals from school to home but bikes being stolen are another issue.

What about you, what is your opinion about cycling? Do you hold back on riding a bicycle?

If you happen to visit Holland, try to observe and capture people cycling with umbrella and especially on bicycle rush hours, it’s really a sight!

How about you, what is your view of cycling? What do you like about riding a bike?

Some interesting read can be found Here and Here.

If you want to know how others feel about when they are cycling then read on from Here.It’s really good.

Two Duvets are better than One : Sleeping the German way

Have you ever wondered what is the sleeping patterns that most Germans do?

Life in Germany ; Two beds are really better than one!

Let´s start with the bedroom and most especially with their beddings.This is an Expat Lifestyle Blog so I think it´s just appropriate that I share with you my early experiences from basic things once we moved here for good last 2016.Germany is a land of many contradictions and really one of a kind things that still so many from the rest of world doesn´nt know. Youl´ll only know once you personally experience it.

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Culture Shock :  Two beds, Two Duvets , no top covers.

I was totally surprised, shocked and amazed and the big question of Why is glued in both my face and in my mind. I will tell you why about my dilemma.While on our holiday in Rhineland -Palatinate and Trier last 2015, I was totally shocked to see how our beds in the hotel that we´re staying were made. Two single mattresses in one bed frame, with two duvets on top, with two giant square pillows punched in the middle . Nice touch ! and yes, no covers. Same as the one I observe in Austria.In my experiences as well in the Netherlands, it is exactly the same thing. Two beds, large pillows and two blanket and duvets.

The Dutch husband even told me that the beds can even be folded on a height that you like. All I can say was , Why oh why?

This is not-so-Asian! No, defintely not, not even middle-eastern. Scandinavian style, definitely and yes, the absolute German way of sleeping.I have heard stories from friends that they have the same stories when they realized this. I came from Asia, in the Philippines, this is definitely not the way we made our beds and how we sleep. We have normal mattress, then we have a bed covering, we don´t use Duvets because it is very hot and humid and not all houses have air conditioning so normally, we have thinner blankets.But the standard is, you have one bed, one bed covering, and one blanket.It is shared by couples. If you are single, then you have a single set of beddings as well. Back in Kuwait, we used the ” normal” beddings and bed as well, never like this. We have a giant king size bed and and so goes with the duvets, and normal pillows.

Your Bed is made to your personal delight!

I ponder on this matter and thought how it originated but I couldn’t find any material. Maybe for cleanliness purposes since I notice that Germans love to hang their duvets from their window to ‘air’, a typical scene I have  also seen in Kuwait. My neighbor does this even during winter. But dirty air or wind can even make it dirtier, don’t you think? We have efficient washing machines here but I guess the size of Duvets cannot just fit totally to it so at least just hang it in the windows!

My daughter loves to play with the giant pillows which I really hate!

Maybe for more comfort, and less ‘tug-of-war‘  scenarios? I also remembered that I used to pull blankets when I feel cold or something so there is really a thug of war going on. Could this even led why Germany has a low birth -rate? or a presumably relationship-killer? Some say it’s funny seeing you sleeping like cocooned caterpillars next to each other.

Another thing, how does the fun happens?

Or what if your partner is a night-farter? Or a back or side sleeper? The options are so many! It can happen, and its perfectly normal but can be a total mood buster when both of you and your partner are not aggreeing about the beddings. Or what if  you’re the type to stick out a foot while sleeping? I , for example loves to sleep on the left side of the bed and I like blankets fully covering my toes.

Whatever the reasons behind it, there must be something to it that clicks.To think that not only Germany have this thing, but also other countries like  Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland — they all love  having two duvets on one bed.

English and American people tend to tuck their duvets under the mattress so that you can slip in from the top. Germans would hardly acquire a taste for this nighttime covering. Germans, as I have learned and confirmed, are not accustomed to share a duvet with their Ehepartner (spouse) or Lebensgefährte (partner in life). Germans need a duvet to be twisted and turned. This can only be guaranteed when each person has got his or her own duvet for the night. This is the ultimate answer that I personally learned once we lived here. Now I exactly understand why it is like that and why does it makes sense. Bottomline, don´t take it as a cold feet or snob thing, Germans really have a way to make everything in life easy–with their all sorts of inventions and interventions!

When we move here in Germany, we got a new bed  and of course, my husband love this idea  so much so we opted to get 2 beds to fit in one bed frame. The most common standard size for German mattresses is 90 by 200 cm for singles and 180 by 200 cm for couples.I find it very practical as well.

Oversized pillows, Two duvets in two separate beds, but since this is an Interracial bedroom, I have my own preference in pillows.

The English language has a variety of names to denote particular bed sizes: Cot, Single, Small Double or Three Quarter, Double, Queen, King, Super King, etc., which I find similar to the middle east. I think all the beds there is fit for a king! The German language, however, is more pragmatic in this way. They don’t have any nice-sounding words for the various bed sizes. Here, shopping for beds comes easy.For example, by using either measurements or conventional adjectives such as Klein (small) and groß (large).

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Duvets for  different season . One for Winter and one for Summer

The ordinary German Matratze (mattress) measures 90 cm (3ft) breadthways and 200 cm (6ft 6″) lengthways. This ordinary mattress is used for a single bed frame – which makes it a Einzelbett (Single). When two of these mattresses are put together they make a Doppelbett (Double) or Ehebett (marriage bed).

Some singles who don’t have to share their bed with another person opt for a bed size, which is larger than the ordinary 90 cm (3ft) by 200 cm (6ft 6″) mattress. Germans refer to this as a großes Einzelbett (large single bed). It’s measures: 140 cm (4ft 6″) by 200 cm (6ft 6″). German couples who think the common lying surface of 180 cm (5ft 9″) by 200 cm (6ft 6″) – two single mattresses put together – is still too small for a restful sleep can also opt for a mattress that measures 200 cm by 200 cm (6ft 6″) or two mattresses that measure 100 cm (3ft 3″) by 200 cm – which makes it ein großes Doppelbett (a large Double).

Does this tickle your interest? Here I find more interesting facts about sleeping and the way German prefer how their beds being done.

The Decke ( Blankets and coverings)

Once you have your foam mattress and latenrost all set up, next come the bedlinens. Fitted sheets are easy enough. They are readily available in most shops .They are called Spannbetttüche and available is any color and several various fabrics. You match your bed size to the package and your bed is covered. So if you have 2 separate mattress, you get two pieces as well. I’m telling you, I sweat when I am making our bed with all these multiple linens. But in the end, I find it more and more practical.

Latenrost

There are no box springs here in Germany , well at least we don´t use it. The non-mattress spring support is called a Lattenrost. This is a set of bent wooden slats that are bouncy all held in a frame that goes under the mattress. The lattenrost come in different “bouncy-ness”s as well. Some are even articulated to allow sitting up in bed. I saw one time when we were shopping for my daughter´s new room that the box type of beds are more expensive and they have another specifications.I only write from what I personally used and tried so I dont really know yet the difference.

Pillows and sizes

Now here we come to the trickiest part. I love my pillows to be a bit firm and not sloppy. I don´t like soft pillows, I just can´t sleep with it and the large square ones are a total nightmare for me. Many times I am in agony when sleeping over or when I forget to bring my pillow. With this problem, I even brought my pillows from Kuwait that I still used here now. My husband also uses a different size, he likes the simple 40 x 80 cm but then I prefer another. In Germany, they use huge square pillows instead of small rectangular ones, it’s as simple as that but not really if you have your usual pillows. Their size is also different from Throw Pillows. You can’t find pillow case that can fit to it. So if you are moving to Germany, you better bring loads of spare ones or you can always buy online for your own preferences. I think the square ones are for decorative purposes—-I can´t survive with it!!

Here in Germany, it’s all about function, it’s not the new fashion fad in sleeping but there are reasons why you need to resolve into this for better sleeping. I think it’s good for your back as well. We are a fan of Ikea things because I think they have practical furnitures as well as trandy ones.Besides, when you move from one country or another, you take things lights considering the cost of moving furnitures. Take a look at Ikea tips for good sleeping options  to help you on your next bed shopping!

Also, I found some great reading why Two Duvets in one bed is really the answer for a better sleep. Check these Links out;

Scandinavian Style : Two Duvets on one Bed 

Our hearts beats as one when we sleep in two Duvets

How about you, what are your culture shock experiences about sleeping?Any thoughts? Would you love or not this style for sleeping?

German sausages : Love it or Hate it

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Germany- the country who adores pig and sausages

I’m telling you, Germans have a serious love affair with their sausages. If the Netherlands have a museum for cheese, Germans have a museum dedicated to Currywurst!

Did you know that Germany have almost 1,200 types of wurst? Unbelievable.

It so happened that Germany is the biggest pork producer in Europe. Internationally, Germany is third behind China and the USA. They love pork so much that If you’re a Muslim here, you might feel’ intimidated ‘ by the amount of pork products in the grocery shop. The sausage section are bigger than the fruit section! I find it funny  for myself that after living in Kuwait for almost 8 years without pork, now I am overwhelmed with the amount of pork products, especially sausages.

I am now on my 7th month mark living here in Bavaria and Oh men, for the love of food, I think I have eaten sausages more than I have ever eaten in my whole life!!

Looking back at my first days here, everything around me now seems  familiar, especially when it comes to Kaffee und Kuchen , Biergartens and of course, the infamous  german sausages, especially Bavarian sausages. For a very long time, I only know hotdogs– the tender-juicy  red bullies I love to eat with eggs and fried rice during breakfast. I used to think that hotdogs are same with wurst but I am mistaken. They are two different thing!  Back home we have our local ‘Longganisa’ — it’s the Philippine version of  sausages, more like the  Spanish sausage (embutido) similar to a chorizo and also closely associated with the Portuguese linguiça

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Currywurst swimming in curry sauce

Then I came to know frankfurter, and chicken sausages. While living in Kuwait where there is no Pork, I indulge in delicious Arabic foods that I’ve learned to love, like  Shawerma , kebabs and chicken shish tawouk. On lazy days, I opt for chicken mini- sausages too. They are always quick to prepare and light. Little did I know that coming to Germany would introduce me to another sausage species–the German sausages or commonly known here as Wurts.

Here are some of the sausages that I came to know while living here in Bavaria. Here, the food culture is not something extravagant or complicated recipes, but what I love about Germans is how they celebrate everything with sausage, pretzel and beer. From their local Biergartens  to Volksfest, to the world-renowned Oktoberfest up to their beautiful Christkindlmarkts also known as  German Christmas Markets, these sausages bond people of all ages,always creating a cozy atmosphere, rain or shine.

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My favorite sausage – the Nüremberger. Light, small and tasty. 

Germans certainly adore pig.Unsurprisingly the pig is a good luck symbol in Germany. Also it is very cold here and they have long winters, so sausage was an excellent way to preserve the pig and use up all the trimmings ….”all but the tail and the oink” as some have put it.

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Sausages and more sausages.

Here are some of the sausages which I have found interesting and the ones I can recommend. There are so much more but I never had the chance to try them so I don’t have an idea how they taste.

Bratwurst -It is a favorite in Germany, and each region has its own version. There are over 50 kinds of bratwurst, and they all vary in size, texture and seasoning – so no wonder it’s confusing. Although Germans now associate “Brat” with “braten,” which means to fry, broil or grill, the name originally derives from Old High German: “Brät” meant finely chopped meat.

Nürnberger (Nuremberger)-Among the different varieties of Bratwurst, you can recognize the one produced in Nuremberg by its size. It’s surprisingly small, not much bigger than a pinkie finger. Historical documents already mentioned this wurst back in 1313. These sausages are traditionally grilled over flames, served six at a time, and accompanied by sauerkraut and potatoes with horseradish or mustard on the side. This is my favorite so far, also my daughter love to munch on this one.

Currywurst-A currywurst is simply a steamed bratwurst seasoned with ketchup and covered with curry powder.  This has been the very first sausage that I have tasted when I came here. I was shocked to see its size and I was open-mouthed looking at my husband how on earth am I going to devour it.

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Lunch, Dinner or just a snack- The currywurst and some fries + Beer is the German form of ‘Gezelligheid’.

In a country specialized in high-tech cars, it sounds a bit exaggerated to call this fast-food snack an “invention,” but Herta Heuwer, the Berlin cook who developed the special sauce, actually patented it in 1959. It’s since become a street food classic. The Currywurst has become an essential Berlin experience, served sliced with ketchup. Its history is celebrated at the Deutsches Currywurst Museum, not far from Checkpoint Charlie.

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The king of Bavarian breakfast- the weisswurst.

Weisswurst-This veal Bavarian sausage translates as “white sausage” for its color. It has no preservatives, nor is it smoked, which is why it’s meant to be eaten fresh the day it was made. A German saying recommends the Weisswurst should never get to hear the church bells ring at noon. To eat it, some suck out the meat from the skin, or, more discreetly, cut it in half and roll out the filling with a fork. Here in Bavaria, Weisswurst is often a morning treat. No true Bavarian dream of eating weisswurst after midday.

Blutwurst-The German Blutwurst (blood sausage) is usually made with pork blood and bacon. As it is already cooked, it does not need to be eaten hot – but some people do. Some regions include it in dishes with colorful names: the Rhineland’s “Himmel und Erde” (Sky and Earth) combines it with mashed potatoes and apple sauce. “Tote Oma” (Dead Grandma) is Berlin’s way of serving it with liverwurst and potatoes. Germans loved to eat sausages with pretzel, warm rolls and potato fries.

Salami-Salami is typically Italian, but it is just as popular in sausage-loving Germany – and it’s much more than just a pizza topping. If Italians usually stick to coffee and sweet bread rolls for breakfast, Germans will gladly serve slices of salami first thing in the morning, too. They’ll enjoy it all day, as salami shows up for the simple evening meal called “Abendbrot“. In local bakeries here, there are lots of sandwiches with salami next to the usual dense rolls and dark breads which Germans also love to eat.

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If the sausage fits…!

I am already looking forward for Spring and  for the BBQ season  to start. When its sunny and the days are longer, expect that it’s typically  German thing when the air suddenly smells like BBQ. Yes, pork, sausages and beer are all unfriendly to the belly, but Germans have a lifestyle to balance it all off with a sweat – they just cycle the cholesterol away!

 

Have you ever tried eating sausage? How was your experience?

Come and Go | Quest

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Home is not a place…It’s a feeling.

” You get a strange feeling when you leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you miss the person you are at this time and place because you’ll never be this way  ever again…” { Azar Nafazi }

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An Expat’s quest for  a place to call “Home”- You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere.That is the price you pay for the richness of living and loving people in more than one place.

I recently visited my home country last May   with my daughter, her first trip to the Philippines, and for me, Oh well, I thought of  it as another home visit, but a  rather special homecoming because it’s the first time my daughter would meet her Grandmother and the rest of the family. It is also my first time to travel alone with an infant for 15 long  hours . Yes, alone.

As I sit in the plane, looking out in the window, thoughts in my head are clouding again–Hmmm, here I go again,  I’m a visiting Expat –living a double life.

Why do I say this?

The feeling of coming home with an infant in my arms and going through the airport is suddenly unreal to me. Almost the same as the time I went home for quick vacations from work  when I was living in Kuwait for the last 8 years. I was shocked and confused to return and realize how out of touch I was with people who I knew, places and life in the place I had lived for many long years. For the first few days my hands fumbled on my phone because I forgot how to make a call, or even reload my phone, not knowing the codes anymore. I become  unfamiliar with the common places such as banks, streets, and even my favorite shops. My memory is still full of how I lived my days in Kuwait. On the other hand, everything was so familiar and yet, feels so unfamiliar. Sinking back into my old life was almost too easy, and within days my new life in Germany seemed slightly surreal.

I saw some of my closest friends but the feelings is not the same as before. I couldn’t patch the gap that time had created. I could only settle on the present time.Walking through familiar streets and places becomes a new discovery. Some places haven’t changed much in a decade, and yet, the feelings I had is somewhat strange.

 

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No reason to stay is a good reason to go. 

Being able to slip from one life to another is a strange experience that many expats will relate to. By becoming an expat , I started a new life, but fragments of the old ‘me’ still linger in my native country, tempting me when I return.

I heard many times from fellow OFW ( overseas contract worker) , “I’m going home for good”. For good means that their life as expat wasn’t for keeps. The need to return to one’s old home is a never-ending yearning. That is why every home-coming is exciting, anticipated, and full of eagerness. But the secret that Expat doesn’t reveal is the shock of coming home.

Being an expat can be like being two people at once, split between two places. Half my identity belongs to Philippines, and by visiting, I revived that person, the person I was before I left. Even my feet set on another ground, a fraction of an inch of me belongs to Kuwait. It has been part of me and I couldn’t take that away. Walking now in the streets of Germany, I still feel very much alienated.

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It’s a funny thing coming home.Nothing changes.Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what changed is YOU… { f.scott fitzgerald}

After visiting my home country, I realize that it isn’t “home” anymore. Looking back at Kuwait, I can’t see myself calling that place my “home”either. In a way, of course,  Ph  will always be home, but that sense of relief at being at the end of my journey only came to me when I was back together in Germany, in our new “home”, with my  daughter & my husband.

Makes me think: what makes home into home?

Because some little things I am missing in Philippines and Kuwait  are present in my old life, waiting for me to return, but when I was in there, I felt incomplete, because part of me now belongs to Germany and my new life here.

I guess the Quest continues…

Have you had any experience of going back home after long years from abroad?

This is post is in response to this week Photo Challenge : Quest

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O’zapft is ! my first Volksfest experience

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My first Volksfest experience as an Expat

Finally, I had my first taste of Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest is the largest of Volksfest celebrated in the whole of Germany ( and of the world) along with travelling carnival and fun fair. For the neighboring cities around Munich,each one has their unique Volksfest. Since 1946,  Ingolstadt had its first festival after  WW II, and from then on ,there are two major festival to celebrate. One in Spring and one in Fall. I had always been curious what is all about Oktoberfest and all these hustle and bustle about beer.  I am not a beer drinker but having been able to see how this beautiful festival is celebrated is probably one of the highlights of my days living as an Expat in Germany.

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Parade highlights -there are 93 group delegations who joined the parade.

If you are visiting Germany, you’ve gotta love this! The whole place is so alive and  flooded with colorful people wearing their traditional Lederhosen and Dirndls waslking in the festive vibe of Volk musik.

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Highlight of this year’s festivities is 500 years of the Bavarian Beer Purity Law!

Last Friday, September 23, the Volksfest in Ingolstadt started and will last until 3rd of October. As the renowned legendary and traditional ritual of tapping the first barrel of Oktoberfest-beer is one of the things that I really looked forward to see, by my own eyes.There is something great about seeing it for real compared to the ones that I only saw in internet. Since 1972, Volksfest in Ingolstadt  is held in Volksfestplatz just beside the ZOB.

Volksfest with a toddler? No problem!

Aside from no entrance fee,Volksfest is for the entire family. I was having doubts how would  my daughter would behave during this time because of the crowds  and the volk-musik was continously played by the stage band. I was quite surprised that  Volksfest is kid-friendly. There is something about a father & daughter sharing food, and old couple happily enjoying lunch, and of course, sharing a mug of beer. Volksfest is defintely a disabled-accessible,most especially with people with disabilities and in wheelchairs.

We managed to find the big tent where the tapping of the first barrel of beer would be held. This is known as  the “Schottenhamel” beer tent. I found a very nice place directly in front of the beer kegs but my daughter started to get bored and whining. But even if I had to change my position after my husband take her, I still managed to get an arm’s length from the spot were the barrel will be tapped.Soon, the Mayor Dr. Christian Lösel and his entourage arrived and  began the ceremony.

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Inside the tent filled with happy Germans drinking and enjoying a nice,cold Beer.

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O’zapft is!!!

As usual, the first thing He spoke into the microphone was “O’zapft is!” ( “It is tapped!”) and wished everyone a peaceful celebration of Volksfest. As protocol demands, the first mug of beer was passed on  and with that all the other beer tents could start selling beer as well.

Volksfest has officially started!

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Our first mug of Bavarian Beer! Prost!

Volksfest star of the festivities is the Beer. And oh, the famous Bavarian beer. They’ll serve it to you in a size smaller than a Maß (which is one liter, same as the one in above photo) but if you order anything smaller you’ll be mocked, so don’t. You can also get Radler (half-beer, half-lemonade), water, and soda, but drinking those things is what all the other days of the year are for. Unless you’re a recovering alcoholic! In which case the water and soda are great and Oktoberfest is probably not that fun for you! Waitresses your grandmother’s age will be carrying eight or ten Maß at a time, which is impressive.

 

Talking about food?  You will drool at the sight of food during Volksfest. Order Münchener Weißwurst immediately! Since we are in Bavaria, we soothed our taste buds with threats that is definitely the food for the gods at this time.

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My favorite so far is the simple Bratwurst ,fries, and of course,my daughter’s Bretzel! The size of the Pretzel is so huge that we only share a piece. From the cheeses,breads,sausages, roasted chicken, pork slices and grilled meats were also among the favourites. The smell of the food stalls are just heavenly!

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Old time favorite. Curry wurst with pommes. A perfect combination with Beer.

Outside was a place of colorful Carnival. One of the highlight was the  daring roller coasters, giant Ferris wheel which goes high as 40 meters  and gives you rare views of the whole city, children’s carousel, and so much more.  I’ve heard that this year, a number of rides were new such as  the “Spinning Coaster”, Rollercoaster Crazy Mouse, the rapid jungle giant swing Konga with an altitude of 45 meters and a maximum speed of 120 kilometers per hour, also 4G gravity. All not my kind of fun and not for the faint-hearted! Just looking at it makes me sick, but for others, it is sure a thrill-filled ride.Me and my daughter enjoyed our very first train ride and it was absolutely fun!

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Train ride for kids!

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Pretty ladies in Dirndl.

The whole fair ground was a full of  families, young & adults enjoyed a week-long festivities. It’s not just about drinking beer. It’s a whole more than that. A true legacy that defines German character and culture. Through the years, beer culture of Germany have been attracting so many tourists and now I know why.

I was even more impressed that the security was heightened by checking the bags,the strollers and there are always roaming guards to ensures public safety.Inside the tent was a no-smoking policy is observed and everything is in order even the public bathrooms. Animals are also  not allowed inside the Volksfestplatz.

 

Have you had a taste of Oktoberfest?

How was your experience?

Have you enjoyed reading this post? If so, make sure to follow the button below to read more on my Expat life . Let’s get friends, are you on Twitter? If you’ve enjoyed this post then make sure to follow my Twitter page and my Instagram page for updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.

 

 

7 Signs that shows you’re becoming like Dutch

Well, some of you already  knows that I’m married to a Dutch guy , Oh Yes, the Almighty Dutch syndrome is in my system and I can’t deny it. My daughter is even growing up more and more like Dutch , and no one’s to blame, she’s Dutch for a fact. It’s in her genes. I have tried feeding her more rice and Adobo   but she prefers bread (Brood ) of course with chocolate Sprinkles –Hagelslag!  What a way to raise a chocoholic, don’t you think?

Over the years, I found myself turning into somewhat like my husband. I couldn’t believe it’s happening before my eyes.I am Liking what He likes, and end up doing what  he normally does. Does this sound weird?

But NO– I would never be converted into eating the raw Haring and Drop.

Anyway, here  I’d to share with you 7 top signs that shows you’re becoming like Dutch, what has become of Me-like I am slowly being Dutchie-fied!

  • You eat potatoes. Everyday– Fried. Smashed. Boiled.Baked. Name it all. Friet. Frieten.Patat. Pommes. Goodness gracious, If  we don’t have potatoes in a week, we are going to be doomed. Even for the chips snacks, we preferred potato chips, but only Paprika flavor simply because in The Netherlands, the only flavor of chips that Dutch most adored is Paprika! I’ve never eaten so much potatoes in my entire life since I’ve been married to a Dutch guy.

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Potatoes, french fries, friets, anything goes with it . Schnitzel with pommes, why not?

 

  • You cycle everywhere you go. No matter what.- It’s universal truth-the Netherlands is the cycling capital of the world. Nothing beats them when it comes to cycling. You are practically married to your bike or in Dutch they call it ‘Fiets’(pronounced as ‘feets’). Every Dutch has a bike, even more than one. The first functional gift you could ever give to a Dutch toddler is a wooden bike or a walking bike. Only the Dutch parents can prove to the whole world that it is both legal and alright to transport another human being along with their bags and groceries, plants, & pets at the same time. Talk about genius when you see their ‘Bakfiets’.  Everything goes in two wheels. When you move to the Netherlands, you will definitely buy a bike. When my husband moved to Kuwait with me, his bike also fly to Kuwait to be with him. Best Buddies eh!

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Just turned 2 and already a Cycling enthusiast! 

 

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Typical Dutch Mama with her ‘Bakfiets’ and kids..and canals-Welcome to the Netherlands! (Photo credit to wojofoto on flickr)

  • You give Three (3) Kisses Right cheek, left cheek, right cheek. This is the right way to give Three Dutch kisses. If a Dutch like you, they give you three kisses.  Today I met a new German friend,she was so nice and we had a great time chatting and as we part ways and say Tsüss, I found myself giving her 3 kisses. She just looked at me smilingly and I thought, I just really like her.Period.

 

  • You can run in steep stairs even in pitch dark nights – Ja, I did it and I don’t mind. I could run and climb these stairs without vertigo. You need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, it’s in the 2nd floor-No problem!  My daughter climb these very steep stairs from my parents-in-law when she was about to turn 1. Wonder how in the world Dutch people put those furniture up there in the upper level of the house? It runs in the family. Have you seen steep stairs of Dutch houses yourself?

 

 

  • You own one of these. A Dutch staple during showers.- A washcloth or Washandjes. Don’t panic, this is only a piece of a towel which Dutchies use in showers.While I grew up using Loofa, sponges and stone, my husband introduced to me the use of these wash cloths. They are very handy,hygienic, easy to use and don’t easily fall, easy to wash, and great if you have babies. You can use it as long as the threads doesn’t fall off, not like the sponges that you need to toss after 2-3 weeks of use, or else, it’s Yuck!

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Dutch’s Washandjes- they even have a disposable one. Very handy for travelling with toddlers.

 

  • You memorized the Dutch’s Birthday congratulations and song – Ever been to a Dutch’s birthday party? One of the first things I’ve memorized so far and sing in Dutch. This is probably one of my culture shock since I got married and learn about Dutchiness. It’s totally different from the Birthday celebrations in Philippines or in Kuwait. I have never attended a birthday party before eating only cake & coffee.Yes- Only in the Netherlands!
  • On any given occasions, you put balls in your mouth– Why it’s round I don’t know, the Bitterballen, Ollieballen, Meatballs, ( Gehaktballen) Kroket etc. Dutch tends to loved deep-fried good old balls and sticks. It’s always a clean plate whenever we have these. My daughter’s personal favorite is the Krentenbollen.Yum! Anything I have missed? I must say that I mastered the art of making ‘meatballs’and ‘Gehakt spices’has become a mainstay in our kitchen.

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Typical Dutch Food you must try !

 

 

What Dutch things you have loved yourself? I’m curious, what do you use during your showers? 🙂

 

 

A Sandstorm experience in Kuwait

I often asked our office janitor why he doesn’t clean the windows. He replied : ” Its no use, it will be dusty again tomorrow “. It makes sense, right?

One word to describe Kuwait is Sandstorms (also known in Arabic as Shamal ).  Its plural because they come more often especially during Summer. After years of living here, I realized that its not only on the culture aspect an Expat get a shock, but also on the weather. If you are an Expat in Kuwait I am sure you know what I’m talking about.

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“A huge ‘wall of sand’ engulfs a city in Kuwait. This type of sandstorm is also known as ‘haboob’, derived from the Arabic word for ‘strong wind’ (Photo Credit: Rizalde Cayanan)”

The weather in Kuwait is arid, dust is part of the air you breathe when its dusty, literally. This is the practical & functional reasons why Arab men wear Ghutra & Dishdasha and women wore Niqab, Burqa, Hijab & Abayas. These type of clothing serves as protection from the harsh winds, dust & heat. The weather is totally extreme. When its hot, its really HOT. And when its dry winter, temperatures during this time could reach 0° C. The highest ever temperature recorded in Kuwait was 53.8 °C (128.8 °F) at Sulaibiya on July 31, 2012 which is the highest recorded temperature in Asia and also the third highest in the world. Try to imagine how people deal with this heat during Ramadan.

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Arab men wearing Ghutra as protection from strong winds & dust
My first experience of Sandstorm is still very vivid. I was at work when it happened. It was already a bit dusty and windy but around 7am the sky slowly turning into grey, into dark brown, into light orange, and suddenly it was really dark. I could hear the loud sound of the wind gushing through the windows & banging in the doors. I couldn’t see anything from the large window in my office.  I don’t have a smartphone yet during that time so I wasn’t able to capture it . It lasted for a few minutes and gradually it started to clear again. The dusty weather lasted for about 3-4 days. In some cases, it could last longer. Throughout the day, its dusty so everywhere in the building is dusty.

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Low Visibility during Sandstorm in Kuwait
I remember one time that while we are on the road, we cannot see further and the cars need to stop. I felt different emotions during those times. I felt sick, suffocated, surprised, amazed and yet excited to see all of these happening before my eyes. It was all new to me.

But then I get used to it eventually through the years. When I noticed from the window that its dusty, I brought an extra scarf and I have mask when going to work. I have learned to accept that it’s part of life here. When its dusty weather, you can’t enjoy outdoors. You cancel your plans. Nobody wants to walk outside while its raining dust. It could drain you physically as well as its not healthy to expose yourself into it. The funny thing is, its very common that its dusty on weekends, I don’t know why.

Here’s an interesting piece about Sandstorms in Kuwait.

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This photo was  taken in Kuwait during sandstorm &  was shortlisted from over 10,000 entries for the competition, Environmental Photographer of the Year award. For us who are used to this view, this view is quite normal  but to the majority of the world it looks exceptional and scary. In total , they have 111 photos that have been selected and they all tell a unique story. There’s a website just for this award you can check out [here].

Travel Tip :

Just in case you have plans to move to Kuwait, make sure you have a decent bandana, scarf or mask in your luggage. You will need it. When you arrive in Kuwait between April ~October, I tell you, it is HOT. You will already be sweating once you reached the carpark so make sure you dress light.

How about you, Do you have any weather shock story ?

 

Haris in Kuwait : The Good, The Bad & the Ugly

What is a Haris?

If you’re in Kuwait, I am sure you have your own story to tell about this “King Of the Building “ ) man. Let me tell you my story ;

Haris ( or literally translated to Guard/ Janitor ) is a person in Kuwait working as a Guard of the  Building, Flat Apartment or Villa. His main job is to guard the whole building and supervise  in behalf of the Kuwaiti owner. He’s also the one in charge collecting the rent from the tenants. He receives the walk-in Expats who wants to view the vacant flats for rent. He is ever visible around the building. He is like a walking  CCTV camera that watches all over the place and reports to the owner. They normally have a free accomodation within the building. If the tenants moved out, the Haris has the access to get all the remaining stuff inside the flat considering most flats are rented unfurnished.

The Good

I met Jamal when I was still living in the flat provided by my employer. He is a kind man from Bangladesh. He is also meek and very polite. He works as the Haris in our building. The owner has 2 Harris. One is Egyptian who takes care of the rent and overall person in charge, while Jamal is the runner. I see him mostly in the mornings where He does most of the carwashing in the parking area. He also collect the garbage from each floor. When I needed help, He is always there to volunteer. Like for example when I needed to bring heavy groceries up to the elevator. He speaks English so that was a relief. Many times, I tried to give him money as token of appreciation but He politely refused. Jamal is the typical “GOOD “Haris in Kuwait. His type is very rare here.

The Bad

Now this is the type of Haris that you don’t want to meet. This other Haris whom I knew from the new place we want to check out is quite the opposite of Jamal, He has a very imposing character that I don’t understand from the moment I saw Him. When we inquired of the vacant flat, He immediately asks for the “Arboon” which is literally referred as Bribe. He frankly asked for 100kd, I don’t get it, I just can’t ! We transact the business directly thru the Real Estate agency and they never mentioned that there is such thing as “Reservation Fee “that we need to secure. From that time I knew he has dirty business , we become very civil while dealing with him. We continue to secure the place and totally ignore Him. His behavior totally changed. He become very uncooperative, rude & lazy. He refused to give assistance when we move. The lights and the shower was not working properly and He didn’t even care. We pay him 5kd every month for the garbage collection, He collects it even its only 2nd week of the current month, one time He rung the bell around 10pm at night, all for the sake of 5kd! crazy right?  When you ask them to fix something, they tell you “Inshaallah “. If your AC had broken down, you cannot wait for their Inshaallah to fixed it.

You  don’t have any choice but to fixed it or call the Technician yourself.

This is the typical face of the Haris here. They are untouchable. Most of them get on with their “dirty business”and go on with their routines saying “As Salamu Alaykum ” (Peace be upon You ! ) to you every morning. I just don’t get it.

The Ugly

Now this is the type of Haris that  becomes like your 2nd Landlord. He acts as if He’s the owner of the building. He practically knows everyone in the building. He knows every single Tenant. He knows the Ins & out of the building more than the owner itself. The owner’s concern is only about the money & collecting rent. Most complaints  doesn’t even reach the Kuwaiti owner.

This type of Haris doesn’t even clean the building and very rude. His face becomes so ugly because of his behavior. He believes that He has the power to control things such as bribing the tenants and continues to do so because some Expats are lured by this. Most Expats have busy lifestyles and in urgency to settle a place quickly ,and therefore give in to this. Worst is, this is the type of Haris that might intentionally turn off your electricity just to piss you off. Yes, they can do that!

In dealing with these type of people, Expats need to protect themselves. They need to be firm and don’t be a friend with them or else, they will abuse you. To clarify things, i wrote this post based upon my personal experiences and doesn’t have an  intention to demoralize the Haris population in Kuwait.

Its sad but this is one of the shocking reality in Expat’s life here in Kuwait.

Where else you can find a 2nd landlord ? The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? I tell you, It’s here, Only in Kuwait.

If you’re an Expat in K-Town, Do you have any stories about the Haris? How was your encounters with them?

 

Expat’s Guide to Expating in Kuwait

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Kuwaiti men in their Dishdasha

M     A    R    H    A   B   A   !

Welcome to Kuwait!

If the title caught your attention, then most probably that you have plans to make Kuwait as your new home. Maybe you just got your new work contract for a new job here or you have been relocated for a new assignment. Whatever your reasons, Congratulations!  you are now a legit Expat. Consider yourself lucky because Kuwait is a popular destination for Expats. One, its ideally located near Africa, the Middle east & Asia, which gives you an ideal location for travel. Kuwait is a small country and yet a very international one. Just to share with you some quick facts ;

* Kuwait has the world’s fifth largest proven oil reserves.
* Kuwait has the third highest density of millionaires in the world.
* Kuwait is the second most free & progressive economy in the Middle East (#4 World Bank,2011~2014). Kuwait currency (Kuwaiti Dinar or KD)  is one of the highest valued currency unit in the world.
* Kuwait is the Arab world’s largest foreign investor, with $8.4 billion in Foreign Direct Investments.

 So here’s my practical guides and honest advice for making Kuwait your new home. I am living in this country for almost 8 years now and I could say that I knew how it goes here fairly well (from an Expat’s view ). My views about Kuwait evolves through time.

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Iconic Kuwait Towers

1.Respect Islam & the Muslim Culture

Kuwait is a Muslim country so this should be on top of your mind. Kuwait is your host country so obeying its rules and respecting its religion is the right humane thing to do. Soon you will be mingling with Muslims and exposed with their practices so better prepare yourself for a dose of culture shock. Be open-minded  about it & don’t judge. Be reminded that alcohol, drugs, pornography, wild partying, and activities such as these are illegal & punishable by law. If you love pork, then you need to forget it for a while. Modesty is the theme everywhere, and although Kuwait’s Expat population grown so much from the past years, it’s still very conservative.  You can find separate lines for women,and sections for men same as in their praying practices. If you are a woman, do dress accordingly so as not to attract unwanted attention and offend others. Although in Kuwait women are not required to wear Abaya or head covering like in Saudi Arabia, It is better to blend with their customs. Dress in a way that your arms & legs are covered at least while you are in public. Leave your tube tops & mini-skirts at home, you won’t be needing that in Kuwait. Don’t expect to find a club or disco either, nightlife doesn’t exists here.

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Local Fisherman in their  Boats docked in Al-Kout

You will soon find yourself getting used to the sound of the call of  prayer times from the mosque completely heard inside your home. Don’t panic, It’s normal. Muslims prays 5 times daily so don’t be surprised if you see someone praying out in the sun, in the park or at work. At work, be prepared for the Holy Month of Ramadan when Muslims are Fasting. Be open minded about this and respect their customs. You will be fined and might be deported if you are caught eating in public during fasting hours.

I saw many Expats failed to understand these simple things, Don’t be like one.

2. Learn the Language

You want to go out and explore the city but you don’t know how to say the directions to the place you wanna go, let alone the taxi driver is Bengali or Egyptian who doesn’t speak English. Not a very comfortable situation ,right?

Although Kuwait’s population is very multilingual and English is widely spoken, I strongly advise you to try to learn the language. Arabic is the official language of Kuwait and most paperworks done in Ministry is written in Arabic. If you want to successfully survive on your day-to day life as an Expat, make time to learn the basics .Even right before you fly to Kuwait. Learning a language is a lifelong investment so it won’t be wasted. As for me, I really pushed myself to learn to speak Arabic and it really helps me to get on with my life here. It keeps me also sane from my work to be able to converse with others with a pick up of the language. As I mentioned in my previous post “Becoming an Expat is Hard “,on notes about learning the local language ,Google translate cannot always save your day.

3. Carefully check your fine prints.

If you came to Kuwait under contract, please make sure you check the your fine prints and your work contract along with your visa. Don’t sign anything in Arabic that you don’t understand or has not been translated for you.

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Typical Fridays : Jet-skiing in the Arabian Gulf

If you’re Filipino overseas contract worker ( also known as OFW) make sure you register yourself in the Embassy . Kuwait has horror stories about Expats arriving here with total twist in their working permits and visas. You don’t want to fall into this mess. Kuwait has National Identification system for everyone. Your company will guide you through this.You need to undergo the Finger printing process & medical exam before you will be issued with Civil ID (Bataqa).This ID is every important . Make sure you bring this with you everywhere you go in Kuwait.

4.Business Hours in Kuwait

This is another thing to note when you moved to Kuwait.The Kuwaiti work week is mostly from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday making up a weekend. Banks and insurance companies work Sundays through Thursdays in order to coordinate with the international money markets and many of the private offices work half days on Thursdays. The government day is from 7:300 AM to 1:30 PM in the winter and 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM in the summer. The hours of private companies vary, with some working split shifts around a long mid – day break, while others have adapted to a western work day. Shops are generally open from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM and from 4:30 PM to 9:30 PM. While some malls have adapted to a 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM working day. However all timings are liable to change during Ramadan, with working hours becoming very irregular and shorter.

5.Break out from your shell & Embrace the Culture of Kuwait

Finally you’re in another country. Everything is new to your eyes. You are curious. So why not take this opportunity to explore and broaden your horizons by exploring Arab culture? Kuwait has rich culture and notable history. I have learned so much from this country over the years more than what I have read from the books.

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Slides in Aqua park

Culture is something you need to experience & lived by, you cannot learn Culture from just reading from guide books. When I was new here, I went to interesting places, I explored Museums, going into the Souks, visiting the Friday Markets and Miya-Miya stores, walking through the neighborhood, observing, and learning from locals. I took advantage of talking to my colleagues to ask questions for situations I don’t understand. It really helped me to overcome the uneasiness I’m feeling when I moved here as a single woman. I struggled hard  to overcome the feeling of helplessness & undue attention I get from the veiled women dressed in black Abayas. I had to accept that women here are different from who I am and the way that I was raised in my home country. Honestly, I felt that the locals are hostile to me because of the way I feel. This is one of the culture shock that I had to go through but it doesn’t mean that this is the norm in reality.

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My typical Lunch in Kuwait

Be resourceful to fill in the gaps of your free times for self-growth. There are various clubs & organizations in Kuwait that you can join to do sports, crafts, photography,fine architecture, book clubs, or just touring  to explore the beautiful best hidden spots and attractions.

AWARE Center is the place for Arab & Western Cultures. They have an extensive Library with English books in the GCC area if you are interested in doing a research or study. They offer classes for Kuwaiti cooking lessons, Arabic language,Islamic & Kuwaiti culture. They have a very good schedule of cultural events that will really help you feel more at home while you are in Kuwait. Through them, I have visited notable places in Kuwait that I never imagined that it exists. To name a few are  the Tareq Rajab Museum, House of Mirrors , the Grand Mosque and enjoying the view in the tallest structure in the Middle East , the Liberation tower. My husband highly recommended the Arab Fund headquarters Tour where you can see beautiful architecture.  I have met wonderful Expats through AWARE. If you’re interested, you can learn more about them in their website in Here.

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Aqua park

I am so glad I have found this gem . I have felt so welcomed in their organization and If there’s any group that deserved to be lifted up, it is them. They have done a remarkable job in bridging the gaps between Expatriates and the Kuwaiti community.

You might be interested to check out the list I’ve made for fascinating free things to do to enjoy your stay in Kuwait. If you haven’t, you can find it Here.

6. The Heat  in Kuwait is Real 

The weather in Kuwait could be a daunting  experience. For someone who is not used to the heat that could reached to 50 degrees in Summer, you might faint & have a stroke. Be prepared to handle the heat here because its real. You need to keep hydrated and well covered in this country to protect yourself. Kuwait  also has occasional Sandstorms and dusty weather is a norm. I pointed this out so you might know what to expect so you can dress properly and arrange yourself to enjoy it instead of agonizing over it. Many Expats find it hard to survive in Kuwait because there is limited things to do outdoors when its scorching hot. The Arabian Gulf  is easily accessible in the coastal areas of Kuwait  so most Expats flocked to the beach to cool down. You can enjoy having picnics, fishing, or just laze on the shores while watching the sun sets. There are available boat trips, and various water sports activities that you can join. Aqua Park is Kuwait’s premiere water park complex located just beside the Kuwait Towers. If you are into Diving, then the Palms offers a variety of diving courses from snorkeling and entry-level diving activities . Another way to ease up the summer heat is exploring the world-class Malls in Kuwait. Shopping malls in Kuwait like  The Avenues has become major tourist hub because of its beautiful architecture and global branded shops. Its the largest shopping mall in Kuwait, and still expanding.  It’s really a place for the whole family. There have modern cinemas and lines of international restaurants to cater all cuisines & food preferences. You can almost find everything you need in here. Children can enjoy a wonderful time in the Kidzania, Baroue, and the Magic Planet.  Swedish giant Ikea is also located just beside the Avenues so its always a famous Expat’s destination.

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The Avenues Mall In Kuwait

As an Expat here I have experienced many things that I have never expected. When I turned on the faucet, the water is hot. In the summer you don’t even need a water heater. I have learned to love Arabic foods & dishes, I have made friends, I have ridden the camels, I have made Kuwait my second home. This is how I overcome my initial shock when I came here. It is also a choice that you need to make.

I wish you all the best and here’s hoping that these things could help you survive Kuwait.

 As-Salamu Alaykum!

If you like this post, then you might be interested to explore my posts about Kuwait. Hit the follow Button below  to subscribe on this Blog and learn more about my Expat Life.

Souk Mubarakiya {The Old New }

Last Saturday, we headed to Souk Mubarakiya in Kuwait with excitement . There’s something about this old souk’s flair that keep us coming back . Locally known as Mubarakiya, this place is a market melting pot in Kuwait. It is the true testimony of Kuwait in the PAST and now a center of a NEW Kuwait. No wonder people come back after visits to this important Icon of Kuwait, from locals to visitors, to merchants & Expats . Souk Mubarakiya is still an authentic magnet. Here’s Why;

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Welcome to Souk Mubarakiya

Walking into a Legacy of Old Times

Looking back,over 200 years ago, a market was created in the Al-Mubarakiya area as a center for vendors to showcase their produce in a raw, non-commercial way. The Souq – market – soon became a cultural hub,frequently visited by different nationalities, catering to the needs of every visitor, whether for the weekly grocery shop or simply an idle outing to a space bursting with tradition and vividness. With Sheikh Mubarak Al Kabeer’s Kiosk in the center of it all, people were able to openly communicate their hopes, dreams, and worries to their leader. Soon enough, a little further down the road from the Kiosk, a Diwaniya was born. The Diwaniya became – and still is – a place for the country’s elders to meet and discuss everything from social issues to the coming elections. Past the Diwaniya, one of Kuwait’s oldest Post Offices can be found. Standing tall, the original majestic doors were preserved, along with a beautiful blue and white post box. Further still, the gates and marker for the Mubarakiya School – a 100 year-old institution of education. Currently open as an exhibition and celebration of academia, the school welcomes visitors from Monday to Saturday. The old Souk  was damaged during the Iraqi invasion in 1990, however it was renovated and it got back its traditional flavor. The market also hosts two mini museums: Sheikh Mubarak Kiosk and the first Islamic pharmacy in Kuwait, and admission is free.

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There is a courtyard near Al-Bahar or Sea Mosque, where you can find traditional cafes brewing their teas over coals, and several small restaurants are lined-up where they serve authentic Arabic, Indian, Persian food to the customers in the open air. The prices are the cheapest in Kuwait. On hot summer days, water mist is sprayed from pipes over the tables to give you a cooling feeling. A children playground is nearby and smoking Sheesha is also available.

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Streets of Historical Souk

Walking through the Souk Mubarakiya allows you to learn about this country’s rich culture, you will be transported way back to the old times at the same time appreciating the fusion of  modern cultures that made this market survived until now. I love the fact that as an Expat, I was able to see how the old souk courtyards look like. Reading about it from a book is totally different from actually seeing it.

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Dresses inspired by Kuwait colors for your Little Girl

A Patchwork of  Revolutionary Trends

If you’ve never see the new face of Souk Mubarakiya, you will be amazed of its bold changes. Now part of the Souk had a modern facelift. A Mubarakiya with a twist. The birth of SoMu  ( stands for South Mubarakiya ) signals a new beginning, a Hybrid of cultural diversity abreast with the worlds latest trends. As this country is continually growing , SoMu shows that Kuwait’s Souk Mubarakiya is ready for change .With a revolutionary design approach known as Thouq , from the bright minds of  Ahmad Al-Ghanim and Bader Al Hejailan , they bring out an impressive idea of a concept store. They have a vision of turning this place into a hub for Arts,Culture and Fashion.

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SoMu Square’s Mural  designed by Thouq

For longest time I have been living here, when i stepped into SoMu Square, I thought for a minute that I am in another place. The hip new look of the place reminds me so much of the market places I have seen in Europe.

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A Mural in the heart of SoMu Square

Once your feet landed on these striking wall with  a huge mural which spells “I love you Kuwait” in Arabic. Opposite is a Banksy style mural of a man in national dress, throwing a bouquet of flowers in lieu of a Molotov cocktail. This is a best exmple of a national pride.

In the center of SoMu center  is a beautiful Gazebo, arrayed with a bandstand of plants and greenery that reminds you of Paris or London. As you look around, you feast your eyes on  variousn quaint cafes and quirky restaurants with outdoors seating areas spilling onto the square. Everyone is smiling and it’s no surprise. Such a cozy atmosphere. Everyone is out & enjoying the sun.

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Trendy Restaurant in SoMu Square frequented by visitors & locals.

I am so glad I found this hidden gem .This is the kind of area I want to bring my best of friends, hanging out and chilling with an iced mint coffee in hand, having great conversations or indulge into home baked goodies  in a rose perfumed Parisian style salon. Everything about Thouq square is breathing aunthenticity as well as quality.

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A giant Mural as a tribute to Kuwait designed by Thouq

 

 

What’s so amazing about Souk Mubarakiya is that its a labyrynth of culture. As you continue to explore the streets, you will be brought again to another dimension.You can spend hours in this market strolling around and discovering reasonable bargains on heritage goods such as Persian silk carpets, real Arab antiques, perfumes like musk and oud, and traditional costumes. This place is perfect whether you want to shop, eat, or for sightseeing. Al-Mubarakiya features a variety of shops such as  dates, honey, spices, sweets, vegetables, fruits, meat, and fish. In addition to a range of shops accessories, gold and silver jewelries.

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Inside the world of a Dates vendor in Souk Mubarakiya

You’ll always find something or another to entertain you while you’re there. Get lost in the markets and enjoy the intertwining stalls – take in all the sights, sounds, and smells of the markets. From sibah – prayer beads – to fresh date kiosks, you can purchase absolutely everything in the souk. You just can’t go home empty-handed!

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So if you’re in K-town and looking for a worthwhile 2 hours of your time, then i highly recommend a visit to Souk Mubarakiya. At night this place into something else. The newly renovated ceilings with sparkling lights gives this place a lively vibe. There’s so much fun and highlights in this place especially now that the Hala February Festival (Kuwait’s National Day ) is finally on. Make sure you mark your calendars & include this in one of your family outings. Don’t worry about your Little ones, they will for sure enjoy the spacious playground just in front of the open-air restaurants.

I hope you have a wonderful time visiting Souk Mubarakiya.

Do you find this post interesting? What do you like about the culture of Kuwait?