Identity symbol, the Kuwaiti style

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Local Sightings : A Giant Kuwait Flag hang in the street during Hala February celebrations in Kuwait

You know you’re an Expat in Kuwait when the sight of the colors red, green, black and white has become a norm wherever you go.

One of the things that stands out and I particularly noticed while living in Kuwait for years was the local’s love of their national flag. It just sprouts everywhere! In the shopping malls, bridges, in the motorway, in almost all building’s facade,in cars and yachts,and oh even in the shirt that people wear! I’m telling you, visiting Kuwait during the festive month of February is quite an experience. As the biggest festival of Hala February approaches, around 4 weeks before the event, almost all houses including office buildings are heavily decorated with life-size Kuwaiti flag. The face of the Amir & the Crown Prince is also almost e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

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You can’t get lost. These signs will be your guide that you’re still in the country’s premises.

In the Miya-Miya shops ( 100 fils shop or like the Euro shops), tons of things are being sold with designs of the flag as well. From head scarfs, earrings, hats, glasses, pins, dresses, almost anything that you can wear on yourself!  In my old neighborhood alone, where most of my neighbors are Kuwaitis, all villas have this giant size flag hanging from their roof top down to their basement. It’s like their identity symbol. A competition of the biggest flag and I don’t really know who’s winning. Children wear dresses made out of the Kuwaiti flag colors. The colors green,white and red are made into a frenzy lights that dazzled at night. Kuwait loves sparkling, dancing, and almost surreal light displays.Well if you’re in an oil-rich country like Kuwait, you will put lights everywhere,too. This country is really a must see especially in February when they are celebrating their culture, national pride and liberation in their National Day.

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A girl dressed in Kuwaiti colors

I have never seen this kind of patriotism and pride which ever you may call it. Young children are part of this and they enjoyed it the most,for the fun part. In my home country, or in the Netherlands or even here in Germany on a daily basis. Even a Bakala in Kuwait has a flag in their doors. In the Philippines, flags and the ways that its being used is somewhat only  in sanctified functions.Here, I know that a surge of display of flags and symbolism comes very timely during sport tournaments and of course, during Football season and its fanfare.

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Hala Hala Kuwait!

What local sightings do you appreciate or see in your neighborhood?

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A day in the life of a Teaboy in Kuwait

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.

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Afternoon treat : A typical tea with dates in the Middle East

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.

Shukran!