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Category Archives: expat

so,…

congratulations on your new assignment to somewhere in the middle east,… or more specifically somewhere in the gulf,… in the middle east.

having grown up here,… gone away for university,…and been back for almost 7 years now,….

and since my departure from this region is imminent, i figured i might as well do a bit to pass on some of what i know and /or dont know to the unsuspecting arabian/persian gulf expat newbies.

first things first,….. exorcise any romantic notions you might have of the “exotic near east”. its more than likely that the images you have in your head belong more to the egypt-jordan-syria-turkey(ish) area of the arab world than to the gulf states. as strange as it may seem, if youve been to /lived in metropolitan and / or suburban america, you’ll find that things arent that much different here.

at least, not on the surface.

infact, within minutes of your arrival, and within 1km of where your plane landed, you will be able to grab your first arabian Big Mac and milkshake, your first arabian mocha-frappa-latte-cino, your first arabian pair of arabian levi’s, nikes, reeboks, guccis, LV’s, etc, etc, etc,….. and yes even the evil gap store is here.

its actually like you left, where ever it is you came from, and flew into one big western hemisphere themed shopping mall. if you were a mall rat in your teens you’ll love it here. infact every once in a while, when entertaining out of towners from the west i am constantly surprised at their ” omg we dont have a “insert brand” store in our town!”

anyway, any other tourist guide will tell you wonderful stories of how the skylines here can be mistaken for any other metropolis in the world, and how amazingly blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,…..

thats all well and good,… and alot of it is certainly true.

but there is a more interesting side to this region. the side that the tour guides for the tour guides who wrote the tour guides never went, and even if they did, never understood.

let me put it this way,….

you can be here for 10-20-30 years and still be a tourist.

and for most people thats just fine, since most expats that come to this region are here on short term contracts. the local news doesnt make a difference to them, so they dont read it, and yet they bitch and moan when they dont understand why people here do things or act the way that they do.

its complicated,…

but then again its not really that complicated…..

anyway, heres my first tip for you if you happen to be reading this from distant shores still:

dont listen to the expat on your plane that says hes been here forever and thinks he knows how these people think.

myself included. 😛

and definately dont listen to the guy that says ” man, theyre all loaded! all you see on the roads are mercs and beamers!”

and if you hear someone chuckling at that comment, turn around and say hi, cos it will most probably be me.

there are many great things here, and there are just as many not so great things.

i hope to cover them equally to give you a balanced view of what its like here, especially to those of you who will be dragging your families here with you.

since i’ve lived mostly in kuwait, alot of this will relate directly to kuwait,… naturally. but i have traveled around this place quite a bit, and i have met and dealt with a nice cross section of the GCC,… and since this is mostly about what its like as opposed to a definitive guide,… in many cases, the history of the peoples, and their social structures are very similar across the borders. there are, of course some differences, and i suppose it will be up to you to gauge how they are weighted.

and no, as regular readers ( hi you two!) have probably guessed, i dont have a clear idea or structure to how this is going to go,… so yeah,… if you have anything in particular that you would like me to write about, or any questions at all then do feel free to leave me a memo.

and if over time i may have forgotten about your memo,… you may then send me a threatening memo reminding me to reread you previous memo.