So for the most part, living in Kuwait is not as different as I was expecting it to be. I’ve been here for 6 weeks (ish–bad with dates….).
One teacher and I had this conversation a couple weeks ago:
Him: How are you doing with culture shock?
Me: It hasn’t been too bad at all. Except with my kids behaviour. But outside the classroom, not much is different.
Him: I found the same thing. In fact, the biggest shock was the fact that there was not much of a shock at all. It’s almost the same as being home.
Me: That’s a really interesting observation. And an interesting way to put it. Because I’ve thought the same thing.
We went on to talk about other teachery things, but the thought stuck with me. A lot of things are the same here as they are at home. People tend to be nicer, more respectful, stuff tends to be a bit more expensive (as a whole–there are definite exceptions), traffic is a bit busier (than the city I lived in–comparable to Greenville SC maybe?), I love living in a city where everything is walking distance, and I haven’t found anything I couldn’t get here that I could get in either Canada or the States. I could even get grits delivered to my apartment, hot. If I wanted to (which I don’t). More about the amazingness that is the delivery service in another post another day.
Things are pretty similar. Sometimes I forget I’m in the middle east. Of course, when I step out and it’s 32 degrees celsius (90 Fahrenheit) at the end of October, I remember. At home at this time, we planned our halloween costumes to go over our snowsuits. But again, I digress. Can you say ADD much?
There are a few major differences here. People smoke indoors. You go to the mall and the food court reeks of tobacco smoke. It took some time to get used to seeing literally everyone in disdashas and abayas (the Muslim outfits) and head coverings. Hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day is a little weird. Knowing that almost everyone around me is Muslim is different. There is no tolerance here, because there is no need for it. It’s “conform” or don’t talk about what makes you different. Your views aren’t accepted and seen as “equal” if they aren’t the norm. This works out really well for their culture and society. People grow up knowing what is expected of them, and how they should act. I think North American societies need to adopt this viewpoint a little more. Don’t get mad or think I’m a horrible person–it’s making sense in my brain, but I’m not sure if it is in this post.
However, along with the Muslim viewpoint and the lack of tolerance thing, comes a lot of censorship. So for instance, if I were to go the library, I may find books with pictures colored over with black marker (of either gender in shorts/sleevless, bathing suits, etc., people kissing, etc.) Some of the teachers have gone to the movie theater here, and all scenes with kissing (and beyond) are deleted from the movies. I use a VPN which allows me to go wherever I want on the internet without being detected/blocked by the government. One day, i forgot to turn it on and tried to go to Bob Jones website to watch chapel live. This is what I saw:
Basically, “the government doesn’t like this site so you can’t see it”.
I sent home book order forms from scholastic this past week. I was given a master copy and told to go through and censor the book order form. If students ordered a book not on the “approved” list, the ministry of education could ban book orders from all schools.
Students couldn’t order any books on magic (including Harry Potter), a lot of popular American YA fiction (Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.). None of “Captain Underpants”, a bunch of “teen-girl” stuff, (which IDK why you’d want to read that stuff anyway, but anyway….). There were a lot of books they couldn’t order–mostly beyond what my kids would read, but still… It was interesting. Because at home in the schools, we would never say “We don’t think you should read this book so I won’t let you order it”. Here, the parents are ok with it, and even expect it. It’s just a part of life here.