Today’s interview is about Taylor Vaughn, expat in Kuwait. She and her family are living in Kuwait for three years. From the United States to Hungary, let’s read their expat experience in the Middle East!
About you in Kuwait
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I am originally from Charleston, South Carolina
Q: In which city and country are you living now? Did you move there alone or with a spouse/family?
A: We are currently living in Kuwait, Kuwait City. We moved here the three of us, and now there are 4! My husband and two sons Cruze (4) and Zane (2).
Q: How long have you lived there and how long are you planning to stay?
A: We have lived here for a little over three years and are now in the process of moving back to the US as the contract for my husband’s job has ended.
Q: Why did you move and what do you do?
A: My husband, David, is an avionics technician for Boeing who was hired by the Kuwaiti Air Force to maintain their C-17 government planes.
Living Abroad before moving to Kuwait
Q: Moving from the United States to Kuwait, what was your first impression?
A: Landing in the middle of the night, in the middle of the desert, in the Middle East I can’t say I was terribly nervous. What you hear about the Middle East and what we experience though, became very different. It is a different world over here for sure!
Q: What do you enjoy most about Kuwait? What were some of your favorite experiences in Kuwait?
A: Among other things, I love the driving here (gasp). It’s fast-paced and crazy, yet scary at times. Sometimes there aren’t rules and I tend to forget I can’t jump curbs, park wherever I want, or pass people on an exit ramp when I go back to the States! One of my favorite experiences was driving out to the desert near the Iraqi border. This is where people come to have a little downtime and ride ATV’s, motorcycles, and use their 4-wheel drive cars up the huge sandhills. They have absolutely no fear out in the desert! It’s quite scary to stand at the edge of the cliff, but watching the sunset in the desert was a beautiful experience. The travel from here to other countries was an overall favorite experience. We are so close to so many wonderful places. So far we’ve been able to see most of Europe, India, Indonesia, U.A.E, Bangladesh, South Korea, and a few others.
Q: What do you miss most about home?
A: Pork, Wine and Family.
Q: What has been the greatest aspect to your expat experience so far? What are the adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life there?
A: Being an expat makes a tremendous impact on your life. Your thinking completely changes. Most of us never are able to submerge ourselves into a different culture. We first started our expat journey in Hungary and lived there for a year. Coming to Kuwait was far easier the 2nd time around. Language barriers, cultural differences, and ways of doing things could be frustrating but learning to understand, having patience and being able to adapt has really molded us into better people. In Kuwait, culturally (and especially as a woman) I had to learn to adapt to their religious values. Being from the hot south, I’m used to tank tops and shorts which are a big No, No here. Even in the summer with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I had to cover more of my body. During Ramadan, which is their religious time of fasting, we weren’t able to eat, drink, or even chew gum at the time. My first year I was pregnant, so it was very hard.
Q: How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country, in terms of cost of living, public transportation and healthcare system?
A: It’s definitely expensive here in Kuwait, although some items can even be cheaper than my home country (for instance, Sliced Bread). Public transportation was certainly lacking, although cabs are readily available.
Healthcare has been nothing but great. Their private hospitals were more attentive than America hospitals. Even the government hospitals, though much different from the private, were acceptable compared to what we had experienced in Hungary. Overall people become expats for a better quality of life. It’s always a give and take. You are far from family but make more money. You travel more but have less of the goods you are used to from how. Your quality of life depends on what you deem important on a day to day basis.
Q: What are the best things to do or places to visit in Kuwait?
A: Kuwait is very family-oriented,which I love. My favorite things here are the Kuwait Towers, the Avenues mall (best in the world I think, and I’ve been to the Mall of America and Dubai Mall!), the Grand Mosque, and Al Shaheed Park. Throughout the year, rooftop farmers markets are my favorite things to visit! The food here is really awesome. We have some favorite restaurants I don’t know how I will live without.
Meeting people and making friends in Kuwait
Q: Tell us about your typical day as an expat in Kuwait.
A: I’m a stay at home mom so you can imagine how crazy that is with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old! I’m so lucky to be able to have the luxury of staying home with them, which I won’t be able to once we move back to the States. Though we have a pretty big home, the week can sometimes be a little monotonous. We look forward to the weekend where we get to get out and have fun. Many women have a hard time getting a driver’s license here because of the expat laws with driving. It took me a year to get one but during the week I don’t have a car, so we are stuck inside.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? Did you feel you fitted in culturally?
A: I personally make friends wherever I go, so I never worried. We have friends from all over the world that we have met here, which most expats and lots of those expats are half Kuwaiti. I think you are always aware that you are kind of an outsider, but I have never been treated as an outsider by the people of Kuwait. They welcomed us with open arms.
Working in Kuwait
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or go through an agency?
A: We had someone help us get our Visas coming into the country. My husband’s company was responsible for helping us, I don’t know how we would have done it alone. Kuwait’s government processes are a bit confusing especially considering the language barrier.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: Though he works with a mixture of different cultures, he could see a difference in how different cultures approach work and their work ethics. Americans tend to be the “workaholics” of the groups with a strict attitude towards deadlines. Kuwaitis tended to be a bit more on the relaxed side, more time off, less work-oriented. Not to say that is totally bad. Perhaps Americans need to learn to slow down
Q: What are your tips or advice for anyone looking to live and work in Kuwait?
A: If you can live or work overseas, do it. There is nothing out there that can teach you more about yourself and the world than stepping outside your comfort zone. We typically live in a bubble so to speak, and we never truly get to see the world from another perspective. Kuwait is a very interesting country and highly recommend it! My advice is also, no matter what country you are able to become an expat in, go into the experience with a positive outlook.
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