Going for work overseas can be a challenging thing, especially for first time overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who lack the general knowledge and background of the country they will be residing in.
As in the case of Kuwait, we know that it is a country located in the Middle East. And being an Arab nation, it is predominantly occupied by Muslims. Practicing Muslims follow a long list of rules and customs that must be performed at certain situations, wherever they may be in the world. And as expats, we need to understand the importance of these traditions so as not to conduct ourselves improperly among the company of these people.
How to Behave in Kuwait
- Strict Traffic Laws
Kuwait has strict traffic laws and if you find yourself in violation of any of these, expect to suffer tedious consequences such as paying hefty fines and even serving jail time. As a general precaution when driving, put away your mobile phone, observe traffic signals, and try not to get into any accidents with other vehicles and road users, as settling this matter could take up lots of your time. Also, as a passenger, be sure to take note of these things as well to avoid any delays.
- Observe and respect Islamic Customs and Traditions.
Being an Islamic nation, Kuwaitis religiously observe Islamic traditions in their daily lives. And to avoid any disputes or misunderstanding,
- Dress appropriately at all times;
- Avoid vulgarities and statements that blaspheme Islamic religion;
- do not openly show affection towards the opposite sex (such as kissing or holding hands);
- Do not tread on a prayer mat or walk in front of someone who’s praying;
- Never offer pork or alcohol to any Muslim; and
- Do not be seen eating or drinking during the whole month of Ramadan.
- Follow Kuwaiti Etiquette
As a foreign national, always remember to address someone by their full name unless told otherwise. Furthermore, use appropriate titles such “sheikh” with the person’s complete name when addressing dignitaries or nobility. Be familiar with proper opening and closing greetings especially common ones such as As-salamu alaykum which means “Peace be upon you” to which the proper response would be Wa ‘alaykum al-salaam meaning “And peace unto you.” For men, it is customary to shake hands in the presence of other men.
- Maintain proper decorum when in the company of both men and women.
Under the Islamic doctrine (the Qur’an), men are prohibited from touching non-related women. This is particularly important when residing in Kuwait. Notice how there is an allocated transportation cabin for each gender. Also, men are forbidden from staring at women especially when they are wearing abaya, burqa, or traditional Islamic dress, as this is considered offensive. And if a female Muslim is inside an elevator and a man comes in, she must come out. These things (while considered small), matter in certain situations in order not to come off as rude.
- Participate in Diwaniya.
Diwaniyas are typically male-only private parties where socio-political themed discussions are held. These are often attended by important members of society, especially politicians during election or campaign periods. When invited to these events, make good use of the opportunity to make good account of yourself by establishing business connections and the like. Diwaniyas are the socio-political lifeline and information hub of Kuwait.
As do most countries in the Middle East, Kuwait remains deeply rooted to its rich culture and religious heritage, making it a spiritual nation with great values and persistent customs and traditions.