For most Americans, the working knowledge of Kuwait begins and ends with a short conflict fought in 1990, when some a-hole from Iraq invaded the small Middle Eastern nation with the intent of capturing its vast oil reserves. In the years since, however, Kuwait has largely faded into the background. Amid an otherwise turbulent region, Kuwait is one of a handful of nations that’s focused on economics and standard of living. While the beautiful little nation still has some ground to cover, it’s come a long way in the last twenty years. Here is some stuff you may not know.
1. Kuwaitis Only Make Up a Third of the Population
Kuwait’s thriving oil industry has attracted a huge number of expats from around the world. In fact, around six million of the country’s citizens are imports, which creates something of a diverse and international community among Kuwait’s citizens.
2. The Dress Code Is Liberal … But Not That Liberal
Thanks to the huge number of expats in the country, the Kuwaiti people tend to be a little more lenient in terms of dress code. While the Arab residents will still wear traditional garb, most people are wearing Western-style clothing. That being said, most Arabs still prefer that clothing not reveal the shoulders, arms or legs.
3. Three Words: Robot Camel Racing
Unfortunately, it’s not as cool as it sounds; still, it’s worth checking out. Throughout the Middle East, camel racing has become a kind of formalized sport, much like horse racing in America. In the past, countries would use imported children (not a joke) as their jockeys. When that practice was outlawed (for some reason …), the kids were replaced with crude robots that include radios which allow camel-owner-to-camel communication during the race.
4. They Have the Most Valuable Currency in the World
For several years running, the Kuwaiti dinar has maintained the top spot as the most expensive currency on the planet. Though the country hasn’t always had the most stable economy in the Middle East (see: the Gulf War), it has since rebounded in spectacular fashion. At present, one Kuwaiti dinar is worth about $3.31.
5. Families Live Together For Generations
Kuwaiti tradition placed a high premium on family. More often than not, men and women alike were expected to live at home until they were married. More recently, soaring real estate prices throughout the nation have forced some families to simply move in with one another, even after a couple is married.
6. Use Your Right Hand
Just as in several other Arabian countries, it’s considered rude to accept anything or reach out for a greeting with your left hand. Historically, the left hand is used for bathroom duties, so it’s considered the dirtier of the two. As a result, accepting something with your left hand is considered both filthy and insulting.
7. Gas Is Cheaper Than Water
Thanks to the fact that Kuwait is home to the world’s fifth largest oil reserves, the country can sell to its citizens for pennies on the dollar. About 85 percent of the country’s revenue from exports is thanks to petroleum.
8. Wives Don’t Take Their Husband’s Name
The name you’re born with is the name you keep, regardless of whom you marry.
9. Address Kuwaitis by their Full Name at the Beginning of the Conversation
Kuwaiti people place a great deal of stock in civility. As a result, it’s a good idea to greet a resident of Kuwait by their full name. After that you might be given permission to call them by their first name, but at first it’s best to play it safe.
10. Don’t Show People the Soles Of Your Feet
It’s an implication that you think the other person is somehow “dirt.” Kuwaitis find this inference wildly offensive for good reason. That’s why it’s a good idea to always keep your feet on the ground when in the company of other people; don’t even cross your legs.
11. Just Say ‘Yes’
If you’re invited to the home of an Arab person, it’s considered rude to turn them down. Once you’re inside the home, it’s also considered rude to turn down any kind of refreshment. This level of hospitality can actually be a great avenue into learning more about Kuwaiti culture.
12. Falcons Are Everywhere
Throughout Kuwait, falconry is a highly respected art that you may see practiced from time to time. The art of falconry originally developed thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia, of which modern-day Kuwait was once a part. The tradition has continued in Kuwait, which still places a huge amount of respect in the falcon sigil. The falcon is even the national bird of Kuwait.
13. Expect to See a Lot of Personal Technology
The Kuwaiti people have a reputation for adopting any new international trend — especially if it’s tech-related — with little hesitation. They had bluetooth headsets first. They were addicted smartphones first. They like innovation.
14. Nepotism Is a Real Thing
Just ask any Kuwaiti citizen and they’ll let you know that nepotism exists at every level. It’s just a part of life.
15. While in An Arab Home …
First, take your shoes off immediately. Female visitors will often be sent to hang out with the ladies of the house. Guests will certainly be offered a beverage (which, again, you shouldn’t turn down). While there, don’t talk about politics or religion, no matter how correct you think you are. You should also avoid complimenting any of their possessions as Kuwaiti tradition dictates that person then offer said item to you. Obviously that tradition is fading, but it’s still embarrassing for a lot of people since it implies a kind of vanity.