My wife and I worked in Kuwait for 2 years and were generally very well treated at our school (AISK) and enjoyed our stay in Kuwait. We took long walks on the beach, ate well in fashionable and clean restaurants, loved the kids, made many fast friends with whom we still remain in touch, and had excellent accommodations which were large, air-conditioned and also enjoyed excellent medical coverage. There wasn’t a heck of a lot to do for younger people there but we did visit all the museums Kuwait had to offer, went to the cinema occasionally and shopped until we dropped. Travel arrangements were plentiful and interesting but expensive at the time. Everything, however, was provided for and we obtained all the help we needed in settling in and acclimating to Kuwait. We would return if offered similar positions under similar circumstances.
I lived and worked in Kuwait for 4 years. I found it to be a very nice and convenient place to live. The students were lovely and for the most part the parents were pleasant as well. I was lucky to have had a good administration to work with. I do not think it is any more dangerous than any other country in that part of the world. I do think people have to stick together and help each other through some of the rough stuff, but again that would be true anywhere. One of the biggest problems with teaching in Kuwait is that so many of the teachers are brand new to teaching and many have little or no training. There are a large number of teachers that have some experience, however it is all international, which is not to say that it is not good, but if you have taught in the States for any period of time you will surely find teaching in Kuwait a piece of cake. I encourage anyone who is interested in living overseas and in the adventure of understanding another culture to consider Kuwait.
What’s good about working and living in Kuwait? Firstly, the shopping is incredible. Anything you could want or imagine, and even some things you didn’t know existed. The malls cater to the Kuwaitis, and their wealth and shopping habits make Kuwait an excellent place for getting stuff from all over the world, no matter how expensive. (Of course you won’t be able to afford much of what you’d want.) Secondly, if you’re a single dude, you should have no trouble “dating” (or more…wink, wink) in Kuwait. The service industry brings in tens of thousands of ex-pat women (mostly Filippinas) who don’t want anything to do with rich Kuwaiti or Arab men who’ll treat them like property regardless of the money they are willing to pay for the company.
Single Western men in Kuwait aren’t flowing like the oil and expat women do appreciate that we tend to treat women with more respect and spend time with them for reasons other than just sex. American, Canadian, British guys….if you think you’ll have to go celibate in Kuwait you’re mistaken. Your waitress, cashier at the markets, sales clerks in the malls and stores, and more are almost all here alone and happy to get to know you.
Here’s why someone like me (who can adapt and live in a culture vastly different than her own) would want to teach in Kuwait:
• Comfortable and free housing
• Round trip tickets home
• Many opportunities to travel to other countries
• Tax free salary
• Extra income from tutoring
• An ideal teaching schedule with many prep periods
• No adapting lesson plans to mainstream severely disabled students
• Decent school and classroom
• Great colleagues
I’ve taught at two different American schools in Kuwait since 2003 and have had good and bad experiences since then. I am often asked why I choose to stay here by friends back home. The answer I give is that I don’t feel the need to move on, just yet.
I am comfortable with my current apartment paid for by the school and located within walking distance to the school. I have single accommodations, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and have furnished it myself so that it feels like home away from home. Some teachers paint their flats to make them homier and others have pets (although we aren’t supposed to have pets). I can have my apartment cleaned every week and pay the equivalent of $70 a month for this service as labor is cheap. I can have my trash removed and my car washed every day for less than $18 a month.
The first school I was at had shared accommodations and frankly it was just a way to save the owner a few dinars and caused nothing but problems for the teachers who found themselves forced to spend nine months with a stranger that they were not compatible with. I say if you are coming to Kuwait to work as a teacher, make sure you have single accommodations and that it is in your contract.
I like that I can find most of the food and products that I enjoy in the States. The few things I can’t buy, I bring back with me or shop on line and have it delivered using Aramex. Yes, alcohol and pork products are banned, but even they can be found if you have the right connections. Those things don’t bother me though and I’m now used to certain magazines like PEOPLE having big black censor-circles covering cleavage or bikini areas. One just laughs at those things or how inefficient any government agency is ran. That’s all part of living within another culture.
Many of the older Kuwaiti people are kind and hospitable. It is the younger generation that is arrogant, rude, and has no work ethics. So, I avoid them if I can. I can honestly say that most of the parents of my students are very likable and easy to get along with. Yes, there are some parents who I never see and the children spend a great deal of time with nannies, maids, and drivers or a parent that thinks their perfect child should be allowed to retake a test. However, I can find bad parents back home, too.
I enjoy the many holidays that give me ample time to visit other countries. I think many of the overseas hires find this a definite perk and a reason for teaching in Kuwait. I also like having the opportunity to make extra money by tutoring. There are many teachers who live on their tutoring money and bank their salaries. Many new teachers are paying off student loans. Many young couples are paying off a house back home. Some are helping their grown children through college, and others are saving for early retirement. Whatever the reasons, tutoring is another perk for working in Kuwait. Tutoring involves going to a student’s home (though not your student) or having them come to your classroom after school for private lessons to help them complete homework, projects, or to assist them in weak areas such as math or language arts. Since most if not all students in the average classroom are ELL and parents are wealthy, this provides ample tutoring possibilities.
I can work an extra six hours a week tutoring and make an extra $1260 a month, ¦tax free. Kuwait doesn’t have state and federal income taxes that take a chunk out of a paycheck.
I teach for 20 periods and have 13 prep periods a week. This is a dream schedule! There are no IEPs and students with severe cognitive, physical, and emotional disabilities to mainstream into the average classroom. I found it difficult to actually teach back home when a portion of time was spent dealing with classroom management issues. Try getting a class of second graders to refocus when an autistic student begins flailing his arms and running around the room with his aide chasing after him. Teachers don’t have to deal with this in most private schools in Kuwait. It’s true there are students with ADD and ADHD whose parents don’t want to have them diagnosed since the child would have to be removed and attend a “special” school. There are also the on going whispers about “slow” students being the products of first cousins since those marriages are quite common in this part of the world.
The school that I am at could use a total remodeling job and many classrooms are small with old A/C units. At least we have decent, well stocked libraries, classroom libraries, many whiteboards, bulletin boards, some Smart/Starboards, teacher resources, games, manipulatives, individual practice and workbooks, textbooks for each student that can be taken home without teachers being charged if a student loses them and computer labs as well as homeroom teachers having a computer in their classroom with internet access. It could be a lot worse.
Another reason I haven’t moved on is because I’m fortunate to have made friends here and to work with an awesome group of women on an all girls’ campus. There are good teachers in Kuwait and there are misfits of society. Yes, there are teachers who give out grades to please parents, but the ones I choose to associate with make the students earn their grades. My grade level team is comprised of American and Canadian teachers and I couldn’t ask for a better group of colleagues. Many of the Arabic staff is also easy to work with. There are a few that try my patience, and isn’t that always the case in any work environment? There will always be hard workers and slackers, lovely and weird coworkers no matter where I teach.
It was a good experience for my children. I learned what it was like to work internationally with others from different parts of the world. I learned what the healing process was when a country was torn by war. I like the concept of “wasta” when it works in my favor. The freedom that you really do have. I loved my students.
I am beginning my second year in Kuwait. I have had both good and bad experiences, but I feel that would be on par with American statistics. I have had both good and bad experiences there as well.There are some very unscrupulous people in Kuwait. Some of them own schools. Most of them do not. There are also some very well-intentioned and honest, sincere people here. Some of those own schools and some do not. My new school is owned by the latter, humdilallah!
For the most part, what you find at your school in Kuwait is in direct proportion to what you personally put into your work. If you come here to be catered to, turn around now and go home. This is not the place for you. Only Kuwaitis are catered to in Kuwait. But if you are here to make a difference in one or more student’s lives, please stay. Kuwait needs you!
This is especially true of the special needs schools. Those kids get such a lousy rap in this culture. It is not only not cool to be “handicapped” but it isn’t even okay here! You’ll notice there are very few wheel chair ramps at stores and shopping centers. That’s mostly because people in wheel chairs (unless they are aged or temporarily hurt) are shunned, even beaten, and not allowed in schools and out in public. Even parents of other special needs students check out the classrooms to be sure their precious child is not being “held” in a room with a child in a wheel chair. If he or she is, the parent often pulls the child from the school. Some won’t even enroll in the first place if they find out the school will consider taking handicapped children severe enough to require wheel chairs.
This is why I am in Kuwait. I feel someone with the common sense and education to understand the needs of the handicapped and other “special” children must be here to provide the necessary services and education, because Kuwait is not doing it! But I am operating in an administrative capacity here and know first hand how difficult it has been lately to get good teachers even though I’m at a brand-new school which is one of the most state-of-the-art facilities ever built for special needs children in Kuwait. Westerners with good educations and (preferably) experience are badly needed here.
On a positive note, Kuwait is somewhat fun to live in. It is a slower culture than found in America (except for the drivers). I LOVE the fact that there is no mail here because that means there is no JUNK MAIL either! I find THAT very relaxing. Because there is little to do other than eating and shopping, friendships grow here quickly. It takes no time at all to get to know people, if you have the desire. There are several western groups to join like American Women’s League, British Ladies’ Society, golfing clubs, scuba diving clubs, horse riding club, and many others. Be you male or female, there are many “ad hoc” groups that form from the enjoyment of similar activities: shisha groups, wine-lovers’ groups (for those who make their own brew since alcohol is verbotten in Kuwait), pet lovers’ groups, garden groups, music lovers’ groups, soccer/football lovers’ groups, etc. It is fun!
Kuwait, or any country in the world, is what YOU make it be! If you want to look at the negatives and dwell on them, you will be miserable. If you want to work to improve the bad things and revel in the good ones, you will have a very rewarding experience.
I have been working in Kuwait at two different bilingual schools for almost 1 year now as a school counselor. Having worked in the States in this capacity, it is a piece of cake compared to what I experienced back home. By that I mean, in Kuwait I have been treated respectfully, and have received support for my position in a matter when needed. There are ups and downs, but in my experience, this is life no matter where you are. Sometimes attitude has everything to do with whether we feel resentful or are willing to view a difficult time as a learning experience. I think we have the most to learn about ourselves when challenged to the fullest.Alice Keene,LPC
Al-Bayan Bilingual School
This is my second year living and teaching in Kuwait. Overall, I have found all the people, regardless of social standing, to be friendly and helpful. Since I am a teacher who is already retired in the US (and therefore don’t need to be here to earn a living),I chose to come back. I have worked overseas in other schools and have found each school and country has its share of the wonderful and the ‘frightful’. Since I am linguistically challenged, I find being in Kuwait a much more ‘user friendly’ country because I don’t really need to know Arabic. (This greatly lowers my stress level.) I enjoy the diversity of cultures present here also. I have just started at Al-Bayan Bilingual School and am very impressed with the quality of staff, the supportive administration, the resources available and the dynamic educational program they provide their students. It is important to remember that any place you are has its share of good and evil, and each place is what you, as and individual, make of it. I truly am enjoying working here and would encourage others to come and learn about and live in a new and fascinating culture. Susan Zapata