Unfortunately, there are still widespread misconceptions surrounding Kuwait and the Middle East in general. While it is true that some Middle Eastern countries are dangerous (depending on which areas you go), Kuwait is in fact a generally safe, sophisticated and booming nation. As a result, it has become a desirable location for those looking to teach English abroad, and with many educational institutions hiring teachers from across the globe, opportunities for aspiring Canadian teachers are plentiful. However, deciding to accept teaching jobs in Kuwait is only the first step. Before moving to a new country and continent, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the culture and customs. Not only will it help you emit respect for your new home, knowing what to expect can also help make your transition smoother.
1. The official language of Kuwait is Arabic, though many people speak English as well. Generally speaking, government based institutions prefer to use the native tongue, while private institutions and corporations are often bilingual. Being able to teach English is a desirable skill in Kuwait, which is why so many schools are open to hiring teachers from abroad.
2. Thanks to its many oil fields and the development of the petroleum industry, Kuwait actually has the highest valued currency in the world! It’s estimated that Kuwait holds 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves and the oil industry makes up around 90 percent of their export revenues.
3. In terms of gender equality, Kuwait is ahead of many of its Middle Eastern neighbours. In fact, Kuwait was actually the first Arab country in the Gulf to institute an elected parliament and granted women full political rights in 2005.
4. The cultural norms and idiosyncrasies in Kuwait are slightly different than here in Canada. Educational institutions hiring teachers from abroad often suggest their employees refrain from the following:
• Wearing shorts or tight-fitting clothes (mostly for women).
• Living with another man or woman if you are not married.
• Public displays of affection.
• As a mostly Muslim country, residents should avoid the use of alcohol, drugs, pork products and/or possession of obscene materials (e.g. pornography).
With many schools hiring teachers from around the world, there is an evident opportunity for Canadians to accept teaching jobs in Kuwait. Though adjusting to a new culture can be difficult, even in the presence of an amazing opportunity, doing your research and being prepared can help ease your transition and assuage any pre-moving nerves.