Monday, September 19, 2005

Kuwait’s Kocky Karacter

About two months ago, I called my university’s international office to ask about something. Before I hung up, the chirpy secretary said that there’s going to be an international student meeting at a park which has live jazz on Thursdays. I realized that the place was close to my apartment so I signed up after the woman gave me Sara’s* number, one of the two girls who were organizing the event. Before heading out to meet the gang, I called Sara and found out where they were sitting. I began my journey, trying not to step on any fingers or toes of the people who were sprawled out on their blankets, nibbling at their grilled corn and nacho chips smothered with fatty dips. I finally spotted them and they waved me over. I plopped down next to Jill*, who was originally from Japan, Bob*, and Sara who were both from India. We chatted while enjoying the music before Jill turned to me and asked, “So Erzulie, where are you from?” As soon as I said Kuwait, Sara gave me the coldest look ever. “And are you going back to Kuwait this summer?” I said that I’ll be going back home in August for a short while. All of a sudden, Sara casually said, “I’m going to Kuwait in August this summer too.” I was surprised; I asked her if she had family there. She haughtily responded, “My mother works in {insert prominent bank name} and my father works in {known private school}.” And that was the last time Sara talked or looked at me. Even Jill and Bob were looking at her strangely.
Now, I understand where she was coming from and why she was hostile towards me. But why jump on the judgmental bandwagon that fast?
And it’s not just foreigners who have lived in Kuwait that cling to the general gist of Kuwaitis. For instance, I was at a gathering about two weeks ago when this guy matter-of-factly stated, “Wow, you must be so pretentious,” after I said that I’m from Kuwait.

at 8:36 AM

14 Comments

  1. Blogger bo_ghazi posted at 7:09 PM  
    So ppl hate us... whats new??
    can't blame them to be honest.. I mean the stereotype taken of Kuwaitis is that they are all bunch of ignorants, selfish, stupid, hypocrites... etc. Hence, even if you were not like that at all, they (or to be fair, some of them like sarah) will look at ya this way!
  2. Blogger Erzulie posted at 8:08 PM  
    Bo_Ghazi: I can't blame them too, but that was the first time I encountered such direct spite.
  3. Blogger ArtFiNaLe posted at 2:03 AM  
    I really hope you don't encounter any in the future, and as both of you said, we are hated. But who really cares? We know what we are and what we stand for, and that's what matters.

    I used to get really pissed whenever i face similar encounters & my defense mechanism never let me down, but frankly, i don't pay the least of attention to them anymore.
  4. Blogger Erzulie posted at 3:49 AM  
    Artfinale: The thing is, I don't really blame her for seeing Kuwaitis like that, I mean, even I sometimes classify them as snobby little shits (excuse my French), but I was never in that situation before; it was so in-your-face. I wouldn't say that I'm defensive about it, because what do I stand for? I guess the moral is don't judge people on their stereotypes even if a lot of those people fit the stereotype itself! *phew*
  5. Blogger Mushmushi posted at 8:39 AM  
    Erzulie,

    I was in a taxi cab in Beijing last month and when I told him I was from Kuwait, he asked me if I were rich and had lots of money. People who don't know any "real" Kuwaitis always assume that we are rich and snooty, which is the farthest thing from the truth for many of us.

    I also think Sarah had an attitude because she was from India and South Asians are especially discriminated against here in Kuwait.
  6. Blogger Erzulie posted at 9:35 AM  
    Mushi: Yeah I agree. The thing is, though, many Kuwaitis who travel abroad ARE snooty and South Asians & Indians ARE discriminated against in Kuwait, that's why I don't totally blame Sara for behaving in that manner. All that said, I've never been in that situation where someone jumped the 'judgmental' gun so fast. Oh well, cest la vie!
  7. Blogger Mushmushi posted at 9:55 AM  
    Girl, I was once having dinner with some people who didn't know me very well and most of them were Shee3a. One dude got a little tipsy and started bad-mouthing the Sinna and Nijadah and basically... totally dissed me!

    I was amused at first, but later, the bastard pushed my buttons and I had to put him in his place.
  8. Blogger Erzulie posted at 10:32 AM  
    Mushi: Hehe, that's amusing, seeing that he dissed Sunnah while intoxicated. Speaking of that, I was out with a couple of my few Kuwaiti gal friends at a bowling alley last year. After a while, we headed to a cafeteria for some food. It was also karaoke night so my friend and I decided to have a few laughs singing to Gaynor's "I will survive." The next night, one Kuwaiti dude called me up and berated me for my "improper" singing (he wasn't even there!) and that if I was shee3iya I wouldn't have done that. Fast forward a year later: I'm still morally grounded and doing excellent in school while he's a famed pothead/obsessive guzzler. Cheers :)
  9. Blogger snookie posted at 11:28 PM  
    id rather get that treatment than getting "oh.. where's that?" :/
  10. Blogger Drunk'n'Gorgeous posted at 11:31 PM  
    Hiya! Shame you had to go through that but I'm glad you dealt with it so well. Just like you said c'est la vie :) Laters!
  11. Blogger Drunk'n'Gorgeous posted at 11:32 PM  
    Snookie - lol but then you won't get the chance to make stuff up like "we all have oil wells in our backyards" etc... :P
  12. Blogger Erzulie posted at 12:33 AM  
    Snookie: I'd rather not! Actually, one time I said that I'm from Kuwait and the other person said, "Kuwait? What's that?"

    D&G: Lool! I know what you mean! People always asked me if my father owns an oil well. One guy came up to me and asked if I had bombs dropping next to our house and if I rode my camel to school. He was dead serious. I remember looking at him and thinking that I'd have more fun playing along than informing him about Kuwait because I'd start with his scratch.
  13. Blogger The Don ® posted at 8:34 PM  
    Erzulie, the problem that if you live back in Kuwait, we “the KUWAITIS” also judge them the same way she judged you.. in your face kinda way.. (for instance this is a part of a conversation I had with some of the guys at work today.. I was asking for a new employee to work odd night hours, the first thing I heard is one senior manager saying to me : “yeeblick hindee 7maar shighil o kerfah lain esaa3ah thalaath el fayir etha tabee.. ma egool a77.. gollah hathee khamseen deenaar ezyaadah”).. it is sad but true.. grouping people is not something that is new to any culture.. but what is strange is that most of the time, people like Sarah would have just a little more open mind because I am sure she would make Kuwaiti friends from her school or her encounters with Kuwaitis in Kuwait.

    I’m sorry that you had to experience it first hand, and I am not sorry in another way.. you ask me why, I would tell you that there is nothing like first hand experience of being judged by others to make you really feel how they feel.. now you would never want anyone to feel the same way you felt when you went through it.. take it as a learning experience and move on to the next experience that will make you learn something else that many lack over here..

    Oh, and if you were a guy you would even get more in your face attitudes because of the reputation our Kuwaiti guys are showing when traveling to other parts of the worlds.. you know what I mean..
  14. Blogger Erzulie posted at 8:14 AM  
    Donny: Thanks for the input :) And I totally agree with what you said. I think I was thrown off by the whole 'first hand experience' part. And I'm not trying to be oblivious to the social caste system in Kuwait. I don't want to go into that because you have groups that are divided into groups that are split into...you get my drift here; the barriers go on and on...And I know how (some/many) Kuwaitis treat foreigners and how others behave when abroad. But I never thought that I would be cast in the role some Kuwaitis play, an attribute that I disrespect! *sigh*

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