The Kuwaiti fascination for all things Western

In the Middle East people sometimes seem to have a love-hate relationship with the West, and particularly the United States. On the one hand they love the West: they travel there, they study there, and many wish that they could permanently move there. Not only does the West often provide them with better economic opportunities, it is also a society that is often more liberal and open-minded than their own. That is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is that Western nations have always imposed their own designs on the area, from the French and British during the colonial times until the Americans today, causing anti-Western sentiments too.

Kuwait (as well as the other Gulf countries) lean towards the former. The majority of the population is very much pro-Western and especially pro-American. No one has forgotten how the Americans came to the rescue during the Gulf War, and there’s still a very close relationship between the US and Kuwait. Although officially not allowed, a substantial number of Kuwaitis has a double passport – as a safeguard against any future attack on the country. Some 15 years after the Gulf War, conflict is still in the back of their minds.

On a more personal level, it means that young Kuwaitis are often well-travelled. I don’t doubt that there are many who have seen more of Europe than I have. Each year the government sends a large number of students abroad, to study mainly in the US and Great Britain. Because the West equals authority in the eyes of the Kuwaitis. It is for the same reason that for important consultancy jobs, they like to hire Western companies. All knowledge comes from the West, so to say.

I am an old-fashioned Orientalist. Whereas I love anything Eastern, many Kuwaitis love anything Western. They shop at Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and all those other brands I can’t afford on my researcher’s salary. They drink their coffee at Starbucks or Costa, eat at MacDonalds or KFC, get their furniture from IKEA and drive a Porsche or Ferrari. Pepsi makes here as much profit as anywhere else in the world, and so does Burger King.

But regardless of their fascination, I haven’t met many who wanted to move to the West on a more permanent basis. Unlike in Egypt, where almost everyone I met wanted to come to Germany, in Kuwait people seem okay to return – despite the strictness of their own society. For Egyptians Germany is paradise. Kuwaitis like to travel here, spend their summer here, maybe study here for a few years – but that’s really it. But then again, Kuwait is not such a bad place to be either!

 

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6 thoughts on “The Kuwaiti fascination for all things Western

    • Thank you!! I would never dare to say that this ‘is the way they view the world’ though, there are many different people and many different opinions, which makes it difficult to generalize even when it comes to a small country like Kuwait, let alone the entire Middle East 🙂

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  1. My husband has been to Kuwait and he said it the hottest place he’d ever been. He said the temperature swings at night are extreme. He wasn’t there in the winter. I also know the American military goes to Kuwait for R&R from dangerous assignments in the middle east. I am also familiar with the scandal about workers on the Olympics stadium and they are very poor.

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    • Hubby ever been to Qatar or the Emirates? I believe it gets even hotter there! With regard to the Olympic stadium, I think you are referring to Qatar here, where they are building stadiums for the World Cup. Not to say that things in Kuwait are much better though, there is plenty of sad stories about unskilled laborers from either country unfortunately.

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  2. I read about the dual passport issue! In fact, the Kuwaiti gov’t clamped down on that as well as the U.S. insisting that people would have to start paying tax from abroad. A number of people gave back the U.S. passports. And then a list of these dual holders was published in gulf newspaper – unreal!

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